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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.
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:
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.
The Lake Poway Trail will lead to the Mt Woodson Trail.
From there you are climbing!
While it’s undoubtedly a tough workout, the views are spectacular.
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 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.
Take photos for others and they will do the same for you!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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:
It’s also a GREAT idea to pair the Potato Chip Rock hike with a tasting tour of the Ramona Valley Wine Region!
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.