Mount Woodson has become one of the most popular hikes in San Diego. This trail brings hikers to an iconic wedge shaped granite rock near the peak for which the trail has earned it’s nickname, “Potato Chip Rock.”

Hiking Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) via Lake Poway

Mount Woodson which is also known as Potato Chip Rock, is located in Poway, California – a large suburb in the County of San Diego. 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 the San Diego metropolis and offers incredible views of the surrounding city, the Pacific Ocean, and the east county mountains. From the peak, there will be good views of it’s southern neighbor, Iron Mountain.

In addition to the popular chip shaped rock near the peak, the trail is a great place to see blooming wildflowers during the spring. Rattlesnakes can be common along the trail. The peak is a great place to do some  bird watching for larger birds such as raptors. Keep an eye out for some of San Diego’s larger wildlife here such as coyotes, bobcats, deer, and an occasional mountain lion.

The first third of the trail offers some great views of the Ramona Dam which borders the bottom of Mount Woodson. Fishing and boating activities are available on the lake. For those who are interested, please check with the City of Poway for more information.

One A Personal Note:

Mount Woodson is a trail that most active people do at least once while living in San Diego. The iconic potato chip rock sites about 0.2 miles below the peak. The hike has become so popular that there can be a line with people waiting to take their picture of themselves on the rock. I truely wonder if most hikers make it to the summit or turn around at that point. The best times to hike this trail is during the morning, on a weekday, and while the kids are in school.

If you ever come across a genteleman named Mike and a group of guys on the trail doing some maintenance, be sure to say hi. Mike initially cut the trail up to Potato Chip Rock well over twenty years ago. About once a week he and other volunteers get out on the trail to maintain it and fix up. 

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

  • Overall Difficulty 70% 70%
  • Overall Views 80% 80%
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. 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 Pictures:
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 after summer’s end. 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.

It’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out on any hike. 

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.