Photo Credit: California Department of Parks and Recreation
Palomar Mountain State Park is located in northern San Diego County, high atop the west side of Palomar Mountain. Large pine, fir and cedar trees make the park one of the few areas in southern California with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere. The park features camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing (trout) in Doane Pond.
When To Go
Temperatures are generally mild all year round, but nighttime lows will drop into the mid- to low-30s in Winter. Most rainfall occurs December through March. Looking at monthly weather averages for Palomar Mountain, if you can tolerate lows into the high-40s, then May to October will be fine. If you’re happy risking lows in the high-30s, you can add April and November.
We went Friday March 31st 2017 – this was our first camping trip – and while we had come prepared for the cold, the first night was a lot colder than I expected. It definitely tested our limits. The daytime highs were fantastic, though, reaching into the 70s, but that isn’t typical of early April.
Where To Stay
There are two California State Parks campgrounds, the Cedar Grove Campground and the Doane Valley Campground. We stayed at the Doane Valley Campground. Doane Creek runs through the campground and there are a couple of spots next to the water. There are lots of trees offering shade here. You can book with the Reserve California website.
We stayed at site #30. We had a fire ring (no grate), a barbequeue grill, picnic table and a wooden box to keep our food in. This site was convenient to a bathroom but not too close. The bathrooms have proper flush toilets and two sinks.
Check-in is at 2:00 PM and Check-out at 12:00 PM at this campground.
What To Bring
You’ll want to bring the basic camping equipment, but consider these:
- Consider bringing a heater, especially if you are not staying in the summer months. For me, if average lows are in the 40s or lower, I’m going to bring a heater.
- Pack as much ice as you can into your cooler. There is a little general store a short drive away, but you’ll find it more cost effective to bring your own.
- Plenty of firewood, especially for colder months. The ranger station does sell firewood at not totally unreasonable prices, but supplies may not be guaranteed.
What To Do
Hiking! There are 3 trails directly accessible from the campground – the Doane Valley Nature Trail, leading to the Weir Trail and the French Valley Trail. Check out the review on Modern Hiker.
The campground is a world of difference from anywhere else in San Diego, lots of trees, water and clear skies at night. It will definitely get cold in the winter and fairly hot in the summer. The accessible trails make it super-easy to spend a day wandering about.
There are some amazing views from turn-offs on the road leading into the park.