12 HIDDEN GEMS IN PALOMAR MOUNTAIN
**THIS IS AN ONGOING PAGE OF UNIQUE HIKES AND PLACES TO EXPLORE IN PALOMAR MOUNTAIN**
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Hidden Gems in Palomar Mountain
Over the years Palomar Mountain has become one of my favorite places to visit. It really feels as if you’re in Central CA with the large trees and super-fresh air. This is a great place to escape for the day. Large pine, fir and cedar trees make the park one of the few areas in southern California with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere.
With such lush and dense forests all over this mountain, you just know it’s brimming with hidden gems. We have visited many, many times and have come across some amazing trails and other spots we’d love to share with you. So without further ado, here is our list of hidden gems in 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 Native Americans are known to have established exclusive territories on the mountain. The main village whom inhabitated this region are the Pauma tribe. Learn more about their tribe and how to support them here.
The Natives refer to the area around Boucher Lookout as T’ai. Iron Springs near Bailey Lodge is called Paisvi. Other areas are 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. Learn more about the early history of Palomar Mountain here.
1. THE DRIVE
Wintertime is lovely. Lots of fog, cool weather and barely any people on the trails. The drive may be a little scary, but it’s also surreal and really feels as though you’re in a movie:
Maybe it will be snowing!
2. ABOVE THE CLOUDS
If you’re lucky, you may find yourself above the clouds when you get to the top!
3. PALOMAR OBSERVATORY
You can also visit the Observatory:
4. OBSERVATORY TRAIL
And even hike to it from the Observatory Trail if you’re wanting to get a little exercise:
5. NATE HARRISON GRADE
If you have a truck, 4-wheel drive or feel very lucky, come back down the Nate Harrison Grade:
6. DOANE POND
Make sure to stop by Doane Pond, which is only .10 miles from the parking lot!
The pond freezes over when it snows!
7. THE WEIR TRAIL
After you park in the Doane Valley parking lot, I suggest hiking to the weir!
8. DOANE VALLEY
Doane Valley is one of the most beautiful hiking grounds in all of San Diego!
9. FRENCH VALLEY TRAIL
Another great trail in Doane Valley is the French Valley Trail.
10. FRY CREEK CAMPGROUND & HIKING TRAIL
Just like every inch of Palomar Mountain, Fry Creek Campsite was beautiful, lush and green! There is a loop trail that takes you around the perimeter of the campsite which we checked out. It had truly stunning landscape and what appears to be seasonal waterfalls.
11. HARRISON SERENITY RANCH
12. Bailey’s on Palomar
There is a phenomenal 240 acres property on Palomar Mountain that has sat as one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets for over a century. Bailey’s on Palomar is rich with history. Opening its doors in the late 1800’s, it once sat as a top destination in San Diego for travelers from all over.
The property was recently sold out of the Bailey family and has seen some great expansions with the new ownership. You can now enjoy your options of camping, glamping, staying in a luxury yurt, rustic cabin or even the historic Bailey House!
There are also a ton of great activities for the entire family which include 3 lakes with kayak and pedal boats provided, an amazing playground which includes a zip line, fishing, 100+ acres of hiking trails and a goat petting zoo!