At the two-mile juncture of Deer Springs Trail, with Tahquitz Peak in the background.
  • At the two-mile juncture of Deer Springs Trail, with Tahquitz Peak in the background.
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For us San Diegans heading north, it’s those rolling, stress-releasing mountains inland of Temecula that we cruise through on the way to Palm Springs.

But instead of darting right on Highway 74, hang a left. Fifteen minutes later, tucked inside the San Jacinto Mountains at over 5,000 feet of elevation, resides the welcomingly small town of Idyllwild. Where best to figure this town out, you ask? Goodtimes Pub & Grill, of course.

“'Idyllwild time' is what we call it…there’s no rush here,” declare Margie and Blondie, the two amiable bartenders/servers. The local newspaper, The Town Crier, is known by Idyllwild-ians (why not) as "The Town Liar."

I look closer and read below the paper’s title, “Almost All the News – Part of the Time.” I’ve already got the feeling that this is going to be a great town to get to know.

But first I want to hike and get in something of a workout. Without camping overnight. After all, I’m crashing at the comfy (and recommended) Strawberry Creek Inn, walking distance from “downtown” Idyllwild. Margie’s given me word on a trail that is clear of crowds and fairly strenuous.

Deer Springs Trail, with its initial 1,300-foot climb achieved in a bit over two miles via stretches of absolutely blissful silence, hits the hiker spot for me. At this two-mile juncture, literally, I decide to go the Suicide Rock way – its name derived from a Native American princess who took a dive from its heights rather than face separation from her lover, per the tribal chief’s order.

Looking at Suicide Rock, and the better-known Tahquitz Peak, it’s easy to grasp why this area is one of the premier rock climbing venues in Southern California.

After getting lost trekking on a somewhat manicured trail (fine, it could have been entirely my fault), some scant civilization ultimately leads to a part of “downtown”: North Circle Drive.

I mention the street because two of my favorite locales open their doors here. Peter, the proprietor of The Funky Bazaar, sells anything from classic vinyl records to local artwork to candle holders in an atmosphere that might have you reminiscing about the 70s. He’ll soon be opening a members-only club called Word of Mouth, showcasing an open mic with an ambiance for likewise-minded individuals.

Walk further along North Circle Drive to discover Cafe Aroma – this is the town’s star restaurant. It’s hard to trump the exquisitely prepared food, such as the chicken cacciatore that I can’t help but finish in a few minutes.

But the staff makes it a close run. Feeling at home after spending a couple of minutes here is easily achieved. Characters like the host, Holly O’Farrell (who declared that she’d dated Billy Wood in high school, but did not marry), ignite conversations like old friends.

It’s a quick day-and-a-half trip and I'm back on the road home, of course swerving to Outkast’s Idlewild album – how can I not?

another Idyllwild thrift shop

Thanks for the Idyllwild times, you all. This is a town full of down-to-earth characters, thrift shops like Granny’s (I’ve never been in a town with so many thrift shops per capita), exploration, funkiness, and overall, complete comfort.

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Comments

AmyBeddows May 18, 2012 @ 2:42 p.m.

Sounds nice. Will have to get up there for a hike one weekend. Cheers for the article!

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nan shartel May 20, 2012 @ 12:21 p.m.

i love love love Idyllwild but haven't been there 4 years...i climbed there on Tahquitz (Lily) and Suicide 4 many years...it would be fun to run up and see the changes there

thx for the heads up on the differences

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Dominic DeGrazier May 20, 2012 @ 9:30 p.m.

Not a problem AmyBeddows and nan. Thanks for reading the article and have fun if you head out that way.

Dominic

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social_butterfly May 22, 2012 @ 4:38 p.m.

I've been to Idyllwild couple of times and love it there. I hiked Suicide Rock but didn't know the origin of the name. Now I know. Cool. I totally agreed on Cafe Aroma. Best place to eat in town for sure. Fun to read. Good info on the places and what to do there. Great article. Thanks for sharing!

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idyllmarjie May 24, 2012 @ 1:49 p.m.

hi Dominic. this is marjie from Goodtimes. =) it sure was fun talking with you. thank you for the wonderful write up. can't wait to see you again. Next time, lets take the right trail UP to suicide rock. i was informed you went down instead of going up. mabye next time you both come up, i will hike with you. had many laughs with you both. =) thank you again. Have a beautiful day <3

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Jane Belanger May 24, 2012 @ 5:08 p.m.

One of the best pizzas I've ever had in my life was at Idyllwild Pizza. It had pine nuts on it. Delish!

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Dominic DeGrazier May 29, 2012 @ 8:42 p.m.

Marjie - I will be visiting you guys again sometime soon hopefully (and let's definitely do the correct hike)! Jane - thanks for the info...I will be trying that pizza.

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jimhouliston June 9, 2012 @ 5:59 p.m.

Another must-experience moment is the "night club" in-town. Friends and I went camping at the park just less than a mile from town two years ago. After a few beers and a few hours around the fire, we walked into town and stumbled across the club. Disco lights are the perfect accessory to reeking like campfire smoke while rocking sweat pants.

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