In the interview in this week’s issue (page 11) with new Park Interpreter Jyoti Kintz, she mentioned that more people are coming to the Nature Center since the Town Crier opened the Visitors Center.

The Nature Center is one of the best places to visit in Idyllwild, I think, and we like sending people of all ages there because it has easy and more difficult trails, so it is great for families with small children, and both people in great shape and in not-so-great shape who want to take a hike, as well as cyclers.

The center hosts an interpretive gallery with the history of the mountains that includes logging and Cahuilla Indian life. Animals, both live and mounted, offer educational opportunities.

A garden of native plants and a gift shop round off the Nature Center.

You also don’t need an Adventure Pass or permit to visit. Cost is $3 for adults, $2 for children under age 12, free for children under age 2 and $1 for dogs. Yes, you may bring a dog as long as you keep it on a leash.

When my children were small, I packed a lunch and took them there regularly. We walked the Yellow Pine Forest Trail, a self-guided tour of the terrain that includes metates (bowls/impressions in boulders Cahuillas used to grind seeds and grains). We ate lunch at the picnic tables.

The gift shop was small back then but the big topographical map under glass of the area was there. My kids loved me pointing out on the map where they lived and where their grandmother lived in the desert. Now I take my grandchildren to the Nature Center when I can.

We joined the Friends of the San Jacinto Mountain County Parks and with that membership, we enjoy entry to the Nature Center and can walk any of the trails — even the ones between the County Park and the Nature Center. Our membership pass also gives us access to Hurkey Creek Park.