Mountain History

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A Short History of the San Jacinto Mountains (continued)

aIdyllwild's iconic Tahquitz (Lily) Rock

Idyllwild’s world-wide reputation stems from two quite different pursuits: the arts and rock-climbing. Serious climbers in Southern California discovered Tahquitz Rock (also called Lily Rock) in the 1930s. Here they first developed the numerical system for gauging difficulty that became the standard in Yosemite and elsewhere. Today there are some 500 named routes up iconic Tahquitz Rock and its near neighbor, Suicide Rock.

In 1950 the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts opened, offering a wide variety of summer programs. It later was a branch campus of the University of Southern California for two decades, but was taken over in 1983 by a locally based group, the Idyllwild Arts Foundation. In 1986 the foundation launched the Idyllwild Arts Academy, the West’s only residential arts high school, which attracts highly talented students from around the world. A significant community of resident artists of all stripes has accumulated in Strawberry Valley, with galleries, plays, and musical performances now thoroughly integrated into the life of the village.


aExhibiting Idyllwild's resident artist community.
aErnie Maxwell at 1986 trail dedication in his honor.

All activity here on the Hill has been chronicled for over 60 years by the local weekly, the Town Crier, founded in 1946 by Ernest and Betty Maxwell. As editor, artist, and activist, Ernie Maxwell played key roles in solidifying the community and, through his creation and leadership of a local chapter of the Izaak Walton League, preserving the mountain environment. Until his death in 1994 he was unquestionably Idyllwild’s dominant personality. His legacy is memorialized in the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, the most accessible of the Hill’s pathways.