Palomar's Star Power

Camp at Observatory Campground on Palomar Mountain

Palomar Mountain State Park in northern San Diego is like having a friend in a high place. There are perks to be had! The 6,138-foot namesake mountain offers cooler climates during the hot summer, and a way-up-there campground brings you even closer to the stars—and closer to one of the most famous observatories in the world! The Observatory Campground is just 2.2 miles from the Palomar Observatory … accessed via the (you guessed it) Observatory Trail.

The campground has a total of 42 sites (including 10 first-come, first-served sites) for those who prefer open meadows as well as those looking to sleep tucked into the oak-canopied forest. Budding astronomers will be happy to know there are several telescope-friendly sites, designated by paved cement squares positioned near the meadow. Pitch your tent, then hike to the observatory and check out the three massive telescopes, including the 200-foot Hale Telescope. Afterwards, hike back down to camp and count your lucky stars—now that you've also seen them up close.

BONUS: Palomar Observatory hosts some summer Star Parties.

Here's a map to the Observatory Campground. Reservations highly recommended during summer. There are some first-come, first served sites. Dog-friendly!

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