Weekend Getaway to Idyllwild With Kids. While we are beach lovers, there’s also something charming about mountain views. Enter Idyllwild, CA in the San Jacinto Mountains! Idyllwild is about 5 hours from Phoenix and a beautiful spot to vacation. We found the town very family-friendly, walkable, and refreshing.
It could be asked (and we even asked ourselves), why go to a mountain town in California, when we could have found one in Arizona? There are some perfect little towns within 3hrs of Phoenix! So this trip started with the destination of Oceanside, our favorite beach town in Southern CA. Typical us, we wanted to extend the trip to a week getaway and randomly stumbled across Idyllwild while browsing AirBnB options. The contrast of mountains and beaches within the same trip sounded really appealing. And we’re so glad we booked a stay!
Read on to discover our favorite spots in Idyllwild and start booking your next family trip!
What We Did
Idyllwild Community Center Kids Playground (26184 Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549) – this is a fabulous and beautiful shaded park! There are two areas: the 5 and under area has its own playground, with an oversized pretend ranger car, and a sandbox. The 5-12-year-old area is an amazing mixture of slides, a climbing wall, balance ropes, monkey bars, and more. There are also two big swings and a tire swing (which was sadly broken during our visit). Plenty of seating and parking, and only port-a-potties for restrooms. Definitely stop here with kids! We visited multiple times.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (24559 Fern Valley Rd, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549) – this 2.6-mile trail is moderate but totally doable with kids, even toddlers. There’s a stream to cross (and play in, of course), numerous rocks to climb, and epic views. We went about 2 miles total! Watch for rocks on the path, and joggers who like to speed by.
This trail is not a loop, and you can park at either end. The stream in the photos is at the Humber Park entrance so we opted for this parking area – which also required a $5/car Adventure Pass. (The other end is just a pullover along a dirt road.) There are vault toilets available at Humber Park. More info here.
Meet the Mayor – did you know that the mayor of Idllywild is a dog? Meet Max! Idyllwild is unincorporated (no local government) and they have the fun tradition of nominating dogs or cats to hold the honorary title. You can often find Max socializing around the town square on the weekends, along with his two deputies. He’s such a sweetheart! More about Max the Mayor here .
Lake Fulmer (Hall Decker Rd, Banning, CA 92220) – you’ll need an Adventure Pass to explore this small lake, and it’s fun for kids! Located about 20 minutes north of Idyllwild, you can easily walk around the lake in about 10 minutes and can equally extend the visit to 2 hours as we did by playing at the far end of the lake. The kids found cattails, pretty rocks, saw numerous types of birds (look for the bright blue Steller Jay!), and climbed rocks. No swimming is allowed, but you can fish. There are restrooms and picnic tables as well.
Idllywild Public Library ( 54401 Village Center Dr, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549) – a small community library, with a decent children’s section including reading benches, toys, and computers. They also offer weekly storytimes. We dropped twice during our stay and enjoyed browsing the books. Always fun to check out libraries when visiting new cities!
Weekend Getaway to Idyllwild With Kids
Explore Strawberry Creek – this beautiful creek was pretty low when we visited (it’s roaring in the spring time!), and it was also accessible right behind our amazing cabin. There was a path that followed the creek on the west bank too. If you’re interested in exploring this area, check out this map. We explored the creek area from either end of Circle Drive. You can also go to Idyllwild Park and apparently access the creek.
Next time – there were a handful of activities we have saved on our list for next time!Look up Idllywild Nature Center, tram to the mountain (in Palm Springs), Idllywild Area Historical Museum, and Lake Hemet. The City of Idyllwild has a great website listing more activities, etc.
What We Ate
La Casita – this restaurant has a lovely patio and serves some pretty tasty Mexican favorites like tacos, taquitos, Chile Relleno, and more. Their kid’s menu has familiar quesadillas, etc, with the option of rice, beans, or fries. We enjoyed our food and the atmosphere! If you want something unique, try the micheladas drink.
Red Kettle Restaurant – home style, affordable breakfast and lunch options, with a small patio. The breakfast burrito was yummy! Kid portions were nice sized for the price.
Idyllwild Pizza Company – average pizza, also offers salads, sandwiches, sides, and drinks. The Hawaiian pizza had cashews and ginger on it, which was different.
Idyllwild Ice Cream and Jerky – a must-stop! They make small batches of ice cream (dairy-free included), and offer shave ice as well. The oat milk coffee Oreo was amazing! The owners are super friendly too. Look for additional seating around the corner of the building.
Higher Grounds Coffee – located in the center of town, this coffee spot has drinks and pastries, and nice indoor/outdoor seating.
Mile High Café – the orange chicken here is beyond words. The prices are a bit high for the small portions, including kids meals ($11 for burger/fries, etc), but for some unique Asian/American style meals, it’s worth the stop.
Idyllwild Brewpub – good food, good beer, good views! Kids’ meals are $10/each. Get the fish and chips! And ask to sit outside if the weather is nice.
Where We Stayed
We stayed 4 nights at an Airbnb, a 1922 restored wooden cabin! The location was perfect, about a 4-minute drive from downtown Idyllwild, and had access to Strawberry Creek just down the hill. The kids played several times a day at the creek! The cabin has a lot of charm (i.e. creaky floors), with modern amenities. We’d totally stay here again! You can find the listing here.