This trail has been adopted by: Matt P. (What's this?)

Observatory Trail

This shaded 4.4 mile hike offers much in the way of exercise, scenery and nature views and is a perfect summer trail.

photo: Palomar Observatory dome opening dusk. Photo by Coneslayer.

Length: 2.10 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Backcountry
Agency: USDA Forest Service
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running

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Location: Located on Palomar Mountain on County Road S6, approximately 2 miles north of the intersection of S6 and S7.
State(s): California
Counties: San Diego
Longitude: -116.877487
Latitude: 33.343155

Driving Directions

From Hwy 79, travel northwest on Hwy 76 to the junction with County Road S7, and turn right on S7. Travel north and northwest on S7 to the junction with S6. Turn right on S6. Observatory Campground is located on the right, two miles up the road.


This trail was traveled by a
NRT Ambassador on 07/13/2019.

This rare San Diego gem may be under the radar, even to those living and recreating in the nearby areas. With an abundance of large pine, fir and cedar trees, this trail feels more like a trek through the Sierra Nevada’s than almost any other in Southern California. Offering sweeping views of the Mendenhall Valley, large meadows, grazing cattle, gleaming ponds, and sprouting wildflowers, this robustly unique hike has something for almost any level of outdoor enthusiast.

Listed as one of only four National Recreational trails in San Diego County, this shaded 4.4 mile hike is touted as the perfect summer option, providing good aerobic activity on a well maintained trail, with access to a world-famous observatory, an easy to find trailhead, and spectacular views. Great for families, beginners, or those looking to take in the scenic outdoors.

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Not Available
Secondary Surface: None
Average Grade: 10%
Maximum Grade: 29%
Elevation Low Point: 4,394
Elevation High Point: 5,577
Elevation Gain (cumulative): 986 feet

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Website: Trail Information

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail management:
Cleveland National Forest
10845 Rancho Bernardo Rd.
Rancho Bernardo, CA 92127



Palomar Observatory dome opening dusk. Photo by Coneslayer.

Palomar Observatory dome opening dusk. Photo by Coneslayer.


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