At the end of October, as the leaves began to change with the coming of autumn and the temperatures cooled to sweater weather, I was off and traveling again for work, this time helping to lead our group of sixth graders up to science camp in the forests of San Diego County. The trek was a fun learning adventure over four days, and took us to Palomar Mountain State Park, managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The state park is located in northern San Diego County and encompasses forest and mountain meadows over 1862 acres on the west side of Palomar Mountain.
The photos featured in this post were taken over two days of hiking in the areas of Doane Creek and the nature trail as well as Doane Pond. While on our hikes, we spotted the signs pointing out landmarks along the nature trail. Students were able to learn about ecosystems and wildlife as well as watershed and aquatic environments on their treks. For adventurers who are recreating without the time constraints of an outdoor education program, Palomar Mountain State Park has eleven miles of hiking trails in scenery that reminded me a bit of the meadows we hiked through in the Sierras. There are two campgrounds- the Doane Valley Campground and the Cedar Grove Group Camp- as well as group picnic areas. The pond is open to fishing and is stocked with trout. We saw a number of trees on the trail to the pond, especially live oak and a variety of firs.
As our program took place over the workweek, the park was relatively quiet except for the groups of students. There were folks using one of the picnic areas, as well as a lone artist at the pond. Hopefully her quietude wasn’t too badly interrupted by a boisterous group of middle schoolers. I can see this being a popular place during the summer or over weekends when the weather is fair.
The late-October weather was just perfect for our early afternoon hike. The blue skies contrasted with the evergreens and autumnal leaves, and while the sun shone brightly, the day was not too hot. At an average of 5000 feet above sea level, the temperatures stayed pretty mild, if not a little chilly much of the time. This made the adventure especially pleasant, even on the uphill hike back to camp. I look forward to one day returning and exploring more, whether with family on our own weekend adventure or for science camp next year, Lord-willing.
Some things to consider:
At time of writing, there are still some Covid restrictions in place, even as the state continues to slowly relax restrictions. Groups over 50 are limited, and there are no tours being given at this time. Be sure to check the state parks website for updated information before heading out.
The areas in the photos are day use areas. The fee for day use is $10 per vehicle.
Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, however, they are not allowed on the trails, except in the area around Doane Pond. Though Chris the Puppy did make a few appearances on this outing, and may have snuck out of my pack while still in the forest.
Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. Throw away trash in designated areas, and do not feed the wildlife.
There are restrooms with flush toilets in the parking lot near Doane Pond. They were open when we were visiting, but according to the website, they can be temporarily closed to accommodate cleaning schedules. Be sure to bring hand sanitizer.