Thunder Spring Trail Loop
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||4.2 miles (6.8 km)|
|Hike Time||2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||900 feet (274m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,345 feet (1629m)|
|Fees & Permits||Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Palomar Mountain State Park|
The Thunder Spring Trail Loop is one of the quieter hikes in Palomar Mountain State Park; it’s a great hike to get away from it all. The scenery is lush, with lots of pines, cedars, and in the spring, wildflowers. You have a climb that will get your heart rate up, but is not too tough. And along the way, you visit a historic homesteader’s cabin site. Overall it’s a nice trail and a good time.
Where is the Thunder Spring Trail?
The Thunder Spring Trail hike is located in Palomar Mountain SP. Drive into the park and follow the signs for Doane Pond. There’s also a (private) retreat by the pond that might be more GPS-friendly. Use this trailhead address:
Camp Palomar, 34798 Doane Valley Rd, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
There is an entry fee to enter Palomar Mountain State Park.
Gear For the Hike
The main challenge on this hike can be poison oak and nettles. Wearing long pants solves the problem, just make sure you don’t touch your pants if you go through a patch. And there can be gnats, so bring insect repellant. Otherwise this is a straightforward backcountry hike with lots of shade. I bring 1L of water.
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.
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 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.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
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.
Thunder Spring Trail Maps
Overall the trails are easy to follow and well-marked with signs. You can also save a copy of the handy park handout map which keeps things simple.
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.
Thunder Spring Trail Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Who is Doane? You can read about him here.
The land on the other side of the fence belongs to a cattle ranch, something you wouldn’t expect up on Palomar Mountain. If you drive to the observatory you can see the pastures alongside the road. There has been cattle ranching here since 1860, when the Mendenhall family started bringing cows up to the mountain during the summer (and back down into the valley during the winter). The Mendenhall’ls are still owners of the ranch.
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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