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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Camp-California is concerned about the health and safety of our campers and adventurers. While camping and outdoor activities do offer the ability to self-isolate, we are encouraging all California residents and travelers to shelter in place until further notice. We recognize that getting outdoors is what you do best, and we will be here to reacquaint you with nature once we're cleared for adventure again!


Most private parks are open with 14-day minimums. If you are a full-time RVer looking to shelter in place, a member of the traveling medical profession, or a utility worker looking for a park please call our office and we can connect you with an appropriate location.