Palomar Guide

The Site

A beautiful 26 acre site near the top of Palomar mountain. The land is steep, undisturbed, and covered in fir, oak, pine and cedar trees and wildflowers. Almost exactly a mile in elevation, with deer, foxes, bobcats, coyotes and squirrels. On a clear night you can see the lights on the Coronado Bridge, almost fifty miles to the south.

Getting There

Palomar Mountain is 1.5 hours from downtown San Diego. From San Diego take Interstate 15 north to Highway 76 East. After about 20 miles the road makes a “Y” and you should go left, following signs to Palomar Mountain. The road may be called Palomar Mountain Road, South Grade Road or County Highway S6, depending on the map. The dirt access road is on the left, immediately before mile marker 47.4 and shortly after the 5000 foot elevation marker. If you reach the intersection with S7 / East Grade Road then you have gone approximately one half mile too far. The entrance to the access road from South Grade Road is shown in Figure 2. This picture is facing down the mountain (south southwest) so you will be approaching facing the opposite direction. The access road has a green gate.

Above is a picture of South Grade Road and the access road, taken facing south southwest (down the mountain).

Below is an annotated map of part of Palomar Mountain. The intersection of South Grade Road / County Highway S6 and East Grade Road / County Highway S7 is shown in the right hand side of the figure. The red line is the dirt access road, and the gate off of South Grade Road is shown as a purple line. The green tent is the camping area and the blue lines are the approximate boundaries of the property. View the map here:

The first third of the access road is well graded and is passable by all vehicles unless there is snow. The second half is much more steep and the condition varies. Two wheel drive can make it, but ground clearance (SUV or truck) is required. The yellow square in Figure 3 marks the best parking area for cars that can’t make the last part of the trip in. This is Brett Hulbert’s property, and he has given us permission to park there. Currently (4/2017) there is quite a bit of construction equipment in this area. From the parking area to the camping area is about a pleasant though at times steep 10-15 minute hike.

The access road forks a few times - generally stay to the right, but sometimes straight. The best plan is to call from the gate your first time up and get guided in. Also, if you call from the gate and have a car then I can meet you with a truck and help shuttle your camping stuff in.

Important Gate Lock Notes: All locks on the gate must be locked in series, such that opening any of the locks allows access. The lock we use is a bit janky, so to close it properly the key must be in, then the lock closed, then the key removed. Check it.


There is a small cabin, an outhouse, a picnic table, and a fire pit, but no power and no water. There are basic supplies like plates, a bed, desk, couches, etc. It is best to bring everything you need! Some suggestions for things to bring include water, food, warm clothes, sunscreen, bug spray. Things not to bring include dogs, shitty people, and firewood (there is loads up there). Please ask before bringing firearms or children.

Some cell phones do work at the camping site (Verizon and AT&T seem ok, Virgin is iffy and Sprint is a no), but reception can be spotty elsewhere on the mountain. The one trouble spot to be aware of is at the gate - sometimes you will need to hike up the dirt access road a bit to get a strong signal.

Never leave food, food scraps or water in or around the cabin, as it attracts rodents. Please lock all doors and windows when leaving. If anything is needs repair, please let me (Colin) know.


The property is at one mile elevation, and weather on the mountain is often very different than it in San Diego. It snows. Especially in the spring and fall the weather can be highly variable. This site seems to have the most accurate predictions:

Other Notes

  • The nearest neighbor is Brent Hulbert, and he is up there most of the time. Those without a high ground clearance vehicle park on his land. Please be respectful. He is retired from the San Diego police department and lives on the mountain full time.
  • Palomar mountain loves to burn. In 1988 wildfires claimed the original cabin. The trailer that replaced it burnt in the 2007 fires. There is a fire pit, but please be extremely careful with fires!
  • Depending on the season, there can be poison oak. Quite a bit on the rocks to the east of the cabin (2012). Don't touch it.
  • Downshift going down the mountain to avoid overheating your brakes.

Nearby Attractions

The Palomar observatory is five miles from my parents' land, and is home to the 200 inch Hale telescope, the world's largest from 1949 to 1992. It is still operational and tour information is here:

Mother’s Kitchen is at the intersection of South Grade Road / County Highway S6 and East Grade Road / County Highway S7 (under a mile from the property), and is a pretty impressive vegetarian restaurant. There is also a general store there.

What Can You See From Up There?

Figure 4: Annotated view from a nearby webcam.

Figure 5: Can you see your house from the cabin? The red shaded areas are the viewshed from the exact location of the cabin.