Palomar Observatory Trail

MODERATE 24 reviews
#16 of 78 trails in

Palomar Observatory Trail is a 4.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Aguanga, CA that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is accessible from March until November.

4.8 miles 901 feet Out & Back

hiking

trail running

views

wildlife

Directions from LA Basin: Head east on Hwy 76 to S6 and drive north toward Palomar Mountain. Follow S6 to Observatory Campground. Trailhead parking is near the amphitheater inside the campground (follow the signs). Vehicles must display a Forest Adventure Pass. The trailhead is adjacent to the amphitheater.

hiking
24 days ago

Wonderful hike. I've been coming to the observatory for years. Camped at the site several times. this is the first time that I hiked the trail. what a treat. I never knew there was a valley to the south. Not too challenging but well worth the effort.

hiking
24 days ago

Wonderful hike. Nice scenery especially around the middle looking south there's a valley. Easy to moderate. Took about an hour and fifteen minutes going up with stops for pics. 45 minutes coming down with no stops.

hiking
2 months ago

What a hike. My son and I dropped my wife at the airport early this morning so we had the day to ourselves so I decided to on this hike. Terrain isn't to bad trail can be confusing at times but as long you keep your eyes open for signs of a trail you will be fine. We also enjoyed the observatory at the top.

hiking
2 months ago

Fun hike from campground to observatory. Rate between easy to moderate(uphill) due to elevation.

hiking
3 months ago

I would rate easy to moderate. My 8 year old son and I hiked up and back w/out any issues.

10 months ago

11 months ago

Beautiful and easy hike! Snow on the ground and it was slippery on some spots.

hiking
1 year ago

Great trail. We took our 5 year old and 3 year old on this hike. Our 5 year old hiked the entire way up and need a little help riding on on our shoulders about half-way back. Our 3 year old was a champ and hiked 3/4 of the way up to the observatory and about half-way back. We carried him the rest of the way.

I would say this hike is more moderate or easy to moderate. It's definitely not the easiest hike I've done. But, it's a beautiful walk up a mountain through a shady forest. I highly recommend it.

hiking
1 year ago

Great hike. Trailhead was hard to find. Saw four cows on the trail but they ran as soon as they saw us! Would bring bug spray next time as it was pretty buggy in the beginning. Awesome views. We were the only ones on the trail all day so it was really nice.

1 year ago

Big fan of this trail. Being that it's in the Cleveland National Forest, it's feels light years removed from your typical SD hiking trail. Not really challenging, but it provides a great half-day getaway. As mentioned by another user, trailhead is a little tricky to find, but it's located to the right of the bathrooms that are directly across from the entrance to the campground (yet your have to loop around to access it).

1 year ago

hiking
1 year ago

Very scenic, nice changeup from the chapparal look of hikes closer to San Diego. Trail is extremely easy to follow, well-maintained, and mostly shaded by trees. Gnats were swarming, though, which was a bit annoying. Seems to be a rather popular trail, as we saw quite a few people.

1 year ago

1 year ago

Pros:
Fair amount of shade throughout the whole trail
A couple stunning sights of the mountains along the way
Lots of bluejays
Ends with the observatory

Cons:
Don't wear black when hiking this trail. It will make the hoards of flies absolutely unbearable (even with Bug Off spray.)
I would not categorize this as Easy. Lots of steady hills from campgrounds to observatory. Much easier the way back.

1 year ago

The weather in San Diego and surrounding communities was all foggy. Got to the trailhead and it was a gorgeous sunny day. Perfect hike for some altitude training. Definitely start at campsite trailhead for the ease of hiking down on the way back.

hiking
1 year ago

My husband and I took our 6, 10, and 12 yr old on this hike. We actually started at the Observatory and went down to the campsite. I would definitely recommend starting at the campsite so you're going downhill (and not up) on your way back. I ended up with a 6 yr old on my shoulders for 1/2 a mile. We had a great time overall and the hike took us 1 hr and 40 min to complete. The kids loved it. We'd go back for sure!

hiking
1 year ago

Took this hike with my lady and 3mo old baby. Made it no problem. Plenty of shade. The 200 foot telescope was a nice reward to visit once you've reached the top!

2 years ago

There was a lot of shade on this trail (for the San Diego area that is) but when I went in August it was ridiculously buggy :( There was a good viewpoint near the beginning of the trail, and the observatory at the end obviously, but other than that I'd describe it as "meh".. but I think that's because of my buggy bias. I wasn't able to enjoy myself thanks to those suckers. The views from the drive up Polamar and surrounding areas were much more of a highlight to me than the trail was.

hiking
2 years ago

My husband and I went for a hike with our 2 dogs. We got there around 2 pm so not many people on the trail. I found it a good workout but probably would not take my little dog again. Since its June the weather was very warm. Lots of trees but there were areas where the sun felt hot and no shade avail. I would go back.

hiking
2 years ago

Short easy hike through nice forest. Decent views.