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!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Big Wave Hiking

    Pillar Point Bluff's amazing trail system is a coastal haven most popular for being the best spot to watch the famed Mavericks surf break in winter. But this place is beautiful year round for hiking.

    View
  2. Sweet and Salty

    Located on Highway 1 about 18 miles north of Jenner, Salt Point State is wild, scenic, and one of the most beautiful places to do some classic coastal camping.

    View
  3. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  4. Barnabe Bonanza

    Sure, there are higher mountains in Marin (Mount Tam) and easier ascents (Mount Burdell), but is there a more expansive North Bay view? Barnabe Peak in Samuel P. Taylor State Park offers a glorious panorama including Mount Tam, Mount Diablo, and Mount St. Helena.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Secret Stair Master!

    Step up to a wonderful 2-mile, nearly 1000-step workout in peaceful Pasadena that is part leg labor, part suburban stroll, and all serene secret.

    View
  2. Hidden Stairway in Silver Lake

    Life in Los Angeles can be vibrant in so many ways, including stairways! This hidden stairway hike in Silver Lake features colorfully artistic and historic steps via 1.5 miles, four unique staircases, and countless local food options for a bite to eat.

    View
  3. Apple of Your Eye

    That fall feeling is definitely in the air and on display at the Oak Glen Preserve. Apple orchards and colorful leaves are a bonus, as are the apple cider donuts and slushies you can enjoy post-hike.

    View
  4. Hidden Trio

    A trio of hidden canyons is often found in more remote places, but they're also on this urban walk in the serene hills of eastside’s Mount Washington. Head here for a beautiful 7-mile (round-trip) neighborhood tour of historic homes, ample greenspace, and, yes, three hidden canyons.

    View