Boucher Hill Loop (Palomar Mountain State Park)

Boucher Hill in Palomar Mountain State Park has been used for fire surveillance since the early 1900’s. The first lookout tower was built in 1921 by the US Forest Service, and the second was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The tower that currently stands atop the hill was built in 1948, and is staffed by volunteers during fire season (May – early December). When staffed, the tower is generally open for public tours.

We got an early start and arrived at the park just after 8 am. From the parking lot of the Silvercrest Picnic Area, we headed back to the main road and turned left (west).

We followed the road for approximately .25 miles until we came to a large 5-way intersection.

We headed straight, pausing to check out the small stone monument dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps on the left side of the roundabout.

On the far side of the intersection, just past the gate, were the two ends of the one-way Boucher Lookout Road, which loops around Boucher Hill. In between was the start of the Boucher Trail.

We started up the steep incline.

A cold, early morning wind blew steadily, chilling our hands and faces. We moved quickly, trying to get warm. To the north we could see partially burnt conifers along the mountain’s slope.

We continued ascending through a mix of living trees and dead and fallen wood.

Around .55 mile the trail leveled out somewhat. We were warm enough by now so we relaxed and enjoyed the easy path.

Around .88 mile the path passed close to the paved westbound road. We continued on the trail through the trees.

Soon we began to catch glimpses of a large antennae ahead of us through the trees.

The trail led us to the edge of a parking lot. The lookout and observation deck were just ahead.

We were too early in the season to enjoy a tour of the lookout tower, but we were content to explore the observation deck and the views it offered.

There was a set of binoculars affixed to the deck for exploring the panoramic vista before us.

Unfortunately, it was a pretty misty morning so our views weren’t too great.

From the lookout, there are a couple of different possible return routes. You can retrace your route back back to your starting point, or follow the continuation of the Boucher Trail down the northern flank of the hill and connect with the Scott’s Cabin Trail for a longer loop back to the picnic area. We decided on a third alternative, which was to follow the paved road back down to our starting point, which would allow us some more views of the Pauma Valley below.

From the parking lot, we followed the paved road left as it passed under the observation deck.

It was still quite misty and hazy out, but it made for some cool effects looking out from the road.

To the south we could see Rodriguez Mountain, which we had recently explored while hiking Hellhole Canyon Preserve.

All too quickly, we found ourselves at the bottom of the road. We turned right to follow the road back to the parking lot.

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Take I-15 north to the Via Rancho Parkway exit. Turn right onto E Via Rancho Parkway, continue as it turns into Bear Valley Parkway. Turn right onto E Valley Parkway, continue as it turns into Valley Center Road. Turn right onto CA-76 East. After approximately 6 miles, make a slight left onto S Grade Rd/Palomar Mountain Rd. Turn left onto S Grade Road, then turn left again onto State Park Road. Follow the road to the Park entrance where you will stop and pay your entry fee. Just beyond the park entrance, find the Silvercrest Picnic Area on your left and park in the large parking lot. map

Total Distance: 1.95 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 450 feet
Dog Friendly?: Dogs not allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed
Facilities: Restrooms and water in parking lot
Fees/Permits: $10 day use fee per vehicle

For more information, visit:
California Department of Parks and Recreation – Palomar Mountain State Park
Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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