Staycations in and around the San Jacinto Valley

Lake Hemet Recreation Area
The Splashing Eagle water park at Lake Hemet has proved very popular.

■ Matt McPherson / Columnist

For many such as myself, it feels like summer had just started and now the school year is less than three weeks away. If you’re as busy as most this season with a family, the booming housing market and a rising economy, it’s difficult to catch a breath, let alone plan a vacation. Here are a few of the many local venues in and around the valley for those who are on a tight budget and don’t want to venture too far from home.

Silent Valley Campground
46305 Poppet Flats Road
Banning, California 92220

Just above Soboba Reservation on Poppet Flats overlooking the San Jacinto Valley is a hidden gem that boasts 460 acres of well-maintained and managed wilderness area with tons of amenities and recreation. It’s got full RV hook-up sites, a fully-stocked general store, restaurant and lounge, heated pool, recreation room with pool tables and arcade games, and a craft room for kids.
Throughout the year Silent Valley hosts fishing derbies, arts and crafts bazaars, an Easter egg hunt, a Halloween haunt, talent shows, shuffleboard, in addition to regular concerts and outdoor movies at the family center.
Miles of hiking and biking trails surround the facility and a plethora of wildlife inhabits the area. The campground offers adult style entertainment and beverages – there is even a church for those who don’t want to miss Sunday service. While Silent Valley is private and member-owned, reservations are available for those who may be interested in a membership. The place is usually packed, so calling ahead is a good idea.

Wilderness Lakes
30605 Briggs Road
Menifee, California 92584

This 80-acre facility is just a 25-minute drive from the San Jacinto Valley and offers full RV hook-ups, rental trailers, cabins and tent camping. Free-flowing canals weave through the campground and are fully stocked with an assortment of fish. Surrounded by horse ranches, it’s an escape close to the valley, but yet away from it all. More than 500 camping sites offer a family-friendly atmosphere that that can accommodate everybody and their interests.
Wilderness Lakes offers pickle ball, a heated pool, line dancing lessons, train rides and regular exhibits and demonstrations. Zoologists from the San Diego Zoo frequently visit with exotic animals to pet and hold. The canals are also home to a wide variety of water fowl that visitors love to feed. It’s also very popular during Halloween as well.

Lake Hemet
56570 Highway 74
Mountain Center, California 92561

Wilderness Lakes
Wilderness Lakes offers amenities such as fully-stocked canals that weave through the campsites.

In the past couple of years Lake Hemet has invested tens of thousands of dollars into its recreational and overnight facilities in an attempt to lure locals to its transcendental vibe. The Splashing Eagle water park with floating bouncy castles, slides and jungle gyms has been a tremendous hit with the kids.
Ten new cabins were also recently built and can accommodate up to six people at an affordable rate. The Soaring Pines Café offers a wide variety of eats for those that don’t want to rough it too much and the market has just about anything you may need. Hiking and biking trails surround the lake and wind up into Thomas Mountain.
The lake is regularly stocked with thousands of trout, making it a great fishing hole. Bird watchers come to watch the many bald eagles nest and snatch a tasty meal of trout from the lake. Make sure to call ahead, because Lake Hemet has been a very popular attraction lately. The whole Kardashian and Jenner clan filmed an episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” at Lake Hemet. Classic shows such as “Airwolf” and “Bonanza” also filmed episodes at Lake Hemet.

Hurkey Creek
56375 Highway 74
Mountain Center, California 92561

Just across the way from Lake Hemet to the northwest about a mile you’ll find the very peaceful and quiet campground Hurkey Creek. It was named after old man Hurkey who, as the story goes, was killed by a grizzly bear there in the creek more than 100 years ago.
Huge pine trees and mountain views allow everybody who visits to reconnect with nature. Excellent spot for hiking, biking, and everything outdoors. Hurkey Creek boasts 130 campsites, a large meadow for gatherings, a fun modern playground for the kids, and a pet-friendly atmosphere make it a popular spot for those who want to unwind.

Tucalota Springs
41601 E. Benton Road
Hemet, California 92544

80 full hook-up sites, tent camping sites, clean restrooms, and showers just 20 minutes south of Hemet. The site has a catch-and-release pond, picnic tables, fire rings, a mini petting zoo, and hiking and biking trails for days.
A 24-hour lounge offers a phone, TV, and computer for those who want to stay in contact with the outside world. Also three club rooms with kitchens are available in addition to a laundry facility. For recreation, professional horseshoe pits and a heated pool are available.

Little Lake
42525 Stetson Ave.
Hemet, California 92544

For those who don’t want to camp overnight, but would like a great day of fishing here in the valley, make sure to check out Little Lake.
This five-acre facility is located in East Hemet near the intersection of Soboba Street and Stetson Avenue. It’s a beautiful setting underneath majestic eucalyptus trees, surrounded by orange groves. The lake is regularly stocked with trout, catfish, largemouth bass and bluegill. It’s open from Thursday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call today to get rates and information.

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