Observatory Trail

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Trail Distance: 2.2 miles
Time Estimate: 1 hr 30 min+
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Leash Rule: On Leash
Difficulty: Hard
Parking: $0 - $5
Route Type: Out-and-back
Restroom: Limited
Description

For a pleasant and unique hike in San Diego County, look no further than the Observatory Trail! Located within the Cleveland National Forest, this well-maintained, 2-mile path offers puptacular nature views and leads to a world-famous observatory atop Palomar Mountain.

The route begins at an easy-to-find trailhead in the Observatory Campground. Note that if you and Fido are staying at the campground, you don't need to pay any fees; otherwise, you'll have to purchase an Adventure Pass for $5 to park at the trailhead. As you and your pup make your way up the path, you'll find yourselves strolling under the shade of large pine, cedar, and fir trees that give the trail a Sierra Nevada-like feel. During springtime, monkeyflowers, lupines, and other wildflowers add splashes of color to the surroundings.  

A little over half a mile in, you and your pooch will arrive at a wooden observation platform that provides sweeping views of the Mendenhall Valley, which comprises expansive meadows and glimmering ponds. At the 2-mile mark, a short spur leads out to an outcropping of rocks where you and your pup can look out onto the Upper French Valley. The main attraction of the area, however, is located at the top of the trail. Established in 1928, the Palomar Observatory is home to several telescopes, including the 200-inch Hale Telescope. Fido is welcome to join you on the self-guided tour around the observatory grounds and to the gallery where you can view the telescope.

Whether you're on the trail or at the observatory, always keep your pup on a leash and clean up after them. And although the trail is shaded and enjoyable, it's still a bit of a workout, so be sure to bring water! For an unfurgettable hiking experience in southwestern California, hit the Observatory Trail, one of only four National Recreation Trails in San Diego County!

Trail Features
Forest, Mountains
Wildflowers, Scenic
Cautions & Considerations

Make sure Fido doesn't come into contact with poisonous plants such as the poodle-dog bush and poison oak, both of which can be found along the trail. Also beware of mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and cougars.

Address
Cleveland National Forest South Grade Rd
Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Hours
Mon Sunrise - Sunset
Tue Sunrise - Sunset
Wed Sunrise - Sunset
Thu Sunrise - Sunset
Fri Sunrise - Sunset
Sat Sunrise - Sunset
Sun Sunrise - Sunset
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Address
Cleveland National Forest South Grade Rd
Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Hours
Mon Sunrise - Sunset
Tue Sunrise - Sunset
Wed Sunrise - Sunset
Thu Sunrise - Sunset
Fri Sunrise - Sunset
Sat Sunrise - Sunset
Sun Sunrise - Sunset