Idyllwild–Pine Cove, California

Idyllwild, Pine Cove, and Fern Valley are three adjacent unincorporated communities located in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, California, United States. Idyllwild is the largest of the three communities. Idyllwild also generally includes the hamlets of Mountain Center and Garner Valley. For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau has defined Idyllwild–Pine Cove as a census-designated place (CDP). The population of the CDP was 3,874 at the 2010 census, up from 3,504 as of the 2000 census.

Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Fern Valley
Idyllwild–Pine Cove[1]
Location within Riverside County and California
Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Fern Valley
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 33°44′40″N 116°43′33″W
Country United States
State California
County Riverside
  Total13.733 sq mi (35.568 km2)
  Land13.723 sq mi (35.542 km2)
  Water0.010 sq mi (0.026 km2)  0.07%
Elevation5,413 ft (1,650 m)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific)
  Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code951
FIPS code06-36203
GNIS feature ID2408414

"Mile-high Idyllwild" is a popular southern California mountain resort about one mile (1.6 km) in altitude. Idyllwild is flanked by two large and one smaller rock formation, Tahquitz Peak (with nearby Lily Rock) and Suicide Rock, which are famous in Southern California rock climbing circles, and Mt Atlas. One of Idyllwild's attractions is that it offers all four seasons, yet in winter is only an hour's drive down to the desert on the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway. It currently offers no skiing; thus "the Hill" has been minimally developed over the years and remains a center for hiking, mountain and rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding.


Idyllwild was once the summer home for bands of Cahuilla Indians, who migrated to the area to escape the heat of lower elevation deserts. The Cahuilla's grinding slabs can still be seen in Idyllwild.

A Cahuilla legend recounts how tribesmen chanted over the body of their fallen chieftain Tahquitz, or Takwish, who had been possessed by an evil spirit and killed his sweetheart. Suddenly his body began to glow like fire, and he rose and settled on Idyllwild's Tahquitz Rock. According to the legend, Tahquitz is trapped beneath the rock with a rattlesnake and a condor for company, and when the mountain shakes and trembles, it is not an earthquake, but Tahquitz up to his evil tricks on Lily Rock.

Idyllwild was known originally as Strawberry Valley because of the wild strawberries that grow there, especially beside the creek that runs through the town, Strawberry Creek. Shepherds regularly brought their flocks to the valley. In the 1880s, the Domenigoni family of San Jacinto homesteaded land near what is now the Idyllwild Arts Academy. In 1889, George and Sarah Hannahs built a summer camp next to the site of their sawmill in upper Dutch Flat; they named it Camp Idyllwilde. By the 1890s a toll road had been built from Hemet, which opened Idyllwild to settlement, logging, and tourism. A post office was established in 1893; at this time, the town was called Rayneta after the Hannahs' son Raymond.

In 1901, the Idyllwild Sanatorium was built to treat tuberculosis patients. The sanatorium was soon remodeled as a resort called "Idyllwild Among the Pines," and, later, "Idyllwild." That same year, the town's official named was changed to Idyllwild.

The Tribe of Tahquitz Boy Scout honor society was created in Idyllwild in 1925.

With the advent of the automobile, Idyllwild became a weekend tourist attraction for people in Southern California.[3] For many years, the town presented itself as an alpine village, and hotels and businesses had German or German-sounding names, but this practice ended during World War II.

From the 1930s to 1950s, Idyllwild was a center for the production of "knotty pine furniture", the fine log furniture made in the Arts and Crafts style. Under the direction of Charles "Selden" Belden, the furniture was produced by the Idyllwild Pinecraft Furniture Company and, later, C. Selden Belden Idyllwild Pinecraft. The furniture is now "collectible" and can be found in many Idyllwild houses and cabins.

In the 1950s, the Yosemite Decimal System of grading routes was developed at Tahquitz by members of the Rock Climbing Section of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.[4] In 1957 world-renowned modern architect Frank Gehry designed and constructed his first private residence, at the age of 28. Built along with USC classmate/architect Greg Walsh, "The David Cabin" shows early inspirational Asian influences and characteristics of his later works, including unfinished ceiling beams and other exposed materials. It is located on Middle Ridge Drive. List of works by Frank Gehry

In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was an influx of hippies in Idyllwild, which changed the nature of the town and alarmed many longtime residents. Timothy Leary lived on a ranch in nearby Garner Valley, with the ranch serving as the headquarters of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love.[5] Currently the ranch encampment in Garner Valley is operated by Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times as a year-round retreat for children with cancer and their families.[6]

From 1974 to 1979, Idyllwild hosted the Idyllwild Bluegrass Invitational, then the only bluegrass music festival in Southern California (it was inspired by the Julian Banjo-Fiddle Contest, which still goes on today on the third weekend in September). Idyllwild also hosted the Bear Flag Festival in the 1950s through the 1970s, a festival to honor California's Bear Flag and to mark the passing of the grizzly bear from California, the last of which, according to local legend, was killed at Hurkey Creek in Garner Valley.

Most high school-age students in Idyllwild attend school in Hemet, which requires them to travel by school bus some 35 miles (56 km) in distance and 3,000 feet (910 m) in altitude to and from school. Since the 1950s, some Idyllwild parents have agitated for a high school in the town, and there have been many attempts at establishing high schools, but most of the schools proved short-lived. Startup schools that failed included Hi-Lo, or LIFE (Living in Free Education, a public school located at what is now the Idyllwild Arts Academy, operated by Mary Glavin in 1973-76),[7][8] New Schole Ranch (a private school in Mountain Center), and Freedom Schools, Inc. (a private school operated in Mountain Center by Mary Ellen DuBay). Desert Sun School (later called the Elliott-Pope School), a private boarding school that accepted boarders and day students, closed in December 1990, due to financial mischief, after operating for 65 years in Idyllwild.

Idyllwild and the nearby areas of Garner Valley and Lake Hemet have been used for filming since the silent film era. Although most of Cecil B. DeMille's The Squaw Man (1914) was filmed in Los Angeles and vicinity, footage of cattle on the open range were shot at the "H.J." Ranch at Keen Camp, midway between Idyllwild and Garner Valley.[9] A number of Westerns have been filmed at the Garner Ranch in Garner Valley: Guns and Guitars (1936), Heading for the Rio Grande (1936), Springtime in the Rockies (1937), Brothers in the Saddle (1949), Riders of the Range (1949), and Storm over Wyoming (1950). The Garner Ranch also stood in for the Ponderosa in episodes of the TV show Bonanza. In 1961 and 1962, the Elvis Presley musical Kid Galahad was filmed in Idyllwild and vicinity. The 1980s television series Air Wolf and various car commercials have also been filmed in the area. The biker funeral procession from the 1966 film The Wild Angels was filmed in Idyllwild and included the Silver Pines Lodge, which was named Hillbilly Lodge at the time of the filming. Some of Steven Suptic's Sugar Pine 7, a YouTube comedy series, takes place in Idyllwild.

Idyllwild was listed in the 1998 book 100 Best Small Art Towns in America, by John Villani.[10]


The Idyllwild–Pine Cove–Fern Valley CDP in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains as defined by the United States Census Bureau statistical purposes may not precisely correspond to local understanding of the areas with the same names. The area includes 10,834-foot (3,302 m) high San Jacinto Peak,[11] Southern California's second highest mountain, after Mount San Gorgonio.

Idyllwild lies mostly within a high mountain valley bisected by a small year-round stream, Strawberry Creek.

Pine Cove occupies a ridgetop location nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) higher than Idyllwild.

Flora and fauna

Ancient ponderosa pine is the major flora of the area.


Under the Köppen climate classification system, Idyllwild–Pine Cove has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps. Winter is cool with occasional rain storms and snow showers. Highs are usually in the 50s with lows just below freezing. On average, the lowest temperature is 12, putting it in hardiness zone 8A. Spring starts slow but then gets warmer in April and is usually a pleasant time of year. Summer is quite hot, but temperatures cool off into the low 50s at night and days are more similar to the coastal areas than to the deserts. An average of 12 days a year exceed 90, very low for inland California. Late summer gets occasional thunderstorms from the southwest monsoon, but these are usually brief and only occur a few times a month. Fall is warm and dry, with the first freezes by October and the first snows by November.

The record high is 101 on July 9, 2002 while the record low is 1 on January 5, 1971. The lowest high ever was 23 on January 10, 1949 while the highest low was 72 on July 4, 1986. The wettest year was 1983 with 56.87", the wettest month was January 1993 with 23.72" and the wettest day was 6.66" on December 5, 1966. With only 10.84", 1961 was the driest year on record.

There has never been a snowless season, with 3.0" in 1966-1967 being the lowest ever. The snowiest season by far was 1948-1949 with 108.1". The snowiest month was January 1949 with 49.0" and the snowiest day being March 24, 1964 with 22.0".

Climate data for Idyllwild fire department 1981-2010, extremes 1943-2018
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 82
Average high °F (°C) 55.5
Average low °F (°C) 30.0
Record low °F (°C) 1
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.89
Average snowfall inches (cm) 8.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.04 in) 6.3 6.4 5.9 4.0 1.3 0.5 1.7 2.1 2.0 2.0 3.7 5.1 41
Average snowy days (≥ 0.4 in) 2.4 2.3 1.8 1.2 0.2 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.6 1.6 10.2
Source #1: NOAA (Normals 1981-2010) [12]
Source #2: NWS NOWDATA for Idyllwild fire department from NWS San Diego


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[13]

The 2010 United States Census[14] reported that Idyllwild–Pine Cove CDP had a population of 3,874. The population density was 282.1 people per square mile (108.9/km²). The racial makeup of Idyllwild–Pine Cove CDP was 3,434 (89%) White, 32 (1%) African American, 30 (1%) Native American, 135 (4%) Asian, 6 (<1%) Pacific Islander, 88 (2%) from other races, and 149 (4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 479 persons (12%).

The Census reported that 3,527 people (91% of the population) lived in households, 347 (9%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 1,682 households, out of which 314 (19%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 793 (47%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 111 (7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 75 (5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 94 (6%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 44 (3%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 542 households (32%) were made up of individuals and 225 (13%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10. There were 979 families (58% of all households); the average family size was 2.62.

The population was spread out with 741 people (19%) under the age of 18, 285 people (7%) aged 18 to 24, 652 people (17%) aged 25 to 44, 1,423 people (34%) aged 45 to 64, and 773 people (20%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.4 males.

There were 4,116 housing units at an average density of 299.7 per square mile (115.7/km²), of which 1,174 (70%) were owner-occupied, and 508 (30%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 9%; the rental vacancy rate was 18%. 2,423 people (63% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 1,104 people (29%) lived in rental housing units.


The Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Fern Valley area has several local governmental agencies: Idyllwild County Water District, Pine Cove County Water District, Fern Valley State Water District, Idyllwild Fire Protection District, County Service Area 36, County Service Area 38 and Idyllwild Historical Preservation District.

In the California State Legislature, Idyllwild–Pine Cove is in the 28th Senate District, seat currently vacant, and in the 71st Assembly District, represented by Republican Randy Voepel.[15]

In the United States House of Representatives, Idyllwild–Pine Cove is in California's 36th congressional district, represented by Democrat Raul Ruiz.[16]

In 2012, as a fundraiser envisioned by, held by, and for the benefit of local animal rescue non-profit organization Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends (ARF), Idyllwilders elected Max, a Golden Retriever, as its first mayor. In 2013, Mayor Max died, and Maximus Mighty Dog Mueller II, another Golden Retriever, arrived in Idyllwild to complete the remainder of the term. In March 2014, as the end of Max's term approached, ARF solicited the town's interest in holding another election. The people overwhelmingly pleaded for Mayor Max's continuation in perpetuity. The Office of the Mayor of Idyllwild is the enterprise of local resident Phyllis Mueller.[17]


Parks and recreation

Idyllwild is within the San Bernardino National Forest and borders Mount San Jacinto State Park.

The Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District operates the Idyllwild Park and Idyllwild Nature Center.[18]

Businesses and organizations

In 1946, Ernie and Betty Maxwell founded the Idyllwild Town Crier weekly newspaper, which has been in continual operation. Over the years, it has been variously owned and operated by local families, the Chronicle Publishing Company in San Francisco, and a U.S. corporate subsidiary of the Tindle Newspaper Group. Since June 28, 2013, the Town Crier has been owned and operated by Idyllwild House Publishing Company Ltd., a family-held California general corporation based in Idyllwild. The Town Crier is the sole media monitor of eight local governmental agencies on "the Hill," as the San Jacinto Mountain communities are locally known. The Idyllwild Town Crier has received awards from the National Newspaper Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and the California Press Association, which are on display at its North Circle Drive office.

The Idyllwild Arts Foundation, which began as a summer arts program, was founded by Bea and Max Krone in 1950. It was administered by the University of Southern California (USC) from 1964 through 1985, when the program was known as ISOMATA - Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts. In 1985, the Foundation purchased ISOMATA from USC, and followed by the founding of the private Idyllwild Arts Foundation (IAF) in 1986. IAF is a private, fully accredited high school for boarding and day students.

Since 2010 Idyllwild hosts the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. The first festival screened around 40 official selections from around the world. For 2013 it was renamed the Idyllwild CinemaFest.

In 2013, the Stratford Players theater group moved to Idyllwild, where they perform year round. Typically in the fall, the troupe presents Will In The Woods, a selection of Shakespeare's scenes and soliloquies. The event is held outdoors in the afternoon, in keeping with Elizabethan custom. During the remainder of the year, Stratford Players present both staged readings and full productions of non-Shakespearean plays that vary from classics to recent works.[19][20][21]

Notable people

Idyllwild is home to many artists and musicians, notably drummer David Atwood of the 1970s rock group America, Bobby Womack, and Richard Halligan, a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Current PGA tour star Brendan Steele was born and raised in Idyllwild.

Film actors who have owned or still have homes in Idyllwild and the surrounding area include Charles Laughton, Marjorie Main, Sharon Lawrence, Barbara Hershey, Conor O'Farrell, Doris Day, Michael J. Fox, Sean Connery, Dolly Parton, Herb Jeffries, Craig Stevens, Andrew Robinson, Shari Lewis, and Horace Hahn, who had a supporting role in the Cecil B. DeMille film This Day and Age (1933). Reality television producer and casting director Doron Ofir, attributed with breakout hits #Richkids of Beverly Hills and Jersey Shore. American Idol season 10 contestant and musical artist Casey Abrams is also from Idyllwild.


  1. "Idyllwild-Pine Cove Census Designated Place". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  2. "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files – Places – California". United States Census Bureau.
  3. Rainey, James (July 21, 2019). "Idyllwild prized its isolation. Now, with the roads into town wrecked, it feels all alone". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  4. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th Edition, The Mountaineers, Seattle, Washington, ISBN 0-89886-426-7. P. 550.
  5. Hollingshead, Michael (1974) The Man Who Turned On the World. Abelard-Schuman. Chapter 9.
  6. "Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times".
  7. Pinkerman, John (May 8, 1974) "Alternative Education - Unique School Success." Desert Sun; California Digital Newspaper Collection. (Retrieved 10-29-2015.)
  8. Squier, Gary (October 5, 2006) "Hi-Lo students reunite and remember local school." Town Crier. (Retrieved 10-29-2015.)
  9. Birchard, Robert S. (2004), Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, p. 8-9, ISBN 0-8131-2324-0
  10. Villani, John (1996). The 100 best small art towns in America : where to discover creative communities, fresh air, and affordable living (2nd ed.). Santa Fe, N.M.: John Muir Publications. ISBN 978-1562614058.
  11. "San Jacinto". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey.
  13. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  14. "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA – Idyllwild–Pine Cove CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  15. "Statewide Database". Regents of the University of California. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  16. "California's 36th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC.
  17. "Office of the Mayor of Idyllwild". (Retrieved January 17, 2019)
  18. Lech, Steve (2011). More Than a Place To Pitch a Rent: The Stories Behind Riverside County's Regional Parks. Riverside, CA: Steve Lech. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-9837500-0-0. OCLC 768249467.
  20. "Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana presented by Stratford Players of Idyllwild". Banning-Beaumont, CA Patch. May 19, 2014.
  21. Happenings. "Stratford Players presents Will in the Woods - Inland Theatre League".
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