Summary: A hike along Observatory Trail on Palomar Mountain is like a "three-for-one" deal at the supermarket: for the price of sweating out a hike on one beautiful, coniferous, oak-lined trail, you reap the benefits that normally only result from having hiked along at least three other trails: a good aerobic climb, magnificent scenery along mostly good trail, and access to a world-famous observatory. The trailhead is easy to find within the Observatory Campground (Forest Service Adventure Pass required to park here), and the trail itself is clearly defined throughout. A spectacular view of Mendenhall Valley is offered from an observation platform within a half-mile of the start, and wildflowers are profuse during the months late in the spring. At trail's end (after slightly more than 2 miles), one can continue up to the Palomar Observatory just to the right of the trail's end and visit the 200-inch Hale Telescope or retrace one's steps back to the campground.
Trailhead: From Interstate 15, near Fallbrook, drive twenty-one miles east on Highway 76. Turn north on Road S6 (South Grade Road), continue 6.5 miles to the junction with Road S7, then continue three miles north along Road S6 to the Observatory Campground (located across from the Forest Service Sign on the right side of the road). The parking area for the trailhead and the amphitheatre is located toward the back of the campground "loop" and is signed. A Forest Service Adventure Pass is required to park at the trailhead. (Lat:33.34346 Lon:-116.87767)
Trail Guides for Palomar Mountain-Observatory Trail:
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer,
User Groups: Hikers, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Cleveland National Forest-Palomar Ranger District (760) 788-0250
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Patricia Barnes, who has posted 23 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 3 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Stella on 1/8/2012
Hello, I am a Doggie Bordeaux......does this hike allow me? Woof woof!
Reviewed by DeAnn on 12/28/2011
Great hike. We parked at the campground and walked the 2 mile trail to the Observatory. Took about 2 hours, but we stopped several times to check out the scenery. Beautiful views. Perfect weather today. Snow here and there but melting in the warmth. Saw one squirrel and one rabbit. Absolutely no cats, snakes, etc. Crossed paths with 2 small groups of people. The Observatory was open and when we walked up the stairs to the 2nd floor, we were let in for a tour. Highlight of the day for sure. We then walked down the trail, which took about an hour.
Reviewed by JW on 3/12/2011
2/21/11. Parked next to the Observatory entrance and intended to walk with my two small children to catch a glimpse of the Observatory because we arrived too late and it was closed. We made it thru some brush and tried to pick up a trail when we encountered a mountain lion on the other side of the fenced in area no more than 500' from the gated entrance. BEWARE....this cat was at least 250+ lbs and mature. It looked at us and seemed more annoyed than aggressive. I would seriously consider going in a group when walking in and around this area.
Reviewed by anthony on 11/5/2010
Beautiful fall colors out now, cool weather, perfect time to do this hike. Started at the Observatory Campground and went up and back. David is right, little spooky, little gnatty, lots of poison oak, be careful.Check out the photos at http://tinyurl.com/38okdju
Reviewed by TJ on 5/10/2010
Just did this hike yesterday for mothers day with my 4 and 5 year old little girls.They did awesome!!I would totally recommend bringing your kids.No rattlesnakes or animals.The views were AMAZING!!
Reviewed by JT on 9/14/2009
Great, fun, yet challenging trail. Just got back from it, I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and still got a great workout out of it. The views were amazing, it was not too hot and was fortunate enough not to run into any rattlesnakes or coyotes. I'll be coming back soon!!
Reviewed by David on 7/17/2009
Hiked it on 7/14/09 - Lots and lots of bugs and a bit spooky in places. Overall this is a nice down and back trail and may be a bit challenging to those not use to the altitude. We parked at the observatory and made our way down to the campground. The first half mile was a bit scary in places due to over hanging shrubbery and what appeared to be a lesser amount of maintenance. Even though we were bathed in insect repellent we were harassed non stop by gnats and other bugs. We made the entire hike with out seeing another person either way - which added to the spooky factor. It was a nice hike and would recomend, but not during July or August due to bugs and high tempature.
Reviewed by Mary on 7/3/2009
We did this hike beginning of July. There were a few gnats in patches along the hike, but nothing to keep you from enjoying the trail. The weather was a little warmer then I would have liked, but we just stopped a little more often in the shade. We saw forest personel working just off the trail and thanked them for their hard work at keeping the trail so nice. Biggest creature we saw was a lizard on rock. We saw tracks of deer but couldn't see any. This was a "moderate" hike that most people could really enjoy. There is no way that you can get lost on this trail, it's just up and back. It pops out at the Palomar Observary, which is just up the road. Still wildflowers to be seen, especially at the end on left side of road.
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