San Diego California Visitor Information

Palomar Observatory Trail

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. Total round trip is 4 miles of moderate hiking.

Getting there: From I-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 amphitheater is located toward the back of the campground “loop” and is signed. A Forest Service Adventure Pass is required to park at the trailhead.

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