Distance - 13.5
- 3600 ft.
Max Elevation Reached
- 6118 ft.
Trailhead - Link. See below for details.
Download Google Earth KML - Link
Download GPX - Link
This hike takes you to the highest peak in the Palomar
Mountain range. It starts at the Oak Grove Fire Station's parking lot
and ends at a fire lookout tower on the summit. The tower can also be reached
using a 4WD vehicle with the right amount of clearance.
While getting to the
parking lot is not difficult, it can be a bit tricky finding the exact
trailhead once there. Park your car in a spot and display your National
Forest Adventure Pass (the multi agency America is Beautiful Pass works
as well). If you were standing on route 79 and were facing the fire
station, the actual trailhead would be to your right and way behind the
fire station towards the boundary of the property. Use the GPS tracks
linked above to find the exact "trail start".
From the trail start you head out on the Oak Grove Trail that initially starts off fairly
flat and quickly reaches the north facing slopes of the Palomar
mountain. Here on the trail climbs fairly steeply up several
switchbacks on to the top of a ridge line. At about 2 miles from the
start it meets Oak Grove Road that must be taken (turn
right) further uphill. Proceed on this dirt road till the next
intersection (marked "Gate" on the track above) with High Point Road.
Stay left and continue uphill. The fire lookout tower on the summit
becomes visible soon. The road intersects yet again, this time with
Palomar Divide Rd. Turn right an continue west until a fork in the road
where you turn left again to reach the tower.
At the summit, you can climb two flights of stairs on the
tower itself. A metal gate prevents you from climbing any further. The
summit offers some interesting 360 degree views. You can spot the giant
peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the north, the Santa Rosa
mountains to the east and the Agua Tibia mountain towards the
west. The telescope domes of the Palomar Observatory are clearly visible as well. Don't
forget to look for the survey marker some distance north of the tower.
Started from Trailhead - 8:45 am
Reached the Summit - 12:15 pm
Started back - 1:15 pm
Reached Trailhead - 4:00 pm
Photos - Link
Panorama - Link
Sachin D and I started this hike a bit later than usual. The
day was quite gloomy and chill, so we weren't trying to beat the sun or
escape the heat really. Once at the Oak Grove Fire Station parking lot,
it took us a bit to find the actual trail start. As soon as we got on
the trail, we spotted a deer. This was the first time I
had spotted a large mammal on one of my San Diego Co. hikes.
It was pretty cold and windy throughout. By the time we got
to the summit, I had worn my extra fleece layer. There was a work crew at the top working on the glass window
panes on the fire tower. This allowed us a rare opportunity to actually
climb all the way to the top of the tower for a much better view all
around. The crew informed us that an organization of volunteers plan on
manning the tower fairly frequently. I am not entirely sure what they
would be looking out for. Fires I suppose! The crew also mentioned that
hikers would be allowed up on the tower as well. If only they were
planning on providing cookies and lemonade as well :)
We had our lunch by the tower. We spotted several spent
shotgun cartridges strewn around. After a few pictures we
headed back the same way we came up.