It was a boring winter day when my wife suggested a mountain getaway. “Great, we’ll be surrounded by tourists and slope bunnies and get gouged by spendy cabins,” I replied.
“Idyllwild has this place that’s a ‘bud and breakfast,’” she said. “The rooms are even all themed, sort of like the Madonna Inn. There’s even a 420 room. . . . Should I book it?”
I agreed to the trip, but not before remarking, “I didn’t think anything cool ever happened in Idyllwild.”
Turns out, the quaint town is full of character and great spots to eat, and it has some crazy beautiful hikes. Plus, it’s fairly close.
The road from Orange County to Idyllwild used to be a straight shot across the 10 to Banning, but the road suffered massive erosion this past winter, completely wiping out around 20 sections. The only way up now is through either Moreno Valley or Temecula, but the latter is a better pit stop for lunch and a proper booze haul for the weekend.
At the halfway-there point, you’ll find Cheflavor (32119 Temecula Pkwy., Temecula, 951-972-4935; www.cheflavor.com), a one-stop gourmet shop with a few local beers on tap, one of the biggest gastropub burgers I’ve ever seen, and fridges full of beer and wine to go. Since check-in at the B&B isn’t until 2 p.m., you also have time to visit one of the 40-ish wineries in town.
If you’re a fan of champagne, I recommend Carter Estate Winery (34450 Rancho California Rd., Temecula, 844-851-2138; www.carterestatewinery.com). It uses an age-old production technique called méthode champenoise, which producers such as Dom Perignon employ to create $100-plus bottles of bubbles. “The tinier the bubbles, the higher quality the wine,” noted our winetender. We sampled the Brut, Brut Noir and the Brut de Blanc before I jokingly exclaimed in a French accent, “I’ll have the Brut to go!” Bottles cost around $30.
If beer is your thing, Black Market Brewing (41740 Enterprise Circle N., Ste. 109, Temecula, 951-296-5039; blackmarketbrew.com) recently won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its hazy double IPA, and if you love fruit beers, Refuge Brewery’s Blood Orange Wit (43040 Rancho Way, Temecula, 951-506-0609; www.refuge.beer) is a perfect match for your mountain-weekend vibe.
Onward to Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast (23481 CA-243, Idyllwild, 310-584-1086; www.hicksville.com/idyllwild/motel.html). The place gives detailed instructions for first-time visitors, including specific check-in times and advice to call before heading up the hill. On arrival, you’ll find a bright-purple A-frame and a tree-shaped sign that says, “Chalets and Motel.” The whole aesthetic reeks of a David Lynch set, and to no surprise, there’s an actual Great Northern-inspired room stocked with Twin Peaks music on vinyl and the Agent Cooper tapes on cassette.
With our old-school motel key in one hand and a little weed-nug gift in the other, we headed to the Honeymoon Suite, which comes complete with a waterbed, heart-shaped tub on shag carpet, and the same model toilet Elvis died on. “Only a hundred were made, and eight survived the molding process,” notes the caretaker. “And this is one of ’em.”
Out of the 10 rooms, there’s a 420 room that has a sunk-in mattress, blacklight posters on the ceiling and an in-room snack machine. The Dita room was decorated by the famous burlesque queen. There’s a John Waters-inspired room, and for the Disney Goths, there’s a Haunted Mansion room with the same wallpaper as the ride’s.
Chill with the other guests by playing darts or shuffleboard, or hit the communal vape in the jukebox-blasting game room. If you just want to zone out among huge pine trees, head to the Jacuzzi overlooking the valley or partake in ayahuasca inside the glowing teepee late at night.
Going into town is a quick Lyft in the busy seasons. Otherwise, Hicksville has a concierge for those in full potato mode. We got Fratello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria (54295 Ridgeview Dr., Idyllwild, 951-659-3900; www.fratellosidyllwild.com) delivered with a flat $10 fee.
But in the morning, don’t miss out on the famous Hicksville green weed waffles!
Idyllwild’s town is notably well-lived-in, locally owned and oozing with personality. IDYology (54905 N. Circle Dr., Idyllwild, 951-659-5962; www.idyologyidyllwild.com) is a perfect spot to chill with cocktails, craft beers and a hefty American-style menu. In the winter, dine inside next to the roaring fireplace, but in summer, there’s nothing quite like the open patio surrounded by pine trees.
For the caffeine-depraved, El Buen Cacao (54423 Village Center Dr., Ste. 4, Idyllwild, 760-333-7690; www.elbuencacao.com) is a must-stop, even though no coffee is served here. Husband and wife Erik and Jessica Ramirez-Landis create pure chocolate from scratch and serve up decadent sipping chocolate and, my fave, the iced chocolate, which is surprisingly earthy and buzz-inducing.
Since Idyllwild sits along the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, there are a lot of trail options. Check alltrails.com to find a good match to your skill level, or stop in at the Idyllwild Nature Center (25225 CA-243, Idyllwild, 951-659-3850; www.rivcoparks.org/idyllwild-nature-center).
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!