Nick Pauro and his 17-year-old daughter Alyssa Pauro sit with their dog Siobhan in what he calls his camp “compound,” in Idyllwild Park on July Fourth with his friends and family from the University of California Riverside’s Pipe Band, which performed in the holiday parade. Photos by Jenna Hunt

Joe and Ann Thomas have been camping at the Idyllwild Park for more than 15 years and decided to spend the Independence Day holiday at the park.


The San Diego couple said they enjoyed the serene beauty of the county park on the holiday since few camping spaces were occupied.

“It’s actually real nice since there are less people on a Wednesday and we planned to take the whole week off work,” said Ann while walking the pathways with her husband and dogs. “We love it here with all the trees and the hiking.”

The Thomases have two dogs, Scottie, 5, and 18-year-old Kyzer, who have been camping with the couple over the years since they first came to Idyllwild in 1995. They said they started out with tents and now own an Airstream. They patriotically decorated their Airstream with several flags including a large American flag.

The couple said they found the Idyllwild Park by chance when they initially came to go to the Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

“We were looking for the state park and we liked this park better,” she said. “It’s always been a great park and we can come with short notice.”

The couple said they loved watching this year’s Idyllwild Fourth of July parade and said it was especially festive.

“We thought the parade was perfect,” Joe said. “We absolutely loved it.”

The Idyllwild Park has a total of 92 campsites available and throughout the summer the park can be sold out, said Cheryl Houk, a camp host at the park. Since the holiday fell mid-week, park officials only had about 15 campsites rented on Wednesday, she said. They were fully booked for the following weekend and it was very busy the weekend prior to the Fourth of July, Houk said.

Many campers return year after year and the Idyllwild Park is a favorite spot for family reunions, she said. “We have people who have been coming here for 40 years with family reunions,” she said.

Joe and Ann Thomas enjoy a long walk around Idyllwild Park’s grounds near their Air Stream camper with their two dogs Scottie and Kyzer. The couple lives full-time in San Diego and have been visiting the park since 1995. Photos by Jenna Hunt

Houk, who is spending her fifth summer at the park, said it is a fun way to escape the desert’s heat. She lives in Palm Springs and said she loves the people and the grounds.


“People come here for a good time and we get great crowds,” Houk said while making rounds of the park in her golf cart. “This is a family campground with quiet times strictly enforced.”

It costs $20 per night to camp at the Idyllwild Park with a limit of six people per site, Houk said. Pets cost $1 extra per night, she said. All campers have access to showers and flushing toilets.

“People come from all over to camp here … from Arizona, Orange County and Los Angeles,” Houk said. “We have a great reputation.”

Mike Terry of Riverside has been camping at the Idyllwild Park for about 10 years during the Fourth of July holiday with his Pipe Band from the University of California. Terry said his band members performed in the holiday parade and the Rotary Club’s “The Pipes in the Pines” concert the night before.

Terry said he took the week off to enjoy camping and prefers the Idyllwild Park’s quiet with few campers.

“The crowds can be a little more rambunctious and less relaxing when the Fourth falls on a weekend,” Terry said. “We love the physical beauty and being close to Strawberry Creek …. We also like to avoid fireworks [Lily Creek flows through the park].”

Terry along with his band and family members were camping in a large group with RV’s at the far end of the park in a circle. The group said they enjoy being close to town with easy access to the grocery stores and the town’s many shops.

Nick Pauro, a band member from Hemet, brought his wife Lisa and daughter Alyssa. He said he loves being unplugged from modern technology while camping. “This is my first time here,” Nick said. “We love it.”

The Pauro family brought their dog Siobhan who walked the parade route with a colorful American Flag bow around her neck.

“We loved the parade, but the parade wore Siobhan out,” said Lisa while relaxing in a lounge chair outside her RV with her black lab rescue dog from Ramona Animal Shelter.