April 16, 2018
Palomar Observatory | Palomar Mountain, CA
While many Angelenos know about the Griffith Observatory or Mount Wilson Observatory, there aren’t very many who know about the Palomar Observatory. Yes, we understand that it’s technically in San Diego County, but it’s only a 2 hour drive away from Los Angeles, so we think Angelenos should still check it out! The drive up the mountain is quite beautiful and relaxing (just watch out for motorcyclists). If elevation sickness is a concern you have, be aware that the observatory, picnic site, and campgrounds are pretty high up.
Palomar Observatory is owned and operated by Cal Tech and is home to the 200-inch Hale Telescope. They have exhibits and a gift shop from where you can purchase tickets to a guided tour for only $5 (adults). Outside of the observatory, near the ample parking lot, is the Gus Weber Picnic Area which is our April 2018 pqnqla spot. We also camped at the Palomar Observatory Campground, so we’ll also talk about that experience in this post.
Hours: Daily 6am – 5pm
Per Google Maps
The Palomar Observatory has no entrance fee, but there is a $5 guided tour you can take
Pets: Pets not allowed in the guided tour (not sure about whether they’re allowed in the exhibits)
ADA Service animals are permitted
Parking: Free lot parking
The parking lot was ample and is right next to the picnic area. It is about a .2 mile walk away from the main observatory and only 130 feet away from the Visitor’s center (where the gift shop is)
Picnicking: Gus Weber Picnic Area
Outdoor Activities: Hiking, camping
There is a 2.2-mile trail connecting the Palomar Observatory Campground to the Palomar Observatory. You can also drive between the campgrounds and the observatory
In the days leading up to our visit, Nick and I had been watching a lot of British cooking shows on Netflix, so that influenced our menu. Here’s what we brought along for our picnic:
- Homemade scones
Adapted from Gochujang Mama’s YouTube Video
*This was actually super easy and fun to make! Since we made several scones, we had enough to eat as hiking snacks
- Air-fried scotch eggs
Adapted from The Lovely Life Air Fryer Scotch Egg Recipe
*Everyone in America should own an air-fryer. It’s magic.
*Try not to overcook the eggs (from experience, it’s definitely easier said than done)
*If you get breakfast sausage that is already patty shaped, it’s a bit easier to wrap the egg
*Don’t add more salt to this recipe because sausage is already pretty salty
- Real crabmeat salad with a yuzu-lemon mustard dressing
Mixed crabmeat with mayonnaise, basic seasonings, spring onions
Dressing was made out of lemon juice, olive oil, yuzu kosho, and mustard
Salad greens were bought and used as is
*We actually had two salads; the other was not pictured because the container wasn’t as pretty (lol)
- More lemon for lemon water
We packed so many fun things into one weekend at Palomar Mountain. We started with the observatory visit on Saturday morning and followed that up with our nice picnic lunch. After that, we set up camp at the Palomar Observatory Campgrounds ($30/night for the standard non-electric site). The campsites vary from site to site (of course) so it would be wise to do some research before picking a spot. Some sites have no shade which makes it a bit warm in the afternoon, but they will provide the best spots for viewing the amazing night sky. Our site also had a picnic table, a grill, and a fire pit so we were able to barbecue for dinner – not sure if this is a feature for all sites, so again, do your research. There are restrooms around the campgrounds (some flushing and some non-flushing). Not too far from the campgrounds is a local store that sells firewood, food, water, and other necessities you may have forgotten to bring.
After we set up camp and took a nap, we embarked on the hike along Observatory Trail. We couldn’t quite finish the 2.2 mile journey (I think we might have gone halfway) because we had started later in the day and turned back when it started getting dark. Nevertheless, the hike was lovely, and there were great views to be had along the way. When we returned back from our hike, we had dinner, and found a place in the campgrounds to sit and watch the night sky slowly appear before our eyes.
Overall, we had an amazing time at Palomar Mountain and recommend it highly!
- Reusable water bottle
- A light sweater if you plan to visit the telescope (it’s pretty chilly in there)
- Comfortable walking shoes
Picnic Basket Essentials
- The food, of course (see above)
- Ice pack
- Reusable bag to hold used dishes and utensils
- Extra napkins (maybe even the wet kinds)
- Extra picnic blanket or tarp (for spreading out)
If you plan to camp at Observatory Campground, make reservations at Observatory Campground, CA. It’s a popular area, so reserve early before spots fill up!