What to do in Palm Springs when it’s HOT: Day Trip to Idyllwild

idyllwild day trip, palm springsIdyllwild is located an hour and a half outside of Palm Springs, and this gorgeous mountain town is the perfect place for you to get away from the sweltering desert heat. Idyllwild is nestled deep within the San Jacinto mountains, surrounded by droves of magnificent pine and cedar trees. With crisp, cool air and a stunning selection of hiking trails to choose from, this is a great spot to relax and reconnect with nature.

If hiking isn’t your thing, Downtown Idyllwild offers shops and restaurants that are all locally-owned, giving all of their guests one-of-a-kind unique experiences. The locals pride themselves on the ‘small town feel’ that the town is known for, and they happily share their hospitality with all visitors.

Take a day trip: what to do in Idyllwild

The town hosts a range of different climates depending on the time of year that you visit. Whether you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate during a snowstorm in winter or you love seeing an array of flowers bloom in spring, Idyllwild has it all. Exploring the local shops and restaurants is a ton of fun, and adventuring into the beautiful nature surrounding the town is an incredible experience. Below you will find some of the top places to visit.

Outdoor activities in Idyllwild

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Featuring breathtaking views overlooking the Sonoran Desert and a well-maintained network of hiking trails, the Mount San Jacinto State Park is a must-visit as it is full of adventure but also has plenty of shaded areas to avoid the heat. You can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram right to the border of the park, making this a fun and exciting day trip to go on. Escaping the heat of the desert below has never been easier – or more beautiful.

Lake Fulmor

If you would love to have a family picnic, Lake Fulmor is the place to do it. With picnic tables and small hiking trails dotting the landscape, you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon here. The refreshing air from the surrounding pines combined with the cool breeze coming from the lake makes this a top spot for both tourists and locals alike. You can take a relaxing 30-minute hike around the lake, and if you’re traveling with a dog, he or she can even hike with you. In addition, if you have a valid California fishing license, the lake is continually being stocked with fish.

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Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet is another easy getaway that’s along the Palms to Pines Highway. Technically speaking, Lake Hemet is a water reservoir in the San Jacinto Mountains in Mountain Center, California. It was created in 1895 with the construction of the Lake Hemet Dam, but today it’s another popular fishing spot.

Where to eat in Idyllwild

Cafe Aroma

With delicious food and a stunning atmosphere, this fusion restaurant offers the best in terms of freshness and flavor. Whether you opt to try their delectable salmon or their creamy risotto, you will be treated to a hearty meal. Cafe Aroma is open exclusively for dinner throughout the week; however, they also serve must-try brunch on the weekends.


If you’re looking for a restaurant that elevates your standard American dishes, you should make a stop at Gastrognome. Their lunch sandwiches seem basic but are actually quite delicious, and don’t forget to take some cheesecake for dessert! While indoor seating is also available, the outdoor seating has a great overview of downtown and the great Idyllwild scenery.

Tommy’s Kitchen

With an impressive brunch menu and an incredibly friendly staff, Tommy’s Kitchen is one of the top places for locals and tourists alike. Offering delicious sandwiches, soups, and salads, visitors are able to get a true, at-home vibe while eating amazing food. Tommy’s Kitchen offers a genuine mountain-town experience while dining here thanks to the amazing outdoor patio setup.

Idyllwild , what to do when its hot palm springs, idyllwildWhat to do in Idyllwild

Middle Ridge Winery

Located deep within the incredible forests of Idyllwild, the Middle Ridge Winery has everything that you could want when it comes to entertainment while you’re trying to stay out of the heat. Outside of their exciting wine tastings, the Middle Ridge Winery offers live music and an impressive art gallery that is quite well-known in the area. In fact, their gallery showcases local artists and photographers, giving guests a feel of the culture in the town.

Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum

The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum offers various unique exhibits that showcase the history of Idyllwild. You can follow the journey of the people who initially discovered the area, learn the background of when and how the town was created, and discover all of the modern-day happenings. There are on-site employees who routinely give guided tours and can answer any town-related questions that you may have, either historically or about the present day. Admission is free here, so if you’re looking for a fun (and air-conditioned) thing to do while exploring, you should definitely stop in.

Idyllwild Town Center

The heart of Idyllwild has a plethora of different stores for you to visit, where you can find special souvenirs and local delicacies to take home. The Idyllwild Gift Shop, Wooley’s, and Earth’s Element are just three of the top local favorites. If you have a sweet tooth, the Candy Cupboard and Idyllwild Soda-Pop and Sweet Shop should be able to help you out, and do not forget to try some handmade coffee at Black Mountain Coffee Roasting for an energy boost, too.

Idyllwild is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life or, if you live in the nearby desert, the perfect spot to get away from the heat and relax. Remember to come hungry, and don’t forget a pair of hiking boots!

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Palm Springs Traveller Staff