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Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Palomar Mountain
Hiking San Diego

Boucher Fire Tower Loop (Palomar Mountain)

  • 3.5 miles - Easy Effort
  • 2 Hours (Total)
  • 630 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,438 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

This short loop hike to the Boucher Fire Lookout Tower offers a lot to see in a short distance. The climb to the tower is gentle, and at the top, on a clear day, you can see from Mexico, to the Coronado Islands, to Mt San Jacinto.  I'd venture to say the best views from Palomar Mountain State Park are from Boucher Hill. Then rom the tower, we'll hike in a loop and visit the remains of a historic homesteader's cabin.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop
  • How to Get to the Trailhead at Palomar Mountain State Park
  • Recommendations and Tips for the Hike

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Boucher is pronounced "booo-ker" or "book-er" and is a misspelling of an early resident family name, the Boughers.

Where is Boucher Trail in Palomar Mountain SP?

The trailhead is easy to find. It's the first parking lot once you pass the entrance station. Use this trailhead address:
Silvercrest Picnic Area, 19952 State Park Rd, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

There is a fee to enter Palomar Mountain State Park.

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 40
The Silvercrest Picnic Area is on your left once you enter the park.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 37
The parking lot is massive.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 41
There are bathrooms by the parking area.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 42
The views from the parking area aren't too shabby.

Gear For the Hike

While this isn't a technical or difficult hike, it is a backcountry one. There is no cell service for most of the hike, and you are in wilderness conditions. In the summer there can be bugs, so wear insect repellant. And in the winter, there can be snow. Check the weather before you go. Otherwise the hike is easy, and you can do this in fitness clothes or light hiking gear. Bring 1L of water.

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Boucher Trail Maps

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 39
The trail is fairly well marked with trail signs like these.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 38
If you find any artifacts (from early settlers or Native peoples)), please leave them alone and report them to the park rangers.
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Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Elevation
The climb looks worse than it is here. When you climb to the tower, you have a nice long downhill to Cedar Grove Campground, and then you climb up to Scott's Cabin, and then return.

3D Map

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop 3d Map
The loop goes clockwise and hits Boucher Hill, then comes back around in a circle.

Boucher Hill Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 43
Avoid the picnic area trailhead and start on the left side of the bathrooms.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 44
When you get to the road, make the left.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 45
We have a short stretch on the road.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 46
When you reach the big intersection / traffic circle - bear left.

The dirt road ahead is marked as the Nate Harrison Grade, which is smaller dirt and paved road that goes down the mountain. It was named after an ex-slave and San Diego County’s first African-American homesteader. He's got an interesting history that you can dive into here.

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 47
At the junction there's a memorial to the CCC workers who built many of the iconic trails of the West.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 48
At the junction look for the Boucher Trail up to the left.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 49
Start the (pretty easy) climb up the Boucher Trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 50
The trail climbs gently through the trees.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 51
And then you'll see the fire tower in front of you.

Although there has been a fire lookout tower here since 1921, this structure was built in 1948 and is one of only two of this design still standing. Today it's staffed by volunteers and when it's open, you can usually visit the tower.

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 52
Explore the tower area. There are many interpretive displays and of course, the views. When you are done, the trail continues down to the right.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 56
There are bathrooms here in case you are inspired.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 53
Make sure you check out the viewing platform, which is the same footprint as the tower.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 54
To the south you'll get views of most of the high peaks in San Diego, including Cuyamaca and El Cajon.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 55
And to the north, Saddleback Mountain looms large.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 57
To continue, head down the road to the trail across the pavement.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 58
Continue downhill on the Boucher Trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 59
When you start the descent you can catch a glimpse of San Jacinto Peak.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 60
You'll have a long downhill with more great views.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 61
And then the trail swings east and you get views of Gordon Point.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 62
Cross over the Nate Harrison Grade to continue the trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 63
Once across we've officially started a new trail, the Adams Trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 64
When the meadow opens up, go straight as the Baptist Trail joins from the left.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 65
And then you'll reach Cedar Grove Group Campground. Make the right on the paved road and follow it straight.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 66
And then at the campground entrance, make a quick left on the road.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 67
Cross, and hike up Scott's Cabin Trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 68
There's some climbing here. When you reach the junction with the Cedar Trail, keep straight on Scott's Cabin Trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 69
Avoid any power line access trails and stay on the main trail.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 70
When you see a pile of cut logs, you've reached Scott's Cabin?

Who was Scott? Most likely it was B. F. Scott, who according to a 1900 census, owned the land here. According to Robert Haley Asher (1868-1953), who lived in the area from 1903-1946, an "ancient log cabin" stood around this area and was often occupied by transients and visitors. I like to think it belonged to Andreas & Elvira Scott, Native Americans who were listed in an 1880 census of the area. If you know anything more, please contact me and give me the scoop.

Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 71
The actual flat cabin area is back to the right.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 72
The lumber from the cabin, now strewn around the area, is still in remarkably good shape.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 73
Shortly after Scott's Cabin, look for the trail to the right.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 74
Take the connector trail down to the Silvercrest Picnic Area.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 75
After a short stretch you'll have a little climb.
Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Directions 76
And then arrive back by the parking lot where you began. That's it!

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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