Description - The steep, chaparral-covered mountains of Agua Tibia Wilderness give way to stands of fir, pine, and oak at higher elevations that rise above 4,400 feet on Agua Tibia Mountain and above 5,000 feet on Eagle Crag.
The Dripping Springs Trail (about 6.8 miles long), part of approximately 25 miles of pathways, receives light human use and provides the main access to the area. The trail crosses boulder-strewn Arroyo Seco Creek and climbs Agua Tibia Mountain with splendid views of the mountains of southern California. From the crest of the mountain, the Palomar-McGee Trail (about 5.5 miles) enters a forest, descends to Crosley Saddle, and continues south near Eagle Crag before branching off into the Wilderness. No overnight use of pack stock is permitted, and campfires, hibachis, and barbecues are not allowed. Groups are limited to 15 people. The western portion of the Wilderness is dry and seldom seen.
Visitor use permits are required for overnight stays in the Wilderness.
- Palomar Mountain is located 35 miles east of Oceanside off Highway 76. County Road S6 (South Grade Road) leads to Palomar Observatory and two Forest Service campgrounds. County Road S7 (East Grade Road) leads to Palomar Mountain State Park.
The Observatory is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology and houses four telescopes. The observatory is open to the public 9 AM to 4 PM daily for a self-guided tour of the 100-inch telescope.
At the nearby Fry Creek and Observatory Campgrounds you can camp under evergreens and oak trees. The 2.1-miles Observatory Trail begins at the east end of the Observatory Campground and ends at the Observatory.
To the north, the main access to the Agua Tibia Wilderness is the Dripping Springs Trail (about 6.8 miles long), part of approximately 25 miles of pathways in the wilderness.
The best time to hike is from late autumn through early spring. The rest of the year temperatures can reach as high was 100 degrees F during the summer months.
Recreation - Most visitors enjoy hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding. Tent, RV and group camping, along with several picnic areas comprise the recreation options found on Palomar Ranger District.
Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.
Climate - A warm, dry Mediterranean climate prevails over the Cleveland National Forest - hot in the summer, mild in the winter. Most of the precipitation comes as rain during the winter months.
The Palomar Ranger District is located in the center of the Cleveland National Forest North of Ramona on the east side of Interstate 15.
Directions from Temecula, CA: Travel east along Highway 79 to the Dripping Springs Trailhead. Vehicles in the parking lot must display a Forest Adventure Pass.