Easy switchbacks on a two-lane highway lead to Idyllwild, a mile-high community that’s big on rustic. Nestled in the heart of the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild is close to the desert but feels like it’s a world away. The pine trees grow tall and lanky. The air is snappy. It’s cozy. Stroll through local shops to pick up gifts for everyone on your list. The town is brimming with talented craftspeople; look out for distinctive pottery, fancy mustard, or a solid walking stick. The burgeoning restaurant scene brings together café favorites with inventive, contemporary cuisine. Elevation: 5,416 feet.
Joshua Tree National Park
Hit the park highlights on an easy loop by entering via the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms. From the entrance, drive to Jumbo Rocks, then on to Ryan Mountain. Detour to Keys View, a 20-minute drive from Park Boulevard down Keys View Road. Proceed to Barker Dam Nature Trail for a relaxed walk, then to Hidden Valley to gawk at the rock climbers. Finally, exit the park at the West Station, which puts you in the town of Joshua Tree. Be mindful there’s no water stations, fuel, food service, flushing toilets, Wi-Fi, or cell service in the park. Bring what you need. Elevation: 2,736 feet.
Highland Springs Ranch & Inn
Highland Springs Ranch & Inn has been recognized as Riverside County’s first historic landmark, built in 1884. The sprawling property includes fields of lavender, olive groves, oak trees, and a picturesque organic farm. The main hotel retains the character of the original building. This is family-friendly fun, with events like sheep shearing and an annual lavender festival. The Grand Oak Steakhouse features local, seasonal fare. Elevation: 2,986 feet.
Information: 10600 Highland Springs Ave., Cherry Valley; 951-845-1151; www.hsresort.com
Content sponsored by Trilogy at The Polo Club, 51750 Polo Club Drive, Indio, 760-775-5522.
For more information, please visit the Explore 52 day trip kiosk at the Trilogy at the Polo Club clubhouse.