Palomar Mountain Road, California, USA
Nestled on top of the Palomar mountain range in north San Diego County is the Palomar Observatory. The journey towards this magnificent research facility is exceptionally twisty, with no less than 20 consecutive hairpin turns.
From Temecula, this 31-mile drive is one of the most fascinating and compelling roads in southern California. Taking you past four native American reservations, a Spanish mission and several resort casinos, it literally slithers up the mountain.
The road can be best enjoyed by exiting Interstate 15 at Temecula Parkway (Highway 79 South). Shortly after, turn right on Pechanga Parkway. As you leave Riverside County, the road narrows and twists.
Pechanga Parkway changes its name to Pala Road, and with the name change comes different scenery, with orange groves and vineyards on both sides of the road.
Proceeding through the Pala Indian Reservation, you quickly come to Highway 76. Turning left will take you to Palomar Observatory, with a sharp right stopping you at the Pala casino.
Further on is the Mission San Antonio de Pala, the only historic mission facility that still serves a mission native American tribe.
Continuing along the highway, through Pauma Valley and the La Jolla Indian Reservation, Highway 76 turns into South Grade Road and takes you directly to the summit. This stretch is only seven miles long, yet represents some of the most electrifying driving you will ever experience.
Location: San Diego County, CA, USA
Latitude: 33 21 21 N 116 51 50 W
Points of interest:
35899 Canfield Road
Food and accommodation:
Mothers Kitchen Restaurant
Pala Casino Spa Resort
You begin to steadily climb 4,000 feet, with mountains gliding past. The final leg of the journey propels you past the Palomar Mountain general store and the tiny, quaint post office. Be sure to stop at Mother’s Kitchen restaurant with their astronomical portions before you finish the drive.
Rising up above the pine trees at 5,617 feet, the enormous observatory dome is striking. Take some time to enjoy the facility and learn how it provides a window to the galaxy.
This road to the stars undoubtedly lives up to its nickname: quite simply, the road to Palomar takes you and your 911 out of this world.