Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
2,300.00 ft (701.04 m)
Trail type
7.50 mi (12.07 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

This there-and-back hike to Potato Chip Rock and the summit of Mount Woodson is quite strenuous, although you may not believe it based on the sheer number of people who complete this trail. Its popularity is due to the unique broken boulder about a quarter of a mile from the summit. Strategic cropping of a photo will give the impression that climbing out onto the rock is much more extreme than it is in reality.

Potato Chip Rock is the most popular photo op, but this hike doesn't skimp on views. The first few miles gradually slope up around Lake Poway, providing excellent views of the lake. As the trail gets steeper, the view opens up all the way to the Pacific Ocean with the city of San Diego silhouetted against it. Chaparral and boulders decorate the landscape, and there are few trees to obstruct the view (or to offer shade). The boulders are popular with climbers, both for bouldering and top-rope climbs. Plants of the chaparral offer up tiny flowers and berries, and stopping to examine these is a great excuse to catch your breath.

Be sure to take plenty of water, as the trail is both exposed and strenuous. Leashed dogs are allowed on this hike, and be sure to bring extra water for your pet. The hike begins at Lake Poway Park, which is loaded with amenities like restrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, and benches.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Lake Poway Park Parking Fee


Great views along most of the trail. Fun photo opportunity.


Crowded. Long wait for a photo. Exposed for much of the trail. Radio towers at the summit.

Trailhead Elevation

945.00 ft (288.04 m)


Bird watching
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Suitable for



Nearby Lodging + Camping


I would urge you to try and get there before the park opens for a few reasons 1) First in line, so no waiting for hours, yes hours, to make the jump. 2) Cooler weather 3) If you are first, and alone, you'll need to wait for someone to take your picture from the angle shown in the article, otherwise you'll need to do the selfie thing. 4) If you are going to make the jump. Also, in case someone hasn't said it already, there are a few restrooms along the way.
To be honest the actual journey to the top is pretty bland. Just a paved road leading to Potato Chip with some views and a long line for your quick photo. I only came here because I was in the area. Bring your water and get ready for an uphill battle.
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