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Boucher Trail Fire Tower Loop Palomar Mountain

Boucher Fire Tower Loop (Palomar Mountain)

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
Total Distance (?)3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Hike Time2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)630 feet (192m)
Highest Elevation5,438 feet (1658m)
Fees & PermitsEntry Fee
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Palomar Mountain State Park
Park Phone760-742-3462
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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.

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.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.

My October 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

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.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

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!

This guide last updated on September 28, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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