Palomar Observatory Trail

MODERATE 59 reviews
#21 of 107 trails in

Palomar Observatory Trail is a 4.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Aguanga, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

4.8 miles
754 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips

trail running




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.

4 months ago

Beautiful trail, a decent amount of uphill hiking on the way up, but well worth it with the mountain views. The bugs in late September were pretty terrible with the heat, but not a big deal if you are used to the wilderness. Not hard to navigate and well maintained trail overall!

5 months ago

A fun little hike with a little science to break it up. Wasn't a fan of the flies and gnats.

8 months ago

Beautiful views on the way up to the Observatory. Good hike. Gnats weren't to terribly bad this time.

10 months ago

nice simple and a beautiful hike

Monday, January 09, 2017

Lots of poison oak. No scenery.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A pleasant hike with some great views. The observatory at the top was good to see too.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Tons of poison oak but a cool hike.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

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.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

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.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

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.

Monday, November 02, 2015

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).

Saturday, July 04, 2015

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

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

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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

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!

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