There are a lot of shorter hikes scattered throughout the county that are beautiful and scenic, but don’t always feel like they justify the amount of driving involved to get there. We decided that we’d hike both this trail and another nearby trail, as well as take a tour of the Palomar Mountain Observatory to make a decent half-day adventure worthy of the couple hours of driving involved. So after hiking the Observatory Trail, we headed over to the Fry Creek Campground just up the road to do this short little loop along the slopes above the campground.
To the right of this information board was the start of the trail. We found it a bit difficult to determine the exact route since the ground was uniformly covered in fallen oak leaves. Eventually we realized there was a barely discernable series of rocks outlining the trail as it headed towards the trees and then cut to the right along the small hill between the road and campsite #1’s picnic table.
The trail turned northwest as we continued to ascend and we began to circle the campground below. We could occasionally hear voices from one of the campsites drift up towards us, but the trees were so thick we didn’t see anyone.
It was easy to forget how close we were to a developed campground as we walked through the trees on the slope above. It felt like we were way above the valley floor below, but it was really only a few hundred feet.
We came upon a few sections of trail that had soft, freshly turned dirt that appeared to have undergone recent maintenance. We had read several previous accounts of this hike that indicated the trail was in pretty poor shape, but it appears that the Forest Service has been hard at work fixing the place up.
We reached the road and turned right, finding our starting point just a few hundred feet away.
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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. Continue up the mountain for 6.7 miles, then turn left to stay on S Grade Road. Continue on S Grade Road for approximately 2.5 miles until you see the Fry Creek Campground on the left (about .1 miles past the Observatory Campground). Park in the large turnout opposite the campground entrance and walk into the campground. map
|Total Distance:||1.7 miles|
|Total Ascent:||350 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Pit toilets and water available in campground|
|Fees/Permits:||Adventure Pass required|