Mount Woodson Trail to Potato Chip Rock

Photo-famous rock formation and expansive views atop Mount Woodson

Hiking Difficult

Distance
11 km
Ascent
606 m
Descent
606 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
287 m
High Point
837 m
Gradient
14˚
VIEW ON MAP
Mount Woodson Trail to Potato Chip Rock Map

Description

San Diego is famous for beaches, surfing, and other seaside attractions, but there are countless adventures to be had away from the sandy shores, among the region’s rugged mountainous terrain. One of the most well-known is the hike to the scenic summit of Mount Woodson and a unique formation known as Potato Chip Rock, a diving-board platform of granite extending from the mountainside. This unique feature was formed when most of a boulder detached and rolled downslope, leaving only a sliver of granite suspended behind. The rock is less delicate than it looks, seeing as how it’s so far held up to thousands of people walking out on it.

Potato Chip Rock is one of the most-photographed natural landmarks in the area, but the journey to reach it is not easy. The trail is steep, rocky, and exposed to the sun the whole way. It gets brutally hot in the warm months. Be sure to dress with sun protection and carry enough water and salty snacks for the duration of the trek. Dogs are welcomed on this adventure, but they must remain leashed at all times.

Mount Woodson is located close to San Diego in the town of Poway. The well-marked and maintained Mount Woodson Trail begins in Lake Poway Park at the base of the mountain. The park provides ample parking spaces and facilities for visitors, charging a $10 non-resident fee on weekends and holidays.

From the parking area, Mount Woodson Trail follows the south side of the lake. It winds its way along the shore before climbing roughly 2,000 vertical feet to the summit. Along the way, you will pass huge granite boulders among shrubby chaparral vegetation. Photo opportunities of Lake Poway and the surrounding landscape abound, getting better and better as you ascend. On clear days, the ocean and the city are visible from the higher reaches of the trail.

This is a very popular hike in the San Diego region and can draw huge crowds. It is very likely that you will share the trail, and your photo opportunity at Potato Chip Rock, with dozens of other hikers. Get an early start to avoid both the crowds and the heat. Once there, politely take turns with others to get your photos. Also, don’t forget to take time to walk around the summit of Mount Woodson and enjoy less crowded views in all directions.

There are other routes to the summit besides the Mount Woodson Trail described here. Alternatives can be accessed from the Fry-Koegle Trailhead along South Woodson Drive on the north side of the mountain, the Warren Canyon Trailhead along Highway 67, or by hiking up Mount Woodson Rd. (paved) to the summit. Parking spots at these access points are free, but quite limited.

Sources: https://californiathroughmylens.com/potato-chip-rock-mt-woodson-summit-san-diego/ https://poway.org/502/Trails-Hiking https://poway.org/439/Parking

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area