Palomar Observatory Trail is a 4.6 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.

4.6 miles
767 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.

2 months ago

Great trail! Beautiful scenery.

2 months ago

Hike this trail as a child many time brings back fond memories. Much more populated now!

4 months ago

Great intro hike for younger Boy Scouts. They had a blast going up and back. If you have a group you can email the observatory for a guided tour.

6 months ago

PARKING: you'll have to park within the camp ground so be sure to read the signs and not park in lots that have been reserved. ALSO - a few websites note that you need an ADVENTURE PASS to park but i parked without a pass (without researching ^_^') and luckily didn't get ticketed. However, parking at the Observatory is free - just not at the campground. :D

ANYWAY, from the campground - try to find parking midway into the campground so you're near the amphitheater...cause that's where the trail head is. You'll come across A LOT of chipmunks and squirrels (maybe even some on the road :( you know what i mean) but i think the most annoying critters are the gnats and flies - especially if you go near the afternoon.

I think i digressed. Where am I?

The hike is pretty straight forward with no branching trails (from what i remember) and with gradual inclines. I recommend hiking early in the morning (possibly around 7 or 8) to avoid the gnat swarming around in the heat. I think i saw a few deer but i could be wrong. I get my animals mixed up sometimes.

The hike seems scenic but 15 minutes into it - i started hearing a low guttural roar, which quickly intensifies and then disappear. Yeah, the trail is actually adjacent to a road that actually leads to the Observatory. Kind of kills the whole alone in the woods mood but meh.

ANNNNNYWAY, about an hour into the hike - you'll finally reach the observatory. Past the parking lot (i wish i had driven myself up there and pretend i actually did the hike - no one would know...) you'll see the museum and gift shop to the right. pretty cool stuff in there.

A little further up is the actual Observatory, which you can actually go in and read all about Hale and the telescope. Pretty cool stuff. BTW - PLUTO IS A PLANET!!!

After you've had your fill of interstellar education (btw, there's a tour you can join for cheap), hike your way back the same way you came.

Overall, pretty enjoyable hike with little human traffic. I heard there's a pretty cool night hike led by one of the rangers or employees or something. Something to think about.

Friday, October 06, 2017

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!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

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!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

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!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

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.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

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.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Short easy hike through nice forest. Decent views.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nice hike with beautiful views and plenty of shade. Only wildlife we saw was a couple of bluejays.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Our hike from the campground to the observatory and back was 5.1 miles, and took just over two hours. The hike was pleasant, mostly in the shade. There were some people, but not very many. We did come across a very angry rattlesnake, but avoided getting bitten. I'd rate the hike higher, but the drive to the campground was a pain, with numerous motorcycles on South Grade road flying up and down the road.

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