Palomar Mountain

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Palomar Mountain
Palomar Observatory 2.jpg
View of the Palomar Observatory located near the High Point summit of the Palomar Mountain range.
Elevation 6,142 ft (1,872 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 2,856 ft (871 m)[2]
Location San Diego County, California
Range Peninsular Ranges
Coordinates 33°21′49″N 116°50′11″W / 33.363483514°N 116.836394236°W / 33.363483514; -116.836394236Coordinates: 33°21′49″N 116°50′11″W / 33.363483514°N 116.836394236°W / 33.363483514; -116.836394236[1]
Topo map USGS Palomar Observatory
Easiest route Road

Palomar Mountain is a mountain ridge in the Peninsular Ranges in northern San Diego County. It is famous as the location of the Palomar Observatory and Hale Telescope, and known for the Palomar Mountain State Park.


The Luiseno Indian name for Palomar Mountain was "Paauw" and High Point was called "Wikyo."[3]

The Spanish name "Palomar", in English meaning "pigeon roost," comes from the Spanish colonial era in Alta California when Palomar Mountain was known as the home of band-tailed pigeons.[4]

During the 1890s, the human population was sufficient to support three public schools, and it was a popular summer resort for Southern California, with three hotels in operation part of the time, and a tent city in Doane Valley each summer.

Palomar Observatory[edit]

Palomar Mountain is most famous as being home since 1936 to the Palomar Observatory, and the giant Hale Telescope. The 200-inch telescope was the world's largest and most important telescope from 1949 until 1992. The observatory currently consists of three large telescopes.

Palomar Mountain State Park[edit]

Palomar Mountain is the location of Palomar Mountain State Park, a California State Park. There are campgrounds for vacationers, and had a campground for local school children until the San Diego Unified School District was forced to close it due to state budget cuts. The park averages 70,000 visitors annually. The campgrounds in the park were temporarily closed on October 2, 2011, due to state budget cuts, and the park was among 70 California State Parks threatened by budget cuts in fiscal years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, but the park and the campgrounds remain open.[5][6]

Palomar Mountain, especially in the state park area, is densely wooded with abundant oak and conifer tree species (pine, cedar, fir). Ferns are abundant everywhere in the shady forest. The forest is supported by annual precipitation totals in excess of 30 inches.

High Point in the Palomar Mountain range is one of the highest peaks in San Diego County, at 6,140 feet (1,871 m), surpassed by Cuyamaca Peak (at 6,512 feet (1,985 m)) and Hot Springs Mountain (the county's highest point, at 6,533 feet (1,991 m)). They are dwarfed by the higher 11,500 feet (3,505 m) San Bernardino Mountains a relatively short distance north in San Bernardino County and Riverside County and the 14,500 feet (4,420 m) high Mount Whitney some 250 mi (402 km) further north. High Point is located roughly two miles east of the observatory. However, it is not accessible for the public from that direction (the observatory itself and adjacent land are private property, and the road to High Point from the observatory is blocked by a permanently closed gate). It may be reached via Palomar Divide Truck Trail, a dirt road that starts off highway 79 near Warner Springs, California. The trip is 13 miles one way with 3000 ft of elevation gain via Palomar Divide Truck Trail.

At the base of Palomar Mountain on S6 is Oak Knoll Campground, formerly known as Palomar Gardens. Palomar Gardens was made somewhat famous by an earlier resident, George Adamski. Adamski had an observatory at Palomar Gardens and photographed objects in the night sky that he claimed were UFOs. Adamski co-authored Flying Saucers Have Landed in 1953,[7] about his alien encounter experiences. The 1977 film The Crater Lake Monster had many scenes filmed on Palomar Mountain, including scenes shot at the summit restaurant, but not the scenes of the monster in a lake.[8]

Beginning in the 1920s a lookout tower has been present on Boucher Hill on Palomar Mountain. The tower had been active until it was abandoned in 1983 and then was reactivated when volunteers began manning it on and off starting in 1990. Alongside this tower is High Point lookout, also on Palomar Mountain, which has since 2009 been the first observer of a half-dozen lightning caused fires.[9]

Doane Valley, located within the State Park, is home to the Camp Palomar Outdoor School for 6th grade students in the San Diego Unified School District.[10]


South Grade Road, the stretch of San Diego County Route S6 going from State Route 76 to the summit, is popular among motorcycle riders and sports car drivers due to its challenging nature[11] (over 20 hairpin turns over the distance of less than 7 mi (11 km)). According to fire department records, there have been 26 reported motorcycle injury accidents on the mountain in 2005. In 2004, the figure was 23. In 2003 there were 26.[11]


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Palomar Mountain has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csa" on climate maps. Annual precipitation on the mountain averages about 30 inches (highly variable from year to year), mostly falling between October and March. Snow falls during cold winter storms. Summers are mostly dry, except for occasional thunderstorms in late July to early September. The humid climate supports woods of oak, pine, fir and cedar on large swaths of the mountain.


  1. ^ a b "Palomar". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  2. ^ "Palomar Mountain, California". Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  3. ^ Sparkman, Philip Stedman (1908). The Culture of the Luiseño Indians (PDF). Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  4. ^ Wood, Catherine M. (1937). Palomar from teepee to telescope (PDF). San Diego: Frye & Smith. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  5. ^ "Palomar Mountain State Park – chins up, powering on". 
  6. ^ "California State Park Closures Announced". Roughin.It. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Leslie, Desmond; George Adamski (1953). Flying saucers have landed. New York: British Book Centre. ISBN 0-85435-180-9. 
  8. ^ "The Crater Lake Monster". Crown International Pictures. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  9. ^ J. Harry Jones (2 September 2012). "Lookout Tower Back in Business". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "Camp Palomar Outdoor School – Directions". San Diego Unified School District. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  11. ^ a b J. Harry Jones (September 25, 2005). "Twists, turns, trouble". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 


External links[edit]