The Mount Woodson Trail, also known as the “potato chip rock” trail is one of the most popular San Diego hikes, located just 20 minutes north of San Diego, in the city of Poway, California. The drive itself from San Diego to Poway is absolutely gorgeous, with views of San Diego County’s luscious green hills and rocky mountains.
The Mount Woodson hike itself is pretty hardcore! It’s a 7.5 mile trek that takes approximately four hours, there and back, with a steady, strenuous uphill portion that will give even the fittest person a solid workout. Hikers trekking Mount Woodson exert an amazing 2000 foot elevation gain on their calves and glutes!
There are only a few shaded “rest areas” during this hike, so bringing lots of water and sunscreen is highly recommended. The trail is fairly exposed to the sun, but the openness of the trail also gives visitors spectacular views of the surrounding towns, mountains, and Lake Poway. Hikers are also treated to spectacular rock formations – boulders jutting out of the mountainside that look like they are about to topple over the cliffs’ edges. The most interesting rock formation is of course “potato chip rock”, named for its incredible shape (yes, it looks like a giant potato chip jutting out of the mountainside that people can stand on and take ridiculous pictures with). One word of advice, if visiting this hike purely to enjoy a photo-op with the potato chip rock: come early in the morning to avoid a long wait in line. In general, it is a good idea to do this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon, as this trek is very popular and can get crowded – not to mention that coming early or late in the day will avoid some major sun exposure.
Check out the slideshow for some shots along the Mount Woodson hike!
Here is a fantastic idea on making this hike a rewarding full-day trip:
Try a day trip from San Diego with some intense exercise by starting off with the Mount Woodson hike, and then enjoy a fresh-caught meal afterwards. Many people come fishing for trout to Lake Poway, a gorgeous reservoir, located at the base of Mount Woodson, and visible throughout much of the Mount Woodson trail. The park where the trail head and lake are located offers picnic and grilling areas. Although the lake itself cannot be swum in to protect the cleanliness of the reservoir, it is really beautiful to look at. Alright, I’ll be honest – after the grueling hike up Mount Woodson, it’s ever-so-tempting to jump into the pristine waters of the lake afterwards, so it’s almost a cruel joke that people cannot cool off in the waters! But, rules are rules, and no one wants to drink water coming from a sweat-infested reservoir! So, we have to settle for some fresh-caught fish instead. And I’m totally game for that!
This hike is a must-do San Diego day trip!