Two hours from L.A., the quiet hill town above palm desert is like no other

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Grand Canyon

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There is no glamour in Idyllwild. There are no resorts or gondolas or Ugg retailers. That’s not why you come here. Less Burton and more Birkenstock, it’s a sylvan realm for low-budget artists and low-key travelers. Built into the San Jacinto Mountains on the other side of Palm Springs (turn off the 10 at Banning and motor up Highway 243), the village center is banked with gingerbread storefronts selling antiques, books, New Age-y gifts, and local art. A few quaint B&Bs are in town, but you’ll have more choice with a rental— offers everything from cozy two-bedroom Swiss chalets to five-bedroom log cabins. Once settled, you can drive over to Humber Park to build snowmen (see page 138), snowshoe, or cross-country ski on the hiking trails. Warm your bones over dark-roasted coffee and a fresh-baked cranberry scone at Café Aroma. You may find yourself returning for a bowl of potato-leek-garlic bisque at lunch or osso buco and gnocchi at dinner. But by then, after a day in the snowy heights, you might want to stay off-grid in your cabin and stargaze from the Jacuzzi.

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  • Lee Osuch

    Woah! That ain’t my Idyllwild. My Idyllwild was partying behind the Rustic Theater. And tripping into the woods for some unsupervised time. Gnocchi and stargazing in the jacuzzi? Dude! Better to go down to the grotto and survey the buff eye-candy (pardon the local patois, which only the locals will understand).

  • Beth

    One of those quaint B&Bs — the Strawberry Creek Inn — has been on my “to visit” list for a while now. If the owners as inviting in person as they are online, it should be quite a treat. They also seem to talk about music events (Casey Abrams is one of the local talents) and outdoor activities a lot. And I love that wispy fog. Nice photo.