Friday, October 2, 2015

Palomar Mountain

Hiked: 10/2/2015
Distance: 0.9 miles round trip on dirt road
Summit Elevation: 6140'
Prominence: 2856'
Elevation Gain: 100'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.08
Round trip time: 20 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Easy

The Palomar high point has a fire lookout tower sometimes manned by volunteers like the Boucher Hill tower. As a hike, it is long slog from the east since private property separates it from the observatory. During certain months of the year, several roads are open allowing a drive up. Moo and I wanted to do an off-road trip in our 4x4 vehicles and while this would not test the capabilities of our vehicles, it gave us an excuse to kick up dust. Moo drove his Toyota FJ and I was in my 4Runner. Our plan was to drive up to Palomar, then head over to hike nearby Combs Peak.

There are at least two public dirt roads leading to Palomar, High Point Road and Palomar Divide Road (9S07). Halfway Road appears to be another route but I don't know if it is gated or goes through private property before it merges into Palomar Divide Road. We went up Palomar Divide Road from Highway 79. The only sign for it is a small brown 9S07 sign. The first mile is a dirt road, the next 5 miles are paved, and the final 7 miles are dirt. The road does not require 4x4, but there are half a dozen spots where a high clearance vehicle is helpful. Most cars can probably make it with careful driving. We planned to drive all the way up, but the final gate was closed, probably because no one was manning the tower. The hike from the final gate was less than a mile round trip. Views were surprisingly good in all directions, but since the summit is so wide, you have to walk around to see in all directions. No benchmark or register was found. The drive up took us about an hour.

Sunrise over Lake Henshaw, Cuyamaca on the horizon

Sunrise over Palomar Observatory

First view of the lookout tower at the high point

Moo on Palomar Divide Road

Approaching the tower

At the Palomar high point

Under the unoccupied and locked up tower

San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the distance

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