This climb begins at a section of Hwy 74 recognized as a scenic state route. At mile 11.5 we turn left onto Hwy 243 to complete the climb up to Pine Cove. Hwy 243 along this stretch is also a recognized scenic state route, and rightly so! We have many opportunities over the first 14 miles of the climb to look back to the east, down the large canyon we just climbed through to Valle Vista and Hemet far to the east. The landscape on the lower portion of the climb is quite stark and barren, but that is what permits the great easterly views down the canyon. There are exceptional views of the San Jacinto Mountains and Tahquitz Peak as we climb up towards Mountain Center and Idyllwild.
So often we climb out of stark desert-like surroundings into desolate remote and unpopulated areas. Not so for this climb. There is much activity and vibrancy as we near and enter the music and artistic community of Idyllwild (do not pass through without having the apple pie at Idyllwild Bake Shop and Brew – you won’t be sorry!).
Roadway and traffic report: The roadway for both climbs was very good and traffic moderate but polite and seemed to travel more at the speed limit than many of the other Southern California “highway climbs” we have charted (e.g. Hwy 18 from both sides and Hwy 330).
Highway 243 – this is a great climb that can be done as an out-and-back from Hemet or Banning, or, better yet, by dropping down from your base camp at Idyllwild. We have excellent views of back to Banning as we climb through a set of steep switchbacks around miles 2-3. There are some great boulder formations and views of Lake Fulmor at mile 8. We end in Pine Cove and we encourage a visit to Idyllwild 3 miles down 243 from the summit at Marion Road.