Palomar Mountain State Park

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About Palomar Mountain State Park

You ever find yourself in the San Diego area just craving that Sierra-like atmosphere? Looking for some high elevation hiking with a world-renowned observatory thrown in there? If you answered yes to either of these, or just appreciate nature, then Palomar Mountain State Park is your best bet. With dense and beautiful oak and coniferous forests blanketing the park, Palomar Mountain is an incredible opportunity for hiking, fishing, and sweet, sweet hangin’. Enjoy the majestic trees and meadows or head up and learn some awesome things at the observatory, but no matter what, we guarantee you’re gonna have a fantastic time during your stay at this local favorite.

Campgrounds in Palomar Mountain

Doane Valley Campground
Lia
Lia: Nice clean campground- some sites are really small for a large tent and the parking of a large truck...
Observatory Campground
Jesse
Jesse: Fun place to camp up in the mountains, especially if you like astronomy. There are concrete pads at...

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Hipcamper Lia

Nice clean campground- some sites are really small for a large tent and the parking of a large truck could be tricky. Also, some sites you need to carry your things up a few steps. It was quite and perfect

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Hipcamper Jesse

Fun place to camp up in the mountains, especially if you like astronomy. There are concrete pads at some of the sites for you to set up your telescope! Nice hike from the campsite up to the observatory. And be sure to look for the giant pinecones!

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Hipcamper John

Get directions beforehand, you may lose service as you get close.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

At high elevation, it can get kind of chilly up there -- bring layers!

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

Make sure to check out the observatory, it’s open to the public and a super interesting place if you want to take the hike up.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

They only take cash and checks at the park, so be sure to stock up on some bills beforehand

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

Sites on the 1-8 loop of Doane Valley Campground are on pretty flat ground, we recommend these if you don’t want to worry about the incline of some of the sites.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

People reserve up to a year in advance for peak season weekends, so be sure to book em early if you plan on going during a busy time.

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Hipcamper Wendy

Camped here over a Thanksgiving weekend. Still amazed at how hot it gets during the day even when freezing your butt off overnight. Great spot for watching the stars - bring your telescope if you have it! Don't miss the Palomar Observatory while you were there.

Hipcamper Kevin

Bring bee and fly traps when we were there they were out of control!?

Hipcamper Natalia

Great mountain getaway! The observatory is nearby for a daytime visit. Lots of shade, so prepare for cooler temps even in summer time. Beautiful skies in the mountain, but you need to hike a little to see it because of the trees.

Hipcamper Garrett

Excellent facilities. Restrooms, showers, and very clean and well maintained.

Hipcamper Adam

They don't (as of 4/28/17) sell firewood at the campground. Bring your own

Hipcamper Michael

Super rad campground, surrounded by trees and some awesome incline campsites. Felt like we had the wilderness as our backyard at our campsite. Great nature trail stemming from the campground as well. Will definitely be back!

Hipcamper Aimee

This place is beautiful and has water, showers, and bathrooms. Some of the spots are away from the parking lot and a little feel more private. My biggest complaint here is the bugs! I understand that bugs come with camping but this is out of control. Our camping neighbors were surprised by them as well. I was coverd in mosquito and flea bites after one night and I used bug spray with deet. There were also a very persistent swarm of flies that would not go away until after the sun was down and would be right back in the morning. At least they didn't bite.
If there was some type of bug control this campground would be an A+

History of Palomar Mountain State Park

Deep, well-worn bedrock mortars and metates in Doane Valley are reminders of those many centuries when Luiseño Indians maintained seasonal villages, hunted game and gathered acorns and other seed crops here on the slopes of Palomar Mountain. The village sites and ten smaller, temporary camps or gathering stations have been identified within the present-day park. At least two separate groups of Luiseños are known to have established exclusive territories on the mountain. The area around Boucher Lookout was called T’ai. Iron Springs near Bailey Lodge was called Paisvi. Other areas were known as Chakuli, Malava and Ashachakwo. These areas were used during the summer and early autumn for hunting and gathering acorns, pine seeds, elderberries and grass seeds. The main Luiseño village at the foot of the mountain was called Pauma.

Sturdy conical houses known as wikiups or kecha kechumat were made of pine poles covered with bark. Semi-subterranean “sweat houses” were centrally located in the village and used for purification and curing rituals. Handcrafted products included clay jars, woven baskets, throwing sticks, nets for fishing or carrying, bows and arrows and a variety of utensils for cooking and eating. The Luiseños called this mountainous area Wavamai, but when the Spaniards arrived in the 19th century, they named it Palomar, or “place of the pigeons,” a reference to the thousands of bandtailed pigeons that nested in the area.

In 1798 Mission San Luis Rey was established four miles upstream from the mouth of the San Luis Rey River. Pines and firs from Palomar Mountain were used in its construction. An outpost, or assistencia, was established at Pala in 1816. Father Antonio Peyri, the Franciscan missionary at Mission San Luis Rey from 1798 to 1832, spent several weeks each year working with the Indians who lived in or near what is now Palomar Mountain State Park. He was persuasive and soon came to be greatly loved, but the mission way of life both here and elsewhere in California had some terrible effects on the Luiseños. The sudden and complete disruption of age-old living patterns, as well as the introduction of European diseases, quickly resulted in a severe decline in the population. The mission was closed down in 1834 when Governor Figueroa issued direct orders to “secularize” all of the California missions. Today many descendants of the mission period Luiseños live on nearby reservations and continue to follow the Catholic religion though they also maintain some of their earlier cultural and religious beliefs and practices.

In 1846 the slopes of Palomar Mountain were included, at least theoretically, in the famous Warner Ranch. In 1851, however, the Indians drove Warner off the land. For a time thereafter, cattle and horse thieves used the remote mountain meadows of Palomar to shelter their stolen animals until it was safe to take them across the border into Mexico.

Nathan Harrison, a black slave who came to California during the gold rush, took up residence as a free man near the eastern edge of the present park in the 1860s. He grew hay and raised hogs in Doane Valley despite frequent trouble with bears and mountain lions. At the time of his death in 1920, he was said to be 101 years old. The old road from Pauma Valley is named in his honor.

George Edwin Doane came into the area in the early 1880s and built a shake-roof log cabin in the little clearing between Upper and Lower Doane Valley in what is now the Doane Valley Campground. Doane grew hay and raised cattle and hogs on his 640 acres of meadowland, and some of the apple trees he planted survive to this day. During the southern California land boom of the 1880s and afterward, many other people also settled on Palomar Mountain. Four apple orchards within the park date from this period, as do the remains of Scott’s cabin on Thunder Ridge.

Palomar Mountain State Park was created during the early 1930s, when 1,683 acres of what has been called “the most attractive part of the mountain” was acquired for state park purposes. Matching funds for this acquisition were provided by San Diego County and a group of public-spirited citizens known as the Palomar Park Association. Many of the roads, trails and picnic facilities that are in use to this day were built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.