From Marriott Vacation Club's Desert Springs Villas and the JW Marriott Desert Springs it's a 1-1/2 hour drive on CA-74 to Idyllwild and San Jacinto. This tiny mountain village is a great half day trip ideal for breakfast or lunch. We loved the winding drive through the mountains.
San Jacinto Mountain as seen from Idyllwild, CA
From the JW Desert Springs and Desert Springs Villas or Shadow Ridge, the trip to Idyllwild starts by taking Monterey Ave past El Paseo to Hwy 74. Hwy 74 snakes through the Santa Rosa mountains and the drive is absolutely exhilirating! Above 5 miles from the JW, you reach Vista Point where you can see all of the communities in the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs to Indio with Palm Desert in the center. The best time is early morning before 10am otherwise the view will be obscured by the haze.
Hwy 74 snaking through Santa Rosa mountains (Google)
Coachella Valley as seen from Vista Point
One of the surprises along Hwy 74 is Lake Hemet. About 35 minutes from Palm Desert, the lake and the area surrounding it are protected as part of the San Bernardino National Forest. The area features campgrounds and with temperatures in the mid-70's, it was a lot cooler than Palm Desert! Juxtaposed against this clean, fresh and tranquil lake you could hear the joyous activity of campers enjoying a summer vacation.
Lake Hemet, part of the San Bernadino National Forest
From the Marriott Vacation Club resort at Desert Springs to Idyllwild is about 90 minutes. You can leave mid-morning and be there to enjoy lunch. Although Idyllwild gets up to 72 inches to 90 inches of snow, the village is not a winter sports getaway. It's likely the San Jacinto mountains are too steep and rocky to clear for sports enthusiasts who enjoy a smooth wet incline.
At a comfortable 72 degrees compared to over 100 degrees in the desert, Idyllwild was ideal for pleasant lunch venue and a relaxing stroll amidst log buildings, shops, lodges, inns and homes. The drive snaking through the Santa Rosa mountains was purely exhilirating and well worth it. For more about what to see and do in Idyllwild, see Idyllwild Life.