Mount Woodson has become one of the most popular hikes in San Diego. The hike has become popular because of the level of difficulty, views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and mountains to the east, and large granite boulders that line the top of the peak. Most notably however, is the potato chip shaped rock at the top for which Mount Woodson is also known as the “Potato Chip Rock” hike.

Hiking Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) via Lake Poway

Mount Woodson a.k.a Potato Chip Rock is located in Poway, California in San Diego County. Mount Woodson does have a couple trails that lead to the top and for the sake of this article, I will be talking about the west trail that begins at the bottom of Lake Poway. The peak is on the eastern edge of most of the San Diego metropolis and offers incredible views of the city as well as the Pacific Ocean and eastern San Diego mountains. In addition to the large granite boulders at the top of the peak the trail is also a great place to see blooming wildflowers during the Spring months and occasional wildlife including snakes. The Ramona Dam borders the bottom of Mount Woodson and is also responsible for the formation of Lake Poway where fishing and boating is also available.

Aside from the incredible views at Mount Woodson, the draw for which it’s known for is the iconic potato chip shaped rock located about 0.2 miles below the main peak. Sometimes (and especially on weekends), the potato chip rock can be so popular that lines waiting to take a picture on the rock form. The potato chip rock is a common photo op for many San Diegans.

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty 70%
  • Overall Views 75%
Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) via Lake Poway Quick Facts:
  • Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) Hike via Lake PowayElevation: 2, 835 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,054 feet.
  • Estimated Distance:  6.6 miles.
  • My Actual Distance:  6.7 miles
  • Estimated Time:  4-5 hours.
  • My Time: 2:31 hours. 
Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) Hike Directions:

Open in maps. Access to the trail is very simple. There is a large parking lot at the bottom Lake Poway. The parking lot is gated and opens at dawn and closes at dusk. For those who can’t show proof of Poway residency, there is a $10 parking fee. The fee is only applicable on weekends on holidays. All other days are free. The park is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving. If the parking lot is full, there is an overflow parking lot at the bottom of the street. If you’re looking to do a night hike to this location, find parking somewhere outside of the main gate. For more information you can check the city’s website. Lake Poway is also open Wednesday-Sunday for boating and fishing.

Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) via Lake Poway:

Who Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) Hike Is For:

Novice Hikers: A lot of people talk about how strenuous hiking Mount Woodson can be. For novice hikers, this will definitely be a challenge. Bring at least 2L of water and wear comfortable clothes and shoes. For those who are new to hiking but relatively in shape or looking to take their hiking to the next level, this will be a good leg burner as well as a good test.

Advanced Hikers:  If you’re on the higher end of advanced, this hike will be relatively easy. For everyone else, this will be good exercise.

Expert Hikers: This will be a fun hike with great San Diego views.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock):

Like most of San Diego’s non-coastal hikes, summer time is probably the worst time to hike Mount Woodson. The trail might want to be avoided during hot  Santa Ana conditions as well. Warm weather conditions can easily bring temperatures to 100 degrees during the late summer and early fall. Cool fall, winter, and Spring days are the best. Spring is probably the best time to hike this with blooming wildflowers and mild temperatures. Trail popularity fluctuates and increases during weekends.

Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) via Lake Poway:

This is a very well maintained trail. The trail begins on a dirt maintenance road that is used for Ramona Dam and the Lake Poway area. About one mile in the trail transitions from a dirt maintenance road to a typical trail. The trail is made up of mostly dirt and some loose rocks. Elevation gains are done through some minor switchbacks lined with rocks. The trail is maintained through foot traffic and privately.

Rattlesnakes are common in this area so be alert. Poison oak is not commonly found in this area because of the dry weather and lack of shadier environments. Poison oak can’t be completely excluded so be aware of the plant just in case.