Potato Chip Rock Hike

For a one of a kind photo opportunity, the hike to Potato Chip Rock and the summit of Mount Woodson is a great way to get out of the city and enjoy a great workout for both beginner hikers and experienced trail runners alike. Potato Chip Rock is a brittle looking granite boulder shard that is an iconic hotspot for amateur photographers and anyone looking for a quirky weekday brunch spot.

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lake poway – Mount woodson Trail details

Distance                      ~7.5 miles (12.1 km) Round Trip

Terrain                        Gravel, Dirt, Rock Stairs (Well Maintained and Heavily Trafficked)

Style                             Out and Back

Difficulty                     Hard (Your Legs Will Burn but It’s Nothing Extreme)

Hike Time (Total)        3-4 Hours Roundtrip on Weekdays and Early Morning Weekends.
4+ Hours On Weekends If Starting After 9 A.M.
(You Could Wait >30min to Take a Photo at Potato Chip Rock on Weekends)

Route                           The Trail is Well Marked and Heavily Trafficked

Features                      Lake, Panoramic Views, and Unique Natural Rock Formations

Total Ascent                2,130 feet (649m)

Highest Elevation         2,846 feet (867m)

Tips                             Avoid Shortcuts for the Best Panoramic Views

Who is this Hike For?
Hiking to Potato Chip Rock via Mount Woodson Trail is the most popular route and offers the best climb for hikers looking to push themselves. It’s the longest and most difficult of the three possible routes to Potato Chip Rock, so if you are looking for a strenuous route with lots of steps to climb, this route is for you. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea but you’re in decent shape, slow down, take your time, and try it out with a friend; you may surprise yourself at what you can do! The Lake Poway-Mount Woodson Trailhead begins on the west side of the lake right next to the Lake Poway Recreation Office and continues around the lake up to Potato Chip Rock and then to Mount Woodson Summit. Shortly after you see the cell phone towers at the top of the summit, you will reach the start of the paved road, Potato Chip Rock will be on your left! From there you can continue to the summit to get a better view, or head back down and avoid the crowds.

highway 67 – Mount woodson rd (shortcut) details

Distance                      ~4.2 miles (6.8 km) Round Trip

Terrain                        Paved Road

Style                             Out and Back

Difficulty                     Moderate-Hard (Shorter Distance but Still Steep Enough Your Legs Will Burn)

Hike Time (Total)        2-3 Hours Roundtrip
(You Could Wait >30min to Take a Photo at Potato Chip Rock on Weekends)

Route                           Follow the Paved Road the Entire Way

Features                      Panoramic Views, and Unique Natural Rock Formations

Total Ascent                1,168 feet (356m)

Highest Elevation         2,846 feet (867m)

Tips                             Get There Early to Guarantee a Parking Spot (Roadside Parking Only)

Who is this Hike For?
Hiking to Potato Chip Rock via Mount Woodson Road is for those who are looking for a quick workout or a paved hike without paying park fees. It’s a shorter hike than leaving from Poway Lake but don’t let it fool you, you’re still going to need to stop and rest a couple times on the way up. This route is optimal for those pushing strollers or are looking at running the route (just beware of the highway traffic when loading and unloading!). The Highway 67-Mount Woodson Road Trailhead, also known as the Potato Chip Rock Hike Shortcut begins by parking on the north side of Highway 67 near Mount Woodson Road and follows the pavement to Mount Woodson Summit, then continues further on to Potato Chip Rock. Potato Chip Rock is only 0.6 miles from the summit and is a nice downhill break for your legs after the climb. This is a low impact route and is suitable for most hikers in good shape that want a smooth but steep climb.

Note: There is a local fire station nearby so try to park as far off the road as possible (getting a good parking spot isn’t worth someone’s life waiting on emergency responders!)

Things to bring

If you’re planning on taking photos, be sure to bring a buddy if the crowds are light or you are hiking early in the morning. There’s no shade along either route to Potato Chip Rock via the trail or the paved road so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and lots of water! It gets extremely hot because the trail is completely exposed so be sure to take an extra liter or bottle of water in addition to what you’d expect to drink. Hiking Poles are not necessary but can be used to get a leg up climbing the stairs and steep grades. As always, bringing a medical pouch, and something to snack on is always good idea!


Hours of Operation:

Lake Poway Park is open year-round from 6AM to Sunset (Except Christmas and Thanksgiving). That being said, if you will be arriving after 5PM consider planning your trip for another day, or pick the alternative shortcut route, because the park may close during your hike.

Fees & Permits :          

For anyone who can sneak away during the week, Parking is Free to both residents and non-residents, and spots are always open. Weekend and Holiday Parking costs $10.00 for non-Poway residents.

Dog Friendly:              

Dogs are welcome but must be restrained on a 6ft leash and are not permitted within 100ft of the Lake Poway shoreline, otherwise normal dog courtesies are always in effect (clean up waste etc.).


There are restrooms, picnic tables, and water fountains located near the Lake Poway parking lot; however, there are no portable restrooms located on the actual Mount Woodson Trail itself. If you are hiking to Potato Chip rock via Highway 67 on Mount Woodson Rd, sometimes there are port-o-potties located next to the road depending on the time of year, but it’s best to get your business done before the hike. Lake Poway also offers a softball field, horseback riding, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, boating, and an archery range.


Trail/Park Website      https://poway.org/502/Lake-Poway

Trail Map                     https://poway.org/DocumentCenter/View/837/Poway-Trails-Map-PDF

Trailhead Address      Mount Woodson Trail, Poway, CA 92064

Park Phone                  858-668-4772

Additional Tips, realistic expectations, and Information when hiking potato chip rock

  • Don’t expect a full-blown nature experience. You’re not far enough out of the city to be truly secluded.
  • Mount Woodson is home to powerlines, cell phone towers, and buildings, so sometimes taking pictures of the scenery means avoiding the man-made structures for the right shot.
  • Snakes and critters are always about so be cautious on trails and don’t forget that even though you are close to the city, you still need to be alert.
  • Be sure to leave early and beat the crowds to avoid waiting in lines for a photo.
  • Solo Hikers: Unfortunately, selfies don’t work because it is a perspective shot, but as long as a willing hiker is around you can still get that epic photo you were hoping for.
  • Taking pictures on top of Potato Chip Rock requires jumping across a couple rocks but it’s nothing too scary. Potato Chip Rock is secure, but as with any climb be sure to visually inspect the surface and test your footing before committing to any climb. The ledge itself is only around a 15ft drop, but you can definitely feel it shake as people jump back and forth moving across it.
  • For an epic breakfast, be the first one up and pack your food in a thermos to keep it hot.
  • Check the weather before any hike! Things change fast, don’t get caught on top of a mountain while it’s lightning!
  • If you would like to do both trails on the same day, bring two cars and park at separate trail heads creating a drop off, so you can see both sides of the mountain.


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