San Diego Man Hiking Potato Chip Rock


If you’re an avid hiker who happens to find yourself on – Potato Chip Rock and the east coast of the US, you’re going to be spoiled for choice with the great outdoors.

The greater California area is abundant with trails and treks, serving up enough adventures for a lifetime. One of the most popular treks is Mount Woodsen, in San Diego.

While it’s no Everest, the trek is challenging enough for experienced hikers, yet also one that the whole family can enjoy, if you are ​prepare for a ​hike.

​At the top, you’ll find the prize that attracts thousands of hikers to the area each year – Potato Chip Rock.

What is Potato Chip Rock?

Firstly, let’s just dispel any crazy notion you have that there is a huge rock made from potato chips at the summit.

Potato Chip Rock is one of the most photographed landmarks in San Diego, and when you get there, you’ll understand why. This unusually flat rock juts out from a larger boulder, providing a platform that looks somewhat like a potato chip – made from a rock. You can also stay in camping tents if you want.

​Every year, people come here to conquer the fear of heights so they can get an iconic shot to post on social media.

Instagram glory aside, you’ll find enough beautiful views in the surrounding areas and long the trail that you can easily turn this into a whole day adventure. From a picnic to a swim in the lake, a great day awaits at Mt. Woodsen. Are you ready for the climb?

Key Considerations Before Hiking Potato Chip Rock

You don’t need to be a pro, but here’s the lowdown on the hike so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.


From getting out of your car in the parking lot, until you sit down on that big potato chip and admire the sunset, it’s 7.5 miles.

Elevation Gain

It’s around 2000 feet higher at the top.

Average Time to Complete

This varies depending on how fit you are, but most people can do it inside 3-4 hours.

Is it pet-friendly?

That depends how friendly you are to your pets. It’s hot in San Diego. We wouldn’t advise you drag a little terrier or an overweight, aging St. Bernard up there. However, if your fur babies are as strong, fit, and healthy as you, and you set off in the cool, early morning, then they may well enjoy the adventure. Just bring plenty of water for them.

Is it kid-friendly?

This is a long hike, with steep inclines. It’s awesome if your kids like to hike and have outdoor adventures, but this one is tough. Unless they’ve got some good experience on challenging treks, and they enjoyed it, we’d advise you let them sit this one out.

Are there bathroom facilities?

The hike begins at the Poway Lake Recreation Area. This large park has the restrooms you need before setting off. Take the opportunity, because it’s the last chance for a civilized toilet. There are a few Porta-potties near the lake, but once the trail really starts, you’ll have to make do with “bush toilets”.

How to ​Get to Potato Chip Rock?

Okay, so you’re not scared off yet?

Awesome! Now that we know you’re as tough as old boots, let’s show you where to take those boots…

  1. Get on to the 15 freeway, either north or south will do.
  2. Then make your way along it until you reach the Rancho Bernardo Road Exit. and take Rancho Bernardo Road east.
  3. Take that exit. It will become Espola Road at the Pomerado Road crossing. Stay on Espola Road to head east, going round the bend to the right.
  4. Stay on the road until you reach Lake Poway Road. Turn left on Lake Poway Road.
  5. Follow it and it will bring you to the Lake Poway Recreation Area.

The address is :

 Lake Poway Park, 14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064

Essential Equipment When Hiking Potato Chip Rock

Whether or not you are fit and healthy, you’re going to need some ​​mountain ​bike ​gear to conquer Mt. Woodsen. Don’t make the rookie mistake of turning up in your flip-flops and shades, without only the spit in your mouth to keep you hydrated.

​Come prepared, not only for yourself but for those who rely on you. That could be your whiney boyfriend, a tantrum-throwing daughter or your adorably fat cat.

Here are some essentials:
  • Enough water to last the whole trip. A hydration pack is better than bottles, as it allows you to keep your hands free. Don’t underestimate how hot it is, or how much water you really need. It’s better to be over-prepared than to be literally dying of thirst.
  • ​​Hiking backpacks and boots and that ensure you have a comfortable climb and solid grip when the going gets tough. Or you can also read ​hiking ​clothes ​buyer’s ​guide.
  • Snacks to keep your energy perked, like bananas, trail mix, or a protein bar.
  • Your camera, for all those shots to make your social media friends green with envy about how exciting your life is.
  • Sunscreen and a good hat for everyone in the party. (Old Bagapuss should be okay without a hat on her furry, fat head)

How to Hike Potato Chip Rock

So, all set? We’ve already told you how to get to the start.Once, you reach the Lake Poway park, you can get out of the vehicle and do some light stretches to warm the old limbs and joints up.

  • Get a little sunscreen on, affix your hats, and chug some of that H2O. Reach into the radio to turn off ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and then lock the car, sealing the fate of everyone, no matter how scared they may be.
  • Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom, and apply a final dusting of talcum powder on the cat’s paws.
It’s time!!!
  • The trailhead is at the right-hand side of Lake Poway, and it snakes around to the back end. Follow it around, until you reach the far side of the lake.
  • The porta-potties are here, which is the last chance saloon for those who drank too much water or beer in the car ride.
  • WalkingNow, it starts climbing up a steep fire road. For the next 15 to 30 minutes, your fitness level will be put to the test. If you’re just an Instagram hiker, then this might break you like it would a small, weak child. Even if you have a few hikes under your belt, this will get your thighs burning.
  • WalkingTake your mind off the physical torture by turning around to check out the beautiful view of the San Diego countryside. There are plenty of dark patches around, which are remnants of the 2007 wildfire. Nevertheless, it’s very picturesque.
  • WalkingWhen you reach the top of the fire road, you’ll be glad to see the trail levels out. This is a good spot for a little rest stop to catch your breath and admire the scenery. You’ll find a picnic table there to rest your legs, and you can also give any pets a chance to do their business. Just do the decent thing and make use of the dog bags and daypack for hiking provided nearby.
  • WalkingAfter this, the trail becomes a single track, staying level until you reach a fork in the road. Going straight leads onto Warren Canyon Trail. This goes east for roughly 2.3 miles, then runs to Highway 67. Alternatively, taking the left-hand option will bring you up Mt Woodson Peak Trail, allowing to reach the summit in 1.9 miles.
  • WalkingThe trick here is that there are quite a few switchbacks on the summit trail, many of which get a little tough, and shade is a rare luxury along the way. There is one shady tree though, which makes for a good pit stop.
  • WalkingAfter the refuge of the shady tree, the incline gets a little easier, much to the delight of your poor suffering calves, kids, and cat. The trail will split again, giving you an option to get off the summit trail in favor of the Fry/Koegel Trail.
Only 1.3 miles to go.
  • A couple of hundred meters later, another split will test your weary minds. Stick with the summit trail, working your way to the ridge. You’ll then be able to check out amazing views on either side.
  • Follow the ridge to the top, where at last you’ll find the famous Potato Chip Rock. Hopefully, it’s not too busy, but you can expect to join a queue before striking a pose with your exhausted kitty and wailing kids.

Final Tips for Potato Chip Rock

Man Standing in Potato Chip Rock

Hiking 7.5 miles to an elevation of 2,000 feet in the baking Californian sun might not sound like a bright idea, even for hardened hikers. It certainly is a trek that you need to prepare well for, especially if you are going in a group that includes young kids and pets.

Of course, it’s definitely possible for children and dogs to enjoy this hike, but you’ll need to tailor the mission to their abilities. That may mean starting before dawn when the sun is low or bringing comedy-sized sombreros and a drone that can carry several gallons of water.

Another option is to try the alternative route from SR-67, which is much quicker and is well-suited for kids and those people who care less about hiking, and more about getting that perfect pic at Potato Chip Rock.

All that being said, if you and your party want a truly memorable experience here, then you should time your visit to stay for the sunset. Just make sure you park outside the car park as it closes at 8 pm.

Also, don’t forget to bring some flashlights for the walk down. You can attach a headlamp on Bagapuss if it makes things easier.

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