Idyllwild: An oasis of sanity and serenity

You could call this esoteric mountain community in the San Jacinto Mountains an aberration under the California sun; after all it remains a Wal-Mart and McDonald’s free zone. And just try to find a hotel room for $500 a night or a restaurant with a dinner for two costing $200 plus. If that is your style, you’re climbing the wrong mountain .

What you will find is pristine wilderness, quiet hiking trails and unexpected bargains at idiosyncratic shops.

For example, at “What’s Buy You,” a mother-daughter bazaar with bargains galore, I discovered an exquisite pink silk Josie Natori lounging outfit for $5.

And if you’re a tea aficionado, check out Merkaba, a tea shop where you can peruse a multitude of tea and tisanes from around the world. Proprietor Ron Campbell shares the tales behind the tea leaves, if you ask.

This is where simplicity and nature dominate.

The rarified mountain air is like an elixir, promoting a kind of artistic energy. That’s probably why Idyllwild was selected as one of “the Best Art Towns in America.” Bearing this out are more than 15 art galleries, from Two Babes in the Woods Fine Art in Antiques to Mountain Metals. Each year there are at least eight art-inspired events, from the Art Treasure Hunt & Gallery Walk to the Audible Art Tour.


Imagine a mountain hideaway free of fast food joints, neon signs and the trappings of corporate America. This scenic village, once the summer home of the Cahuilla Indians is easy to reach. In the southern, isolated section of the San Bernardino Mountains ( the forest includes Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear) it is about 100 miles from Los Angeles. The area includes the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains. It remains, as insiders’ confide, “an oasis of sanity.” During the 1940s and ’50s the area was a popular location for films, the most well known was “Kid Galahad,” a 1961 musical starring Elvis Presley.

When you are on Idyllwild time, there is ample time to sip iced tea on the front porch of a cabin or visit the local markets, such as Country Farms, specializing in fruits and Temecula wines, Idyllwild Greens, for organic groceries, and the Village Market for farm fresh produce.

There are at least 15 restaurants to sample, from Café Aroma, a popular local meeting place serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, to Oma’s European Bakery and Restaurant offering European style breads.

The Quiet Creek Inn, sprawling over six and a half acres has some of the most luxurious duplex cabins, some with private spas.

The owners specialize in vacation rentals if your taste runs to well equipped homes and cabins throughout the area.

Rustic décor prevails in this mountain village. Knotty pine interiors are in sharp contrast to the current minimalist obsession for simplicity. What you find here is a great deal of chintz, knick-knacks and vintage furniture. Along Village Lane, the center of town, there are clever shops, such as Scones Bakery & Tea Deck, The House of Jerky (buffalo, ostrich and venison to name a few) and spa treatments at the Spa House.

Responsible for Idyllwild’s enduring appeal are vacation classics: mountain biking, hiking and backpacking, off-road exploration and scenic sites. Attracting aspiring artists and musicians are summer programs at the Idyllwild Arts Foundation.

Then there is fishing in the San Jacinto Mountains and the popular Annual Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines scheduled during August. Whether you spend a night or a few weeks in this California style Shangri-la, you will appreciate why this destination is truly a stress free, uncomplicated travel experience.

Info: Best bet for current information is or 951.659.0506

Art walk: or 866.43.5278

Quiet Creek Inn: or 800.450.6110

Pamela Price is the coauthor of “Fun with the Family in Southern CA” published by

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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