Idyllwild Camping, Fern Basin Campground
Idyllwild, California is a magical little town. It is the epitome of a small, mountain town and has an abundance of rustic charm. It boasts an adorable downtown area with shops, bakeries, restaurants, and more. Better than all of that, there's an amazing network of trails, outdoor adventures, and campgrounds surrounding it.
Kim spent some of her childhood in this town, so when we landed out in California, we knew that we would eventually make a trip up the mountain. When we finally did, we hiked a portion of a trail from Humber Park, and fell in love with the different kind of nature that the mountain could offer. We soon returned, ready to camp on the mountain.
We did our typical research ahead of the trip, but stopped in at the San Jacinto Ranger Station to get some info anyway. They can issue the Adventure Pass that you'll need to park in the forest, and also provide (required) permits for hiking and climbing in the area. They showed us several campgrounds on the map and pointed us in the right direction.
We pulled into Fern Basin Campground a few miles later, and immediately loved the forest surrounded campsites. We landed at Site #3 and had a few very tall trees and a large open space to call our own. The site had a fire pit and picnic table, and bathrooms were nearby with vault toilets. Drinking water was not available when we were there, though the forest website says that they now have water.
Sites are reservable on recreation.gov, but any open sites are first come first serve, and fees can be paid at a pay box near the entrance. Sites go for $10 per night, plus $5 for additional vehicles. While camping here, you must follow the fire restrictions of the San Bernardino National Forest - check before you leave, at times fires are not permitted.
The campground is quite close to the Marion Mountain Trailhead, if you'd like to go hiking without driving out. The sites rest at around 6,300 feet, so temperatures can be a bit chilly to downright cold, depending on the time of year. This campground is open late May through early November most years depending on the weather.
We had a very comfortable night of sleep - our tent was pitched on a bed of soft pine needles, which did actually seem to make the ground softer. The sounds of the forest are so soothing, you can't help but relax and enjoy while camping here.
We had quite an annoying time with tons of little bugs and mosquitoes buzzing around in the morning however. We were new to summer forest camping and did not know to expect this - now we travel with a variety of bug sprays and repellents. Do the same, and your trip will be much more enjoyable! We escaped the bugs by heading down to the Idyllwild town center (about 7 miles away) and having a hot breakfast(at the Red Kettle), before heading back home.
Some details: Fern Basin is located off of Highway 243. Take a right (from Idyllwild) on Fire Road 4S02. After about a quarter of a mile, you'll have signs pointing you the right way. If you are spur of the moment camping and looking for empty sites, Marion Mountain campground is not even a mile further up the fire road and has lots of sites as well.
Don't forget to explore Idyllwild a bit while you're nearby - stock up on camp groceries, or camp candy at the candy shops, grab a yummy sandwich and pastry at Bake & Brew, and be sure to check out Wooley's for warm socks and fun stuff. The town has lots to explore! We specifically recommend the Lumber Mill for post-hike hunger. Great food and beer!
All photos taken by Andrea & Kim
Cameras: Nikon F100, Superheadz Ultra Wide & Slim, Olympus XA
Film: FPP Retrochrome - Cross-processed in C41 for vintage look, Ilford HP5 and Fuji Superia 400