Palomar Mountain State Park, CA – A Visitor’s Guide

Beautiful and grassy field with stunning sunset at Palomar mountains state park, Palomar Mountain State Park, CA - A Visitor's GuideContinuing with our series of state park guides, we’re going to take a look at a unique California park today. If you’re staying home due to COVID-19 concerns, you may still want to read this and bookmark. We will eventually be traveling again, at some point, right? Until then, we can plan – and probably should! Let’s go visit Palomar State Park – even if it’s o only a virtual visit at this point.

Where is Palomar Mountain State Park?

Palomar Mountain State Park sits happily in southern California, just a little way north of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Nearby towns include Temecula, Vista, and Palm Desert, with Palm Springs only a hop, skip, and a jump away.

The park is far enough away from the Pacific Ocean that it’s relatively beach-free. It is rich, however, with some of the flora that’s made California famous. The mountain meadows rest between forests made up of cedar and pine trees, with fir trees flourishing amidst the company. You’ll find trout making happy homes in Doane Pond, and other California wildlife meandering through the park’s 1,862 acres.

How Do You Get To Palomar Mountain State Park?

The easiest way to reach Palomar Mountain State Park is to drive yourself, either in your own car or in a rental. That said, there are other ways to reach the park.

If you don’t want to spend money on a rental car, you can take the Pacific Surfliner out of San Diego. While this train won’t get you all of the way to the park, you can make up the distance with the help of a taxi. Just get off the train at Melrose Dr. Station – but be prepared to front the cost of both your ticket and the taxi ride. The cost of this ride varies and can run you between $184 and $259, but it will get you to the park in two hours and forty-five minutes.

Alternatively, you can take the 388 bus out of San Diego to reach the park. This trip typically takes over three hours, but it’ll save you a little bit of money if you don’t want to rent a car or ride the train. A ticket typically costs between $68 and $88.

How Far Is Palomar Mountain State Park From San Diego?

Driving yourself from San Diego to Palomar takes about an hour and a half. You’ll only have to travel 62 miles, making this a perfect day trip if you’re using San Diego as your base of operations for your California vacation.

What Is There To Do In Palomar Mountain State Park?

Wide green pasture and tall mountains in Palomar mountains, California

Palomar Mountain State Park is full of fun and exciting things to do. Whether you want to go exploring in the woods or take to area lakes, you’ll find a fun way to spend the day.

Some of Palomar Mountain State Park’s best features include:

  • The Environmental Learning and Visitor’s Center
  • Fishing
  • Historical and Culture Sites
  • Nearby Interpretive Exhibits
  • Vista Point
  • Geocaching
  • Camping

If you are interested in spending a night at Palomar Mountain State Park, it’s recommended that you reserve a campsite before your visit. Right now, it should be noted that you’re not allowed to bring oak firewood into Palomar Mountain State Park, as the oak wood may introduce Goldspotted Oak Borer to an already-threatened population of trees. If you’re looking for firewood to purchase, you can buy a bundle at the visitor’s center or bring alternative woods in with you.

Hiking In Palomar Mountain State Park

While there are plenty of alternative activities for you to enjoy in the park, nothing beats Palomar’s many hiking trails. Stretch your legs on some of the shorter loops or test your endurance on treks that last for more than 25 miles. Either way, you’ll be able to get a taste of the natural beauty that park has to offer.

Palomar’s most popular and accessible hiking trails include:

  • Boucher Trail and Palomar Mountain Loop – 8.7 miles
  • Thunder Spring Trail – 3.6 miles
  • Silvercrest Trail – 5.7 miles
  • Scott’s Cabin Loop – 2.9 miles
  • Oak Grove Trail to High Point – 13 miles
  • Palomar Divide Road – 25.1 miles
  • Nate Harrison Grade OHV Route – 17 miles
  • Love Valley Trail – 7.2 miles

When’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit The Park?

Green pasture in Lake Henshaw at Palomar mountains state park, California

When planning a trip out to California, you’re going to want to keep the state’s intense weather patterns in mind. Rain isn’t frequent in California, but heat always is.

When, then, is the best time to visit Palomar Mountain State Park? Ideally, you’ll want to make your trek out to the park sometime between April and September. While California state may see rain during the winter months, the months between April through September are relatively dry. It’s going to be exceptionally warm from June to August, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to conquer the heat and make the most of the forests and mountains that have made the park so famous.

If you do make it out to the park between May and September, it’s often best to have the following on hand:

  • A water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking shoes
  • A hiking aid
  • Appropriate trail snacks
  • Cash
  • Environmentally-friendly bug spray

If you head out to the park sometime in the winter months, the equipment you’ll want to have on hand will be a bit different. Some of the best tools to take with you when visiting the park in winter include:

  • A water bottle
  • A light jacket that’s easy to carry
  • Hiking aids
  • Waterproof boots
  • Boot grips

Note that if there is snow on the ground during your winter visit, you may need to invest in a heavier coat and winter-appropriate hiking equipment.

What Time Does Palomar Mountain State Park Open?

Like most of the state parks in California, Palomar Mountain State Park is open from dusk until dawn, with hours naturally changing depending on the time of year you visit. Only campers are allowed to stay in the park after it gets dark.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Palomar Mountain State Park?

Blue lake and visible Palomar mountains

Palomar Mountain State Park charges visitors entry by vehicle. To spend a day in the park, you’ll need to pay $10. Camping fees will vary based on the campsite you choose to stay at and the duration of your stay.

Additional Questions

Do you have additional questions about Palomar Mountain State Park that we haven’t answered yet? Let’s see if we can fill you in.

Do You Need Chains For Palomar Mountain?

If you happen to visit Palomar Mountain during the winter, then the park recommends that you use chains on your tires to stay secure while on the road. If your car isn’t adequately prepared for the snow, park authorities will not allow you and your vehicle to approach the mountain.

Can You Bring Dogs To Palomar Mountain State Park?

Dogs are conditionally allowed into Palomar Mountain State Park. So long as you keep your dog on a leash, they’ll be able to explore the paved areas of the park and the campgrounds with you. Leashed dogs are also allowed to explore Myers Fire Road with you, so long as the leash, as mentioned above, is under six feet in length.

Unfortunately, you can’t take your dog on any of the other trails with you, regardless of whether or not they’re on a leash.

Where To Stay When Visiting Palomar Mountain State Park

If you and your family would rather spend your nights in a hotel than in a campground, never fear. There are plenty of hotels near and around Palomar Mountain State Park that are an easy commute. Kick your feet up at a high-end resort or enjoy a peaceful night before adventuring again – whatever your fancy is, you’ll find it nearby.

Caliente Tropics

Palm Springs is two hours away from Palomar Mountain State Park. If you want to enjoy the energy of a big city without committing to San Diego, this is the place to stay while visiting southern California.

If you’re planning a day trip out to Palomar Mountain State Park, then you’ll want to book a room at Caliente Tropics. This Tiki-styled hotel simply can’t be beaten for luxury in the area. Not only do you get to take advantage of updated and elegant rooms, but you’ll be able to enjoy the on-site spa, outdoor pool, and Congo Room & Reef Bar.

Each room at the Caliente Tropics comes with cable TV, free WiFi, and complimentary toiletries. You’ll also be able to access in-room miniature refrigerators, safes, and air conditioning at your leisure.

Want a little “aloha” in your California vacation? Make your reservation through Booking.com!

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

For those families who want to take advantage of all San Diego has to offer, there’s the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. Think the Hard Rock Cafe pays homage to America’s rock legends? You’ve barely scratched the surface.

The rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego come equipped with cable TV, free WiFi, luxurious bathrooms – and a guitar, upon request and free of charge. Visitors will be able to spend their nights exploring the nearby Gaslamp district or taking advantage of the services offered at the on-site spa. You can make a reservation at the Nobu, the hotel’s restaurant, for a night of Japanese cuisine, or take the kids down to Maryjane’s for traditional American. If you need to take the edge off while by the pool, you’ll easily be able to order the drink of your choice at Float, the rooftop, pool-side bar.

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego is the perfect place to kick up your feet after a long day of hiking through Palomar Mountain State Park. Make your reservation through Booking.com!

Escondido Lodge

Looking for a spot that’s free from San Diego’s hustle, but that’s still reasonably close to the action? Escondido Lodge sits just to the north of San Diego, putting you within a reasonable driving distance of Palomar Mountain State Park and San Diego’s biggest attractions.

Here, you’ll have access to free WiFi, cable television, and complimentary toiletries, no matter what room you’re staying in. After a long day in the park, you’ll be able to enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool or a soak in the hot tub. This low-maintenance stay will leave you refreshed and prepared for another day out in the wild.

Make your reservation through Booking.com!

We hope you enjoyed this tour of the area. Let’s keep the travel bug going even if it’s only in the form of planning!

Beautiful and grassy field with stunning sunset at Palomar mountains state park, Palomar Mountain State Park, CA - A Visitor's Guide

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