Sponsored by the Forest Service and run by local astronomy enthusiasts, Palomar's "Explore the Stars" program began about 15 years ago when a ranger at the Cleveland National Forest saw it as a great public outreach opportunity in one of the nation's most hallowed star-gazing spots, the Palomar Observatory and its 200-inch Hale telescope (formerly the world's largest) just two miles up the road from the campground. One weekend a month, from April through October, amateur astronomers from San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties set up shop in the Observatory Campground's north end (a "light-free zone" after 9 p.m.) and invite the scopeless public to have a look through their fancy equipment, learn about what's out there beyond our light-soaked cities and marvel at the unfathomable.
Take Interstate 15 south to Highway 76. Drive east on Highway 76 for about 22 miles to County Road S6 (South Grade Road), which winds for seven miles to the top of Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest in northern San Diego County. Turn left onto Canfield Road for 2.5 miles to the Observatory Campground entrance on the right.