It is situated at mile high elevation in the San Jacinto mountains. Visitors are attracted by alpine scenery, rock climbing, hiking, shopping, and outdoor camping.
Most visitors to Idyllwild will arrive by car. Idyllwild is reachable by three main routes. Highway 74 connects Hemet to Idyllwild in about 30 minutes driving. Highway 243 connects to Banning and Interstate 10. Highway 74, known as the Palms to Pines highway, also connects the desert communities of Palm Springs and Palm Desert to Idyllwild via a senic route that passes through many ecological zones and spectacular landscapes.
It is possible to reach Idyllwild by hiking 10 miles from the top of the Palm Springs Tramway. This is perhaps the most stunning route to the town. Be sure to have a car waiting at Humber Park, as it is another couple miles from the trailhead to the center of town.
The Pacific Crest Trail, which extends along the west coast from the Mexico boarder to Canada, passes by Idyllwild. Idyllwild is a good place to stop for supplies, and maybe a shower and clean bed.
Much of Idyllwild can be visited by walking, though a car is useful to get to trailheads, and some of the hotels and rental cabins are located a bit outside the center. Occasionally a horse drawn cart transports visitors between the main attractions in the town center.
The views from town are beautiful. Tahquitz peak and rock are probably the most photographed. Marion mountain is also visible from town. Panoramas of Hemet and the greater Los Angeles area are visible from many lookouts near town.
The center of town is full of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and a movie theater.
There is a world class secondary arts school, the Idyllwild Arts Academy that frequently offers free gallery exhibitions, classical music concerts, and theater performances on campus.
Idyllwild has world class rock climbing on Tahquitz Rock (sometimes referred to as Lily Rock), and Suicide Rock. Tahquitz Rock has longer climbs, some of them 6 pitches. Suicide rock has mostly 2 pitch climbs. Both offer a range of difficulty and excellent views.
There is an extensive, well maintained trail network throughout the San Jacinto mountains. These are administered by the San Bernadino National Forest, and the San Jacinto State Park. Pick up permits at the rangers station in the center of town before leaving. Permits are recognized by both the National Forest and State Park.
There are many shops in the center of town.
A range of restaurants caters to all budgets. There are two supermarkets for those who wish to cook for themselves.
The perennial favorite of gourmet dining in Idyllwild is the Gastrognome, which offers an inventive menu, and an excellent wine cellar.
Some restaurants have bars, but they are not open very late. Instead, open a bottle of wine and share it with friends around the fireplace at home, or a campfire outdoors. There is a liquor store, and supermarkets sell wine, liquor, and beer.
There are a number of hotels, and rental agencies offer cabins. Camping is a popular option. Several campsites are run by the State Park, while others are administered by the national forest. Both car camping and sites that are only accessible by hiking are available.
Idyllwild is located 30 minutes by car from Hemet, and approximately 45 minutes drive from Palm Springs. The Temecula wine country is about an hour away. Los Angeles and San Diego are both a couple hours away to the west and south respectively.