Potato Chip Rock & Mt Woodson, CA

• 5-star hike
• 7.5 mile out-and-back
• Medium difficulty | Gain 2,170 feet
• Poway, CA | San Diego Region
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Person sitting on the edge of Potato Chip Rock, an arching sandstone fragment that remained when the rest of the rock collapsed.
Hanging out on Potato Chip Rock near Mt Woodson's summit.

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Hiking from Lake Poway up the western flanks of Mount Woodson is a must-do for locals and visitors alike, showcasing the San Diego region's natural beauty, offering breathtaking views and the chance for a popular photo opportunity.

Capable hikers will find the steady 2,170 foot climb to be only a moderate challenge without any difficult terrain, but sun and heat exposure is a real issue on this mountain, especially since Potato Chip rock attracts many unfamiliar with the risks hikers often face. Rangers recommend bringing 2 liters (68oz) of water per person in addition to sunscreen and snacks.

Early on a sunny morning, Mount Woodson casts a large shadow over Lake Poway Park and this makes for a perfect opportunity for a comfortable hike on a quiet route. The trail traces a route above the southern banks of Lake Poway before heading upward through sandstone boulder-strewn terrain along the mountain's long sloping ridgeline.

red icon Mt Woodson Trail Expand Map

red icon Mt Woodson Trail 5★
7.5 mi, Out-And-Back, Medium, Gain 2,170 feet
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

You'll spot Potato Chip Rock before you reach the summit – a thin, impossible-looking stone sliver that still manages to bear the weight of the hundreds of people that scale it, in pursuit of a photograph. This site is extremely busy at weekends, so either expect to wait in line for a photo or visit at a quiet time.

Mount Woodson's summit is spoiled by a large collection of radio antennas and noisy support buildings, but it's still worth checking out to marvel at some enormous sandstone boulders that appear to sit precipitously atop the mountain.

Lake Poway Recreation Area has plenty of parking and amenities including large lush grassy expanses with plenty of shade for a post-hike picnic.

There are easier and shorter routes up the mountain if you don't mind roadside parking along the busy Route 67 on the eastern side of the mountain. Mount Woodson Road provides a paved 2-mile route to the summit that requires only 1,220 feet of elevation gain. From the summit you can return the way you came, or continue on a looping route that returns via the Fry Koegel Trail for a total distance of 5.4 miles. We’ve included AllTrails links to these routes below.

A still Lake Poway surrounded by green hilsides with distant mountains. The foreground is dark, but the distant mountains are shining from the early morning sun.
Early morning Lake Poway still within the shadow of Mt Woodson.

The boulder strewn hillside of Mount Woodson, with a rising sun dazzling us from near the summit.
Boulder-strewn Mount Woodson with dazzling morning sun.

Someone sitting on a distant Potato Chip Rock close to the summit of Mount Woodson with green busy chapparal in the foreground, and jagged mountains in the background.
Another view of Potato Chip Rock.

• Official Links: Lake Poway
• Public Maps at AllTrails: Mt Woodson Trail, Service Road (4.1mi 1220ft), Route 67 Loop (5.4mi 1370ft)

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