Our one night camping trip to San Onofre was so much fun that we came home all pumped up and decided to make it a priority to make it out on more quick trips. We're keeping it within a strict two hour radius of LA, so that we can head out Saturday morning and come back Sunday afternoon without feeling completely exhausted.
Last weekend we went to Idyllwild. We stayed at Marion Mountain campground, which is a few miles above town (details about the campground at the bottom of the post). We stopped in at Idyllwild Bake Shop and Brew for some amazing sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread on our way up. They have a great beer selection as well, but we had Circe so we took our sandwiches to go (and honestly wouldn't have wanted to have even a single beer right before heading up the twisty mountain road). We made it to camp right at 2 pm and managed to get everything set up right before a rain storm broke out so we took advantage of the forced downtime and napped for a couple hours until it cleared up. The next morning after breakfast we hiked the Marion Mountain trail to San Jacinto peak. We didn't have time to hike the whole thing (I think it's 12 miles round trip, with a crazy elevation gain of 4,600 feet for a final elevation of just under 11,000 feet) so we allowed ourselves two hours up before we turned around. I think we made it just under 4 miles up and it was steep. Circe happily scrambled around the beginning of the trail but we tucked her in the backpack and traded off carrying duties for the rest of the hike. Once you enter the state park portion of the hike dogs aren't allowed, but we figured as long as she was in the backpack the whole time we'd be okay.
It was a perfect trip and I'd love to go back and get an earlier start so we could hike to the summit and make it back in time for 2 pm checkout. These little trips leave me feeling tired but also refreshed, so I'm glad we're making this a goal this year.
Campground details: Marion Mountain is a great little campground. The sites are close together but we checked the map and read some reviews and chose campsite 8, which turned out to be perfect. It's situated so that you have a little corner of the campground to yourself with a great view and it isn't too close to the bathrooms. There are chemical toilets and running water taps but no sinks or showers. For that reason I probably wouldn't plan a long trip (more than 2 nights) here. If you're thinking of going, check the campsite map when you choose your site but keep in mind that everything is closer together than it looks on the map. Site 9 might be better for a group with multiple tents because it has more space, although the parking situation would be tight if you didn't come in one car (true of all the sites, actually).
This is an honor system, so there is no ranger present and you don't need to check in officially. If you made your reservation online, there will be a sign posted on your campsite with the dates and you just park and set yourself up. You can also do first come first serve and use their self pay station. It's $10 per night (plus a $9 service fee if you book online). We booked online and I'm glad we did. The campground was entirely full on Saturday night and it would be a bummer to come all the way up there and have to turn around.
You do need a permit to hike the Marion Mountain trail, so if you're thinking about it make sure to stop at the ranger station in Idyllwild and pick one up.