Boucher Fire Tower Loop (Palomar Mountain)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||3.5 miles (5.6 km)|
|Hike Time||2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||630 feet (192m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,438 feet (1658m)|
|Fees & Permits||Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Palomar Mountain State Park|
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.
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
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.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
My Review & Guide
How is this Different than a GPS?
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.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
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.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2022.
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
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.
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.
Boucher Hill Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
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.
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.
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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