Monday, February 16, 2015

Potato Chip Rock Hike (Mt. Woodson)

The hike to Potato Chip Rock is a must do for any hiking enthusiast in the greater San Diego area. The hike to Potato Chip Rock begins at Lake Poway and climbs to the top of Mt. Woodson, offering spectacular views the entire way! Potato Chip Rock is located at the top of Mt. Woodson. Ashley and I, along with our friends Krystal, Grant and Brandon, recently hiked to the top of Potato Chip Rock and would highly recommend this fun hike to others. For more pictures of Potato Chip Rock and our other hikes, make sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram.

Directions to Trailhead: From San Diego, take the 15 freeway north and exit at Twin Peaks Road. Turn right and follow Twin Peaks Road to Espola Road and make a left. Just past Poway High School, make a right into the Lake Poway parking lot. Park near the concession stand after paying the entrance fee. From Orange County and Los Angeles, take the 5 freeway south towards San Diego. Take highway 78 east, towards the 15 freeway. Take the 15 freeway south and exit at Rancho Bernardo Road, turning left off of the freeway. Rancho Bernardo Road turns into Espola Road, which will bend to the right. Just past the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, take the left turn into the Lake Poway parking lot. Park near the concession stand after paying the entrance fee.

Description of Hike:The hiking trail to Potato Chip Rock is well maintained and very well marked. It would be a challenge to get lost while hiking on this trail. The hike to Potato Chip Rock is an extremely popular hike in San Diego County. Expect to see many other hikers on this out and back hike. If you are seeking solidarity on a hike, this is likely not the hike for you. However, if you are looking for great scenery, camaraderie with fellow hikers, adventure and the chance for fun entertaining pictures, then this is the hike for you!

The hiking trail to Potato Chip Rock begins at the Lake Poway parking area. The city of Poway charges non-Poway residents a $5 fee for automobiles and a $2 fee for motorcycles between March 1 and mid-November. Lake Poway, in and of itself, is a popular destination for people in the area because it has other hiking trails, offers boating and fishing and other fun outdoor recreation. The hiking trail to Potato Chip Rock begins along the west shore of Lake Poway, right by the boat dock.  The trail moves south along a use trail that eventually connects to the Mt. Woodson trail. The Mt. Woodson trail immediately gains a couple hundred feet going over a hill, before descending back close to the shore area of Lake Poway. At this point, you will come to a junction and head right, continuing on the Mt. Woodson Hiking Trail to Potato Chip Rock.

Once you begin your climb away from Lake Poway, you are 2.9 miles from the summit of Mt. Woodson. The hiking trail is up-hill pretty much the entire way from this point. The hiking trail gains serious elevation after leaving Lake Poway. In just under a mile, you will arrive at a flat open area on the right side of the hiking trail. This is a good place to take a break as well as get some pictures. Once you leave this flat area, you are about 2 miles from the summit of Mt. Woodson. As you continue along the hiking trail, you will notice the terrain getting rockier and observe large granite boulders. The hiking trail continues to be a steady up-hill hike, all the way to the top. The trail is marked, with mileage and directional signs, all the way to Potato Chip Rock. Eventually, you will start to see the antennas on the summit of Mt. Woodson. Once you start to see the antennas you know you are getting closer to your goal. The total hike is 7.8 miles round trip with about 2,300 feet of elevation gain. It is a moderately strenuous hike due to the hefty elevation gain in such a short distance.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I enjoyed our hike to the top of Mt. Woodson and our visit to Potato Chip Rock. Everyone in our group had a good time. It is important to remember this is an extremely popular hike. When we did our hike, there were probably several hundred people on the hiking trail. If you hike this area on the weekend, you can expect to wait about an hour for a picture on Potato Chip Rock (The lengthy wait is worth it though!) If you are looking to avoid long waits at Potato Chip Rock, then we would suggest starting your hike early or avoiding weekends. This was a picture of the crowd on the Saturday that we did our hike.

When planning your hike to Potato Chip Rock, make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. There is limited shade along the hiking trail. The best seasons to do attempt the hike to Potato Chip Rock are Fall, Winter and Spring. During the summer time it can get really hot in this area, so take appropriate precautions if you hike to Potato Chip Rock during the summer. Dogs are allowed on this hike, so long as they are on a leash. We were surprised at the number of small dogs we saw along the trail given this is a moderately-strenuous hike and the trail is rocky at the top.

From the top of Mt. Woodson, you get amazing scenery of Southern California. You can clearly see Downtown San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, Saddleback Mountain and other notable locations. Mt. Woodson is 2,881 feet tall and offers any hiker the ability to take great picture. The area near the top of Mt. Woodson is filled with amazing large granite boulders that are fun to look at! Please note that the actual summit of Mt. Woodson is covered with radio antennas, which does distract from the views a little.

Lastly, when you get to Potato Chip Rock, be prepared to do a little climbing and "hopping" through a series of boulders. For some this will be pretty easy, but for other there can be a little more challenging than expected. Ashley and I would highly recommend this fun hike to others!

Rating: Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 7.8 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate)

Time to Complete Hike: 4 to 5 hours.

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