Hike Mount Woodson & Potato Chip Rock

Mount Woodson Trailhead

This can take anywhere from 4-6 hrs. depending on how much you rest/ take photos. Visit the famous "potato chip" rock formation with amazing views of all of San Diego.

Mt. Woodson is located in Poway's most eastern region and is one of San Diego's most popular and most iconic hiking trails. Known for its grand photo opportunistic "Potato Chip Rock", Mt. Woodson is a 7.5mi out-and-back trail with amazing vistas, convenient rest stops and breathtaking views.

The trailhead begins at Poway Lake & Park (open 6:00am-5:00pm) and the parking fee is $5.00 to enter. The park is extremely clean with picnic tables, shady trees, restrooms and an adequate amount of parking spaces. From the parking lot to the top is roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes.The hike begins near the south east side of the park on a wide flat dirt trail horseshoeing east around the lake. For the first half of the hike you will find portable restrooms and trash cans every 1/4 mi which are great for families or tossing doggy bags.

The climb begins around mile 1.5, where there are rigid, steep switchbacks consistently until the halfway point. The reason I love this trail is for its physical challenges! There are signs posted along the trail, making it very easy to follow. Once you make it to the top, enjoy the famous Potato Chip Rock and its incredible views.

I would like to note that weekends can get pretty crowded, which leads to a line forming to see the rock. I recommend coming on a weekday where you can expect to see 5-10 people total.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking / running shoes
  • Camera
  • Leash (if you bring your dog)
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RT Distance 7.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 900 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Autumn, Winter
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Groups
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Hiking The Back Route

If you go the back route, it’s a steep paved road with twists and turns that make the hike challenging and rewarding. It’s also only 2.0 miles up to Potato Chip Rock which makes it a short, but fun morning hike. Recommended to hike as the sun is rising because this trail can get very crowded during the day.

1800 feet elevation gain

The description is great, but the elevation gain from Lake Poway to the top of Mt Woodson is 1,800 feet (not 900). The elevation gain from the east side (Ramona CalFire station) is 1,200 feet. Great rock climbing (boulders) on the east side. Unlike the west side, the east side is a paved access road. Same overall steepness on both sides. Want a good challenge? Start on the east side, go to the top and down the west side to the Lake Poway Loop trail. Then turn around and go back. 9.5 miles and a total of 3,000 feet up and down. Leave a second car at Lake Poway if you want the option of ending your hike at Lake Poway.

Stair Stepper.

This trail is a killer workout. You'll feel good after this one. Definitely bring water. The rocks look pretty cool at the top of the mountain.


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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