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Palomar Mountain listed by Sunset Magazine as a top mountain escape


February 26, 2014
In the most recent edition of Sunset Magazine, Palomar Mountain has been selected as one of the top 20 mountain escapes for high-altitude adventures in the western United States. Mammoth Mountain is the only other California location to make the list. Other well-known destinations on the list include Flagstaff, Arizona; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Estes Park, Colorado; and Glacier National Park, Montana.

One of the reasons the magazine chose Palomar is the mountain's elevation ranging from 4,700 feet to 6,138 feet. Palomar Mountain is located one and one-half hours northeast of downtown San Diego and is most noted for the Palomar Observatory. The mountain provides 11 miles of hiking tracks through forests, creeks, and meadows.

Last year, the Doane Valley Campground in Palomar Mountain was listed by Sunset Magazine as the 34th best in the state. It was the only campground in San Diego County included in the special camping issue.

Mountain meadows and beautiful trees consisting of oak, fir, pine, and cedar trees flourish within Palomar Mountain. Vista points along the mountain offer majestic panoramic views inland toward the desert and westerly toward the ocean. Listed in the Hundreds Peaks Section of the Sierra Club's publication is historic Boucher Hill Fire Lookout located on Boucher Hill Summit.

High atop the west side of Palomar is Palomar Mountain State Park. Open from dawn to dusk daily, the park features hiking, camping, picnicking, and trout fishing in Doane Pond. Most of the 1,862 acres are covered with a coniferous forest in sharp contrast to the dry lowlands surrounding the mountain. The park is one of the few areas in Southern California providing a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere. Evenings are cool, even during the summer, due to elevation within the park averaging 5,000 feet above sea level.

Twelve-year Valley Center resident Diana Nissan has the pleasure of viewing Palomar Mountain from her back yard.

"People from other places come here for the snow," said Nissan who is puzzled by this year's lack of snowfall. "They want to get to the snow without having to drive all the way to places like Big Bear. We usually have snow in January, February, March. Some years it's so pretty, it looks like a picture."

She takes her daughters to the mountain when it snows and camps during summer months.

"It's great. I like driving along the mountain. It's amazing," said Mohammad Kanj who works at Stage Stop Market located at the foothill of Palomar.

"I'd love to live there. It has such a nice view," said Kanj who takes his kids to play in the snow and during the summer, to camp. "At night, there is always such a clear view of the moon and all the stars," said Kanj.

John Mandel has lived on the mountain for 22 years. He describes Palomar as quiet, tranquil, beautiful.

"First off, you're not going to freeze here. If you get tired of the snow, just go down the hill," said Mandel. "It's not like you're driving 500 miles away. From the summit, in less than 50 minutes, you are at the seashore. Where else can you do this? Not in San Bernardino or Northern California."

Mandel views Palomar Mountain as a very unique place. The climate conditions afford the opportunity to see snow if traveling all the way up the mountain but there's also camping.

"There are cabins for rent; places to stay. The state park is open 24/7 all year round. Cleveland National Forest-US Forest Services is open for the summer," Mandel said. "There are hiking trails, all kinds of nature to experience."

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