The beautiful forest and mountain meadows of Palomar Mountain State Park are in northern San Diego County on the west side of Palomar Mountain. Large pine, fir and cedar trees make the park one of the few areas in southern California with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere. Elevation within the park averages 5,000 feet above sea level, making evenings cool even during the summer. A number of vista points offer sweeping panoramic views both westerly toward the ocean and inland toward the desert. In addition to spectacular views of the Pacific, Palomar Mountain State Park offers camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing (trout) in Doane Pond. From Highway 76, either of two roads can be used to reach the park. The one from Rincon Springs (County Road S6) is scenic but rather steep and winding. County Road S7 from Lake Henshaw is longer, but its gentle grade makes it more suitable for heavily loaded vehicles and those pulling trailers. To the east, beyond the limits of the park, is the world-famous Palomar Observatory and the highest point of the 6,100-foot mountain. Many park visitors make the eight-mile trip up the road to the observatory, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology. The observatory is open to the public free of charge from 9am to 4pm daily. The park is open from dawn until dusk. The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park.
Jennifer R. on Scotts Cabin Trail
Nice hike. We started on the Cedar Trail to Scotts Cabin then took this down to Doane Pond back up Thunder Spring trail doing a sort of loop. The "Scotts Cabin" is just a pile of logs but marked so you know you reached it. Easy down hill, nice scenery.
This was actually a mixed trail hike. Sort of customized. Used Weir trailhead at the state campground, went to the weir, there was some poodle dog bush toward the beginning. Came half way back then climbed Baptist trail, this was kind of steep. Crossed the road then went to Scotts cabin trail, to a descent at the fork to Doane pond and back to the campground. It was about a 3.5 mile hike. Highly recommended. Easy to moderate.
Hiked almost 9 miles today. Weather was nice. Only saw about 10 people. Stuck to the perimeter trails to get the most distance. Not too much elevation. Baptist trail gained some elevation fairly quick but then leveled out. Boucher's Hill and the lookout is nice as well. I will be going back for more.
There's not much scenery on the Thunder Springs and Chimney Flats trails, it picks up a little once you transition to Scott's Cabin Trail. The loop is mostly either uphill or downhill and can be a bit of a cardio workout. There's sections that will be difficult for small children or the out of shape. Cell phone reception cuts out around the halfway point.
We spotted deer, chipmunks and a good variety of birds doing this loop. While pretty it isn't as impressive as the other trails this park offers.
An easy hike around the meadow that provides lots of photo opportunities. The North section of the trail that leads to a waterfall has been closed since 2014 with a barrier across the trail marking it out of bounds. Add a diversion from the loop and take the Weir Trail north where it intersects with the Lower Doane Trail and follow it to the Weir historic site (it ends at the site).
We were pestered by little flies the entire route, repellent didn't help. Other than that it's a perfect loop with a good mix of sun and shade. I'll be coming back to this one once the rains start up.
This was a beautiful trail! Heavily wooded and shaded, with a big meadow right in the middle. Some of the trees were absolutely massive, quite obviously very old. Saw tons of birds. Only a couple other people on the trail, too. Really felt like we were in nature. The drive up from San Diego was scenic in its own right -- you get extremely high elevation getting here. Perfect hike to kick off the fall season.
Stunning views and nice cardio workout! You'll need to be in moderately good shape for this trail. Be sure to bring snacks, lots of water and take breaks often. The trail path displayed in AllTrails is incorrect and is actually several trails, not just Boucher. Pick up a map at the Ranger station entering the park.
Directions to trailhead: Take 76 to S Grade Rd (S6), Turn left x2 onto State Park Rd (S7), follow it till it ends at Palomar Mountain State Park. Pay $8 fee at the Ranger station located at the gate, Park in the picnic area right past the Ranger station on the left. Walk down the road heading West, past the employee residence you'll see a split in the road and the trail head clearly marked.
The trail is uphill until you reach Boucher Lookout Tower. It breaks at the tower which contains a picnic area, an observation deck, restroom and water. We were invited up by the Ranger (unexpected) and the view was amazing. The volunteer Ranger told us all about his equipment, job and filled us in on some history. Two thumbs up for cool Rangers!
Boucher Trail picks up again on the other side of the lookout tower (trail marked) and heads downhill for quite a ways. Be warned that what goes down must eventually come up. The trail ends at Nate Harrison Grade Road. Across the road you'll see Adams Trail. We elected to travel back to the car and relocate to Doane Pond based on the Rangers advice that continuing on Adams Trail will end with a huge uphill trek back to the parking location. Nate Harrison Grade road was mostly an uphill walk all the way back.
An alternative to Nate Harrison Grade road would be to take Boucher Road from the lookout tower. This would cut out a significant part of Boucher trail but would mean less uphill walking on the way back.
Make sure you can easily identify Poison Ivy and Oak before heading to Palomar Mountain. I only spotted a little on the trails but it's growing all over the road sides and can be brushed against if you don't pay attention.
The day I did this we only hiked out to the old building and back. Didn't pay any attention to the length or time. What we did was very nice. I do remember hearing an odd scary sound in the distance while we were just a few yards from the parking lot. Not at all crowded during week and in the spring.
I think I did a slightly modified version as outlined in Afoot and Afield. I took the Oak Grove trail, not the truck trail, for the first part. Came in at about 14 miles, 3600 ft of elevation. Beautiful views! Also, this hike should probably be rated hard, not moderate. Great cardio workout.
Mabel P. on Doane Valley Loop Trail
Nice quick trail. Beautiful views!