Idyllwild Camping: What They Don’t Tell You

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A sunny morning in the Idyllwild mountains with trees and mountains all around.

For a taste of small-town charm and easy access to untamed wilderness, Idyllwild camping fits the bill. This gorgeous area is a breath of fresh air just outside the congested cities of Southern California. Let’s find out the secrets of this enchanting mountain getaway.

Where Is Idyllwild?

Sometimes called a mile-high paradise, the rustic resort town of Idyllwild lies about 50 miles west of Palm Springs. You’ll find it among the San Jacinto Mountains and a roughly two-hour drive from both Los Angeles and San Diego. 

It’s not just a favored escape for California residents, however. Visitors from around the world flock to its magnificent granite peaks and verdant forests of cedars and pines.

What You Need to Know About Idyllwild Camping

Many enjoy Idyllwild camping because it lies on the edge of unspoiled mountain wilderness. It’s also adjacent to scenic Mount San Jacinto State Park and surrounded by the vast San Bernardino National Forest. It has a few busy campgrounds and a few dozen backcountry hiking trails. 

Mount San Jacinto rises to 10,804 ft above sea level. There’s no skiing on the mountain, but you can enjoy views of pristine snowy caps through the winter. Next to this wilderness, the town of Idyllwild has a neighborly feel and unique opportunities for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Here’s some additional lowdown on this high-desert destination.

There Are Bears, But You Probably Won’t See Them

Yes, this is black bear country, but historically they’ve been pretty shy in Idyllwild itself. You’ll find them more in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains to the north. Experts believe that the traffic along Interstate 10 acts as a barrier that keeps bears away from the community.

You Need to Be Ready to Boondock

The area mostly has primitive sites. The few spaces with full or partial hookups are in demand, making it hard to get a spot. You may have better luck finding a dispersed camping space. If you haven’t yet embraced the boondocking lifestyle, this could be a great place to try it out.

Lake Fulmor Is Stocked With Fish and Refreshing for a Swim

This small, picturesque reservoir on Indian Creek is a nice diversion that’s 10 miles north of town. Drop a line for rainbow trout or go for a rejuvenating swim when the weather’s right. 

Many people enjoy the tree-shaded trail that winds around the lake. You can stop for short walks and watch the wildlife.

If You Go in Winter, You Might Need Chains

With four distinct seasons, Idyllwild camping is something you can enjoy year-round.  Even though you can’t go downhill skiing, visitors enjoy other winter sports such as sledding, tubing, and snowshoeing. 

The roads can get icy in the colder months, so it’s a good idea to carry some snow chains with you. Weather can quickly become extreme, so be prepared.

Where Can You Camp in Idyllwild

While many visitors love Idyllwild in the winter, many more flock to the place in spring, summer, and fall. 

It has several campgrounds, but you might have lots of neighbors during these peak camping times. Here are your best options for enjoying the outdoors in this amazing corner of southern California.

Idyllwild Campground

Located in the state park, Idyllwild Campground is in a wild setting, but it’s also an easy walk from town. It has 33 sites, with many designated for dry camping only. A few places have full hookups and asphalt pads, while others have partial hookups. 

Overall, it has some compact and unlevel spaces. The campground limits RV trailer size to 24 ft. Each site has a fire ring. You can use the clean bathrooms on the premises with coin-operated showers. The campground is partially shaded, mostly with pines. You may notice some traffic noise from state Highway 243.

Thousand Trails Idyllwild RV Resort

A 15-minute drive from town, this sprawling campground is up a winding mountain road and stands at around 7,000 ft. This Thousand Trails facility offers 220 sites with asphalt pads. They each have water and electric service (20, 30, and 50 amp) but no sewer hookups.

 However, you have access to an on-site dump station, bathrooms with flush toilets, and showers. The outdoor swimming pool is a popular attraction. Additionally, the property has a cell tower, making connectivity a breeze while you go Idyllwild camping.

Hurkey Creek Park

This campground is just off Highway 74, about 8 miles south of town near Lake Hemet. With 130 spaces, it is much larger and can also accommodate rigs up to 40 ft. Try to grab a spot that’s not on an incline with a great view of the lake. 

You have to make a reservation from April through October, but it’s first-come, first-served at other times. You can use the restrooms and coin-operated showers. Other amenities include a 10-mile course for mountain biking, a picnic area, and a playground.

Is Idyllwild Camping Worth It? 

Camping in Idyllwild is a way to escape into the wilderness without completely leaving civilization behind. Many campers prefer a more rustic and remote experience. However, you’ll have spectacular scenery within easy reach. 

You could argue that these qualities put Idyllwild camping safely within most campers’ comfort zone. As you investigate the sights of this stunning mountain region, Idyllwild is worth a stop. What are your favorite wilderness areas in southern California?

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