Appropriately named High Point is the highest peak in the Palomar Ranger District of Cleveland National Forest. This hike offers unique views of Toro and San Jacinto Peak, and a colorful variety of trees that isn’t often found in Southern California.
Getting to the Trailhead
Take Interstate 15 toward Temecula and exit at Highway 79 South. Follow Highway 79 South southeast for 24 miles to the Oak Grove Fire Station. Turn right into the parking area across from the Oak Grove Campground, or just after the fire station. You can park behind the fire station, or in the lot for the building just north of the fire station.
The trailhead is not very obvious. Look for a waist-high post that says “Oak Grove Trail” at the north end of the parking lot – it has arrows on it pointing you in the right direction.
Hiking High Point from Oak Grove
From the sign that says “Resident and official vehicles beyond this sign only”, the hike starts on a dirt road northwest out of the parking area. The first half mile requires you to really pay attention and watch for trail signs guiding you toward the “real” trail. It’s mostly the posts with “Oak Grove Trail” written vertically on them, but there are a few signs that just say “Trail”.
You’ll know you’ve successfully navigated the labyrinth when you get to the large Oak Grove Trail sign indicating it’s time to depart from the dirt road and turn right onto the single-track.
Once on the narrower path, the real climb begins. First there are a few long sweeping switchbacks as the trail becomes a bit rocky and washed out in places. Then the switchbacks become shorter and the elevation gain intensifies.
As you climb, the reward for your hard work is the views that begin to appear behind you.
At the two mile mark the single track path ends and you turn right onto a dirt truck trail called Oak Grove Road.
Follow this broad dirt road to the 3.5 mile mark where you will find a locked gate. You should not encounter any vehicles up to this point, but keep a lookout for dirt bikes and 4x4s from here to the summit.
Continue around the gate and just around the corner the road splits. Go left, continuing on Oak Grove Road.
As the trail curves left, you may be able to spot the lookout tower perched atop your objective.
The incline is steady until around the 5 mile mark, where the road flattens out and arcs right toward the summit.
At 5.5 miles there is a junction at a “No Campfires” sign where you should turn right onto Palomar Divide Road.
This section continues relatively flat, makes a sharp right turn at 5.7 miles, and a 90 degree left at 6 miles.
At the 6.5 mile mark is your last junction. Turn left through the gate and you’ll soon see the lookout tower you’ve been aiming for. Continue up the path as it winds up to the summit, and look out to the right as the white observatory domes begin to dot your view.
Look northeast and admire the views of Toro Peak, San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio. Look west across the beautiful thick forest of trees blanketing the broad Palomar Mountain, of which you are standing at the highest point.
The lookout tower is usually occupied by forest service personnel, but public access is not allowed. If you happen to be there in the early afternoon, you may witness them come down out of the tower to weigh the fuel stick. This is a traditional method for assessing level of fire danger. The weight of the stick tells them how dry or damp potential forest fire fuel is. Once you’ve refueled yourself and enjoyed the view, return back down the way you came up.
High Point Trail Map and Elevation Profile
High Point from Oak Grove Hiking Resources
- Check the Forest Service web page for latest trail information.
- Check the weather forecast for Palomar Mountain.
- Be prepared to #RecreateResponsibly and follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
- Carry plenty of water. This is a long, dry hike with a lot of vertical gain.
- Carry the 10 Essentials.
- Read up on the background on the High Point Lookout
San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge
This hike is part of the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. This self-paced hiking challenge includes six hikes in San Diego County. They are a great way to explore the area, train for bigger adventures, and you’ll be doing good, with a portion of the net proceeds going to support Big City Mountaineers.
The annual challenge runs between January 1st and December 31st. Be sure to check out the SoCal challenge, too!
Originally hiked on November 25, 2020.