A little over an hour from San Diego, this quiet park is a haven for hikers and family campers. In the midst of a thick coniferous forest, it features a small campground and group camp, historic apple orchards and a trout pond.
Palomar Mountain State Park features spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, in addition to rustic camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing for trout in Doane Pond. Coniferous forests cover much of the Park's 1,897 acres, in contrast to the dry lowlands surrounding the mountain. This is one of the few southern California areas with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere. The world-famous Palomar Observatory is located eight miles east of the Park.
Take the Nate Harrison Grade -- named for a former slave who homesteaded on the mountain -- for jaw-dropping views of the Pauma Valley. Have a firm resolve, great shocks and a sense of adventure: The grade is not paved and curves back and forth across the mountain with the regularity of a downhill skier.
For those who like the beaten path, take the S6 or S7 -- both accessible from SR 76.
Advanced cyclers and motorcycles are also sharing the road, so watch yourself around those turns.