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Mt Woodson Hike to Potato Chip Rock

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The Mt Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock is a beautiful 7.3-mile out and back from Lake Poway to the summit of Mt Woodson. This hike is a great workout with beautiful views. You’ll break a sweat on the climb up, but it isn’t so difficult that you won’t be laughing the whole way.

Potato Chip Rock

And if you’re brave enough to climb out on Potato Chip Rock, the jaw-dropping photo is the reward for your efforts!

Mt Woodson Hike to Potato Chip Rock Video:

If you prefer video, check out the beautiful views here:

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How to do the Mt Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock

After parking at Lake Poway, you’ll find the Lake Poway Trail that winds beautifully around the lake.

Lake Poway at the start of the mt woodson hike to potato chip rock
Lake Poway

The Lake Poway Trail will lead to the Mt Woodson Trail.

Trail sign on the mt woodson hike

From there you are climbing!

view from the mt woodson hike

While it’s undoubtedly a tough workout, the views are spectacular.

view on the mt woodson trail

You’ll know you are close when you see the cell towers that sit at the Mt Woodson summit. And you’ll turn a corner and see your first view of Potato Chip Rock!

Potato Chip Rock
First view of Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock itself is not as scary as it looks. There is ground some 40-feet beneath you, so you’re not hanging out over nothing…exactly. It’s definitely still a place to be very careful. Clamber up slowly, take your time.

Sitting on Potato Chip Rock

Take photos for others and they will do the same for you!

Women on potato chip rock

Head another 0.2 miles to the summit of Mt Woodson if you like, but it’s really just a cell tower location. We chose to sit just beneath Potato Chip Rock and enjoy the view and a summit beverage as a reward for our climb.

Summit beverage on the mt woodson hike to potato chip rock
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How long is the Mt Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock?

This is a 7.3-mile out and back that takes about four hours.

How long will it take to reach Potato Chip Rock?

The climb up to Potato Chip Rock takes about two hours. The Mt Woodson summit is just 0.2 miles beyond Potato Chip Rock. It’s worth it just to reach the end of the hike, but the summit itself is covered in cell towers.

The entire hike takes about four hours, including the stop for a picture at Potato Chip Rock and a summit beverage if you’re so inclined. (Don’t mind if I do!)

Summit beverage on the mt woodson hike

The hike down is quick. If you don’t stop for a photo or beverage, the Mt Woodson hike is doable in three hours.

Is it safe to climb Potato Chip Rock?

Potato Chip Rock looks a lot scarier than it really is. To reach the rock, you need to embark on a short scramble as you sort of shimmy up the rock (some people jump from a large boulder nearby, but I found the scramble to be an easier option for me).

Once out on the ledge, there is ground some 40-feet beneath you. As long as you don’t try any risky poses like hanging off the rock, you’ll be just fine. The hardest part is getting back down!

In sum: Yes, it’s safe to take the Potato Chip Rock photo as long as you don’t try anything stupid.

Is there a shorter trail to Potato Chip Rock?

There is! You can take the less crowded 4-mile walk via the access road (HWY 67). It’s paved and far less pretty, but if you’re in a hurry to get to Potato Chip Rock, this is your answer.

Where do you park?

Park at the Lake Poway parking lot (14644 Lake Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92064).

You’ll find the Lake Poway Trail right there at the parking lot. It connects to the Mt Woodson Trail, which takes you all the way to Potato Chip Rock and the summit of Mt Woodson.

Sign on the Mt Woodson hike

How much does it cost to park?

It’s free to park at Lake Poway on the weekdays. It’s $10 for non-Poway residents on weekends and holidays.

Are dogs allowed on the Mt Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock?

Yes! Dogs are allowed when on a leash.

dogs are allowed on the mt woodson hike

Tips for taking the Mt Woodson Hike to Potato Chip Rock

Go on a weekday. This is one of those popular hikes where you’ll have to wait in a long line for your famous photo-op if you go on the weekend. But on a Friday in May, we had almost no wait and the trail wasn’t crowded at all.

View of Lake Poway at the start of the Mt Woodson hike

Where to stay near the Mt Woodson Hike to Potato Chip Rock

I recommend staying in San Diego. Here are nearby homes and hotels to rent:

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It’s also a GREAT idea to pair the Potato Chip Rock hike with a tasting tour of the Ramona Valley Wine Region!

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About the Author

Hi! I’m Jen!

I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.

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  1. John Quinn says:

    This is one of those places that you wonder why it has a peculiar name, until you see a photo. Very cool. Well worth the bit of strenuous exercise.

  2. Oh wow! I had never heard of this place before. I would love to visit it but at the same time, I don’t see myself standing up on that edge, you must be brave!

    1. Right? It made no sense to me until I rounded the bend and saw that rock that looks, undoubtedly, like a Potato Chip!

  3. Wow that was an exhilarating hikeexperience to potato chip rock!I loved the pic of you guys on Potato chip rock! The view from the top is amazing! I’m adding it to my bucket list ?

  4. How cool is this rock formation! And what I like more about it, it’s a dog-friendly trail. So I can visit with my dog. Yay!

  5. LOL, it really looks like a potato chip :). I have been to SD many times but I’ve even heard about the Potato Chip rock.

  6. I can’t believe I live in San Diego and I have never hiked to Potato Chip Rock! I’m pinning your article for tips on when I get there. All your info is helpful. And I wasn’t sure whether dogs are allowed — good to know they are!

  7. Digitaldaybook says:

    Lol the name totally got me but so fun would love a hike like this

  8. The Mt Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock looks amazing and the photos of Potato Chip Rock look very cool. Lake Poway is absolutely stunning too.

    1. Lake Poway is a great place to relax after that climb! Thank you for reading, Wendy.

    1. Definitely wouldn’t want to fall those 40 feet! Thanks for reading!

  9. The photos look beautiful. But 40 feet of thin air beneath a couple of feet of rock? Thanks no haha… not for someone like me who’s afraid of heights. I like your thinking about taking beverages with you for rehydration. Definitely the way to go!

    1. It’s all about the “rehydration,” right? Yeah, a fear of heights might rule this particular photo-op out for you. It’s not as bad as it looks…but it’s still a long way down!

  10. What an absolutely fun hike! 7+ miles isnt too bad. Looks like you guys had a great time 🙂

    1. It’s a really fun hike. I just need to get back into hiking shape so my breathing won’t be quite so heavy in the videos! 🙂

  11. Amazing, potato chip rock really does look like a potato chip! It looks like it’s not only about the destination but also about the journey because Lake Poway and the views are stunning!

  12. Susan Elko says:

    You had me at Potato Chip but of course I watched the video and loved the commentary and pictures. Good to see you two back in action especially on such a scenic overhang??❤️

    1. It was good to be back in action with my travel buddy!

    2. Looks like a great hike and a great place for a photo. I think the 40 feet would still freak me out but wouldn’t stop me from going out on the rock for a photo!

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