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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Palomar High Point Completes 6POP!

Date: January 12, 2021

Distance: 13.41 miles

Total Elapsed Time: 8h 30m

Total Moving Time: 5h 55m

Summit Elevation: 6,131 feet

Elevation Gain: 3,392 feet

Trailhead: Oak Grove Trail

Previous Ascents: February16, 2020


  1. Peakbagger Peaks - 1

  2. Survey Marks - 7

    1. PLSS Section Corner - 1

    2. Benchmarks - 2

    3. Vertical Control Mark - 1

    4. Reference Marks - 1 (previously found)

    5. Reference Objects -2

Today was my second trip to the High Point Lookout Tower on Palomar Mountain and the final peak in the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge package. I really like this hike, it has two miles of single track gain, then it’s Truck Trail the rest of the way up. Many folks don’t care for fire roads or truck trails, but I find I enjoy more of the views around me when I don’t have to fuss with bushwhacking or scrambling.

Oak Grove Trail

The hike starts out on the Oak Grove Trail (2E03) next to the Forest Service Oak Grove Fire Station, across SR 79 from the Oak Grove Campground. The Oak Grove Trail, the oldest established trail in the Palomar Ranger District, is a steep, 2-mile trail that ultimately connects to the Oak Grove Truck Trail.

Less than a half-mile into the trail I encountered my first survey marker for the day, a USFS Location Poster marking a Quarter Section within Township 009S 002E. This was a super easy recovery because it is literally right on the trail! The poster is seriously weathered, but you can see where the tack marks the corner. Just in case you forgot where you were, someone scratched "OG" and an arrow to let you know the direction to Oak Grove 🙄

Not much further up the trail, you'll see the directional sign (new since I hiked this last year!), there is also a trash can here which came in handy as I had already picked up an empty water bottle and some food wrappers. What is it about Leave No Trace (LNT) that people DON'T understand?

This stretch of trail from the sign to the fire road is a lot of fun, it's a good single-track trail that takes you up about 1,400 feet and offers some amazing views along the way. As I climbed, the perspective of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto changed, making them appear closer the higher I went. This PeakVisor shot of the two peaks was taken at about the 1.5-mile mark from 3,760 feet elevation.

Unfortunately, San G is off the books this season due to last year’s fires (as is San Bernardino and Mount Wilson) but I am excited to head back to San J. as part of the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge bundle.

At the 2-mile point, the trail intersects the Oak Grove Truck Trail (USFS Road 9S09), continues on for 3.5 miles to pick up the Palomar Divide Truck Trail (9S07) which turns into High Point Lookout Road (9S07A) as you near the summit. You really don't NEED to know the route numbers because the road to the summit is pretty obvious, but you'll find plenty of USFS route markers along the road, especially at junctions with other roads and I think it's a good idea to know where you are.

You're not likely to see any vehicle traffic on Oak Grove road as the gate just before the intersection with High Point Road (8S05) is normally closed. On the hike, this intersection is about 3.5-miles along the route from the trailhead and it's easy enough to walk around the gate. The High Point Road was open to vehicles today and I did meet a family at the summit who had driven up there to picnic.


As part of my preparation for today's trip, I reviewed my route in GAIA with the USGS Topo layer turned on and made note of Benchmark locations and potential Section Corner markers along the way to the summit. There were two Benchmarks and two Corners in addition to the survey marks at the summit.

I'd already located one Corner at the beginning of the hike, but the second was at least 80-100 feet down a steep slope with heavy vegetation, it was a no-brainer to pass on that one.

The first Benchmark I came upon was surprisingly easy to find. It was on a berm above the road set back just a little and almost exactly where it was marked on the map, with a San Diego County Surveyor witness stake nearby that was labeled "Monument 19".

I believe this was the first marker that I've found with the legend "cooperation with the state" pre-stamped on it. I still haven't determined what the "GWM 11" that is stamped above the date means, just another one of those mysteries I'll continue to research.

The second Benchmark along the route was supposed to be at 5,188 feet on the east side of the road about 20-30 feet up a snowy slope. I climbed up and kicked around in the snow a bit, but in the absence of a witness stake, It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I didn't waste much time looking and dropped back down on the road to continue to the summit.

Moving on, I encountered more spectacular views and a variety of road conditions ranging from dry to snow and ice-covered on the shaded sections of the road.

Overall, it was a gorgeous day with a temperature at the start of 46.7º. I didn't take a reading at the summit, but it was comfortable without a jacket.

As I followed the final bend in the road up towards the tower, I could see people on the rocks taking pictures and hanging out. As it turns out, it was a group of fellow challengers, one who I met last year while hiking Hot Springs Mountain (RiRi) and another IG friend (Patricia) who I met in person for the first time today! It was great to visit with them and share hiking stories, and yes, we got a huge group selfie 😂

After they headed down the road, I took my summit pictures and started looking around for survey markers.

While I was pacing off distances, the Ranger manning the lookout tower came out and chatted with me for a while, LOL he said I looked very intent and wondered what I was doing. I explained about searching for survey marks and how it's equal parts orienteering, scavenger hunting, and luck. Since I had contemplated hiking over to the Palomar Observatory, I asked about the accessibility via the Palomar Divide Road (about a 2.5-mile walk from the High Point Lookout). He told me that's the way they drive in to reach the tower and they have to go through 3 locked gates to get there, but he was unsure if it was open to hikers. Upon further research and conversations with the Palomar District Ranger Station, that section of the USFS Road 9S07 cuts across the Observatory property managed by CalTech which is private property and is closed to vehicles and pedestrian traffic except for Observatory staff and USFS personnel on official business.

Summit Recoveries - 3

Last year I located Reference Mark 2 (CE9988) and kind of wandered around looking for other marks, even though I really didn't have a plan or any idea where they might be. I spent a lot of time looking around the area that was marked by the triangle symbol on the topo map and came up empty. This time I was better prepared, I had plotted the coordinates and azimuths for each of the marks ahead of time and had a much better idea of where to look.

Back then, I didn't realize that other structures were used as survey marks. Obviously, I'd seen the High Point Lookout tower (DX5063) and the Dome of the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory (DX5061) last year, I just didn't know they were official Reference Objects for the Palomar Station. Based on the information provided in the NGS datasheet, I 'officially' recovered these two additional marks! That was Easy! Technically, you could call it four recoveries as the Hot Springs Lot (DX4967) is also a reference object for the Palomar Station. I did recover that on my trip to Hot Springs Moutain, but it is 24.3 km away (15-miles) so I won't include it here.

Unable to Locate -1

There was a San Diego County Engineer disc stamped Palomar "ECC LS 2129 1956" (DX5062) that I was unable to locate. Given its supposed location and the nature of these ECC discs (smaller and the tendency to blend in well with the rocks), I was hesitant to call it lost or destroyed and will search for it again the next time I'm at this summit.

Lost/Destroyed - 2

Based on what I knew, I found a stake that was close to where the original station disc should have been, but I could not locate either the Station Disc (DX5064) or Reference Marker 1 (CE9987). Given the descriptions and distances involved, I feel pretty confident marking both of these as lost/destroyed.

Drive-By Recoveries - 2

The final two marks I found were along SR 79 on my drive home and were marked as benchmarks on my GAIA topo map. These are usually easy recoveries if the mark still exists as they're right along the roadside. Of course, safety is paramount so finding a spot to completely pull off the road is critical, in both cases, I was able to safely park off the shoulder near the marks.

The first of the two was cleanly mounted in a boulder with a witness stake nearby, stamped with the elevation and “48 JRH 1956” I’ve seen the 48 JRH stamping before on marks out in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The second was easily spotted just off the road and is the RESET of the Vertical Control Mark U 62 (DX0482) originally set in 1927, the reset was stamped 1978.

This was another "first" recovery, being the first disc I've found that was pre-stamped “Vertical Control Mark” It amazes me how many different style discs I’ve come across! The Reset wasn’t updated in the NGS Online Database as it still showed the original U 62 in a different location (156 feet NE).

Relive® 3D Video of Today's Trek

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