How to Find It

20681 State Park Road
Palomar Mountain, CA  92060

From San Diego or thereabouts:

  1. North on Interstate 15.
  2. Exit Interstate 15 North at Via Rancho Parkway, south of Escondido.
  3. Right (East) on Via Rancho Parkway (really mostly North) and go about 6.3 miles. The name of this road changes to Bear Valley Parkway after about 0.3 miles. It's a back road, but you usually save time and hassle by skirting around Escondido instead of driving through it.
  4. Right at the oblique T-intersection stop sign onto E. Valley Parkway, and go about 15.4 miles. The name of this road changes to Valley Center Road after about 1.2 miles, when you cross Lake Wohlford Road (say "WOOF-erd"). This takes you through Valley Center and then into the Rincon Indian Reservation and past the Harrah's Rincon casino. Watch out for the idiot drivers who frequent the casino. The next turn is on the far side of the reservation. The off-brand gas station in Rincon is your last chance -- there's no gas on the mountain.
  5. Right at the T-intersection stop sign onto State Road 76. The fruit stand at the corner and the Stage Stop grocery store and restaurant (on your left just after the corner) are the last services before the summit. Go 5.1 miles on this road.
  6. Left at the sort of Y intersection, marked "Palomar Mountain" for the left fork and "Lake Henshaw" for the right. This puts you on County Road S6, Palomar Mountain Road, aka the South Grade Road. Drive up, up, up this road, about 6.5 miles of switchbacks to the so-called Summit.
  7. Left at the T-intersection stop sign at the top. You're on County Road S7. Almost immediately you will see a couple of shops, Mother's Kitchen restaurant, and the post office on your left.
  8. Left before Mother's Kitchen (following the sign pointing to the State Park). This puts you on State Park Road, which is officially still County Road S7. If you miss this turn you'll end up at the Observatory.
    Go about 1 mile. After about 0.6 miles, wave as you pass Upper Meadow Road, where my Spread is located. Keep going past Bailey Meadow Road.
    Then look for the county service yard on your left. It includes several metal buildings, and a prominent antenna mast near the road with a big dish on it. There's a largish glow-in-the-headlights sign at the driveway of the service yard. The driveway of the service yard on the left is just about opposite Fern Meadow Road on the right.
    If you are just looking for snow to play on or wandering the mountain, please continue on State Park Road to the park. Fern Meadow Road and my driveway are private property.
    There's no sign that says "Fern Meadow Road", just some small family name signs that say "Stearns", "Bill and Helen McKinley", and of course "Williamson". There's a swinging gate that's usually open and always unlocked. Feel free to open it if it's closed; it's just closed to discourage tourists.
  9. Right on Fern Meadow Road. Pass up the first driveway, which is well-marked with discouraging signs like "Beware of Dogs".
  10. Left into the second driveway. There's another little sign that says "Williamson", if it hasn't blown down. You should turn before the road starts sloping uphill toward the McKinley's.
    Go to the end of the driveway. You're there.

Alternate Route (longer but somewhat less vertigo-inducing)

As above for 1 through 5, then:

6. Right at the sort of Y intersection, the "Lake Henshaw" fork. Go 10 more miles on State Road 76.

7. Left onto County Road S7, aka the East Grade Road. You don't get much warning here, just one small sign right before the turn. It says "Palomar Mountain 17 miles". If you miss the turn, you'll see Lake Henshaw a few curves later. Go 17 miles of windy road, not as steep or as twisty as the South Grade. Watch out for cattle on the road. Look for the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department station on your right. Not far after the fire station you'll see Mother's Kitchen on the left.

Resume the instructions above at 8.

Updated September 11, 2004. Copyright 2000 - 2004, Paul Williamson.