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Hiking the Idyllwild Nature Center Trails

One big reason we like to visit the mountain town of Idyllwild, California, is the abundance of hiking trails suitable for novice hikers. The Idyllwild Nature Center trails are some of the most visited trails in Idyllwild, and for good reason. Idyllwild's scenic vistas are on full display all along the Idyllwild Nature Center trails, making the trip from Los Angeles worth every minute.


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Hiking in Idyllwild | Things to do in Idyllwild | Visiting Idyllwild | Los Angeles Day Trips | Weekend Getaway from LA | California Travel | Places to go in California | What to do in Idyllwild | Southern California Hikes | Dog-friendly Hikes in Southern California

California is known for it's hiking culture, and many people work hard to incorporate hikes into their normal outdoor activities. While I like a good hike as often as possible, I can't say that I enjoy scaling the side of a mountain all in the name of outdoor activity. That's why I'm always on the lookout for hikes with mild elevation gains and moderate distances.

The 4.5 miles of Idyllwild Nature Center trails range in intensity level, perfect for hikers of all levels. Several of the smaller trails are centered around the Nature Center picnic and museum area and focus on showcasing mountain ecology. The Perimeter Trail is the most popular trail, showcasing the forest on a 3.5 mile hike with minimal elevation gains. The trail is a blend of Easy and Moderate difficulty and features several spots to stop and enjoy scenic viewpoints, serene meadows and rushing streams.

Wanting a little more than distance than the Perimeter trail offered, we opted to include the Hillside trail, adding another .5 miles of scenery. I was pleasantly surprised by the length and intensity of both these Idyllwild Nature Center trails. Easy to moderate difficulty hikes are usually short and featureless, but that wasn't the case with the hikes at the Idyllwild Nature Center. We found several beautiful spots to stop and enjoy the view along our nearly 4 mile hike.

We definitely broke a sweat along the way, finding a few streams to cross and boulders to climb. We even managed to get lost along the way but were able to find a helpful guide at the Idyllwild Nature Park Campsite entrance. He kindly pointed us in the right direction, giving us guidance that we needed despite having a map.

Although there were few people visiting the Idyllwild Nature Center on the day we went, I could easily see how the family-friendly atmosphere would make the Idyllwild Nature Center an ideal stop for families visiting Idyllwild. Enjoying a nice, quiet picnic under the pines after hiking the nearby trails in search of the native plant and animal species highlighted in the Nature Center museum sounds like the perfect way to spend the day.

I definitely wished we'd brought our dog, Lois, along for the trip to Idyllwild because dogs are also welcome on the trails at the Idyllwild Nature Center. Unfortunately, Lois doesn't do well in the car on twisting, winding roads. If you choose to bring your pup, remember that he/she must remain on a leash in order to enjoy these trails. And don't forget to bring a collapsible water bowl in case Fido needs a drink along the way.

The Nature Center Shop has hiking guides for sale, in addition to other nature-oriented books, toys and artisan wares. Just in case the shop is closed, a Nature Center Hiking Trail map can be printed ahead of time using this link.

Parking is plentiful in the dedicated lot, but visitors must display a day pass in the car before setting off to hike. You can purchase a day pass in the Nature Center's museum. Passes are $4 per adult, $3 per child under age 12 and $1 per dog. Children under age 2 are welcome for free. We went on a day the museum was closed, but we were still able to get a pass by using the pay box located next to the parking lot.

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Idyllwild Nature Center Trails

25225 Highway 243
Idyllwild, CA 92549


Well-worn paths
Varied intensity level
Moderate elevation gain
Scenic viewpoints
Ample parking


Poorly marked pathways

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Be sure to check out my other posts about visiting Idyllwild to find out more about what to do, where to stay and what to eat in the peaceful mountain town.

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Happy wandering!


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