The Mount Woodson Trail is one of San Diego's favorite hiking destinations, mostly because of the rewarding views at the top of the Woodson Summit. An oddly shaped rock formation known as "Potato Chip Rock" provides some fun and daring photo opportunities. Along with great views, this hike will also give you with a great workout with intense elevation gain of 2,100 feet as you climb up the trail. I personally don't find it too strenuous, but others have told me that it was intense for them. On the way up the mountain the trail is pretty much all uphill with a somewhat steep incline. You'll feel the burn in those calves for sure! From the Mt. Woodson trailhead to the top at Potato Chip Rock, you can expect to hike over 7.6 miles roundtrip. Hiking up to Potato Chip Rock is totally one of those San Diego bucket list items everyone needs to try.
Top Ten Tips for Hiking to Potato Chip Rock
1. Beat the heat - I strongly recommend heading out to the trail early in the morning before the sun is at its full intensity. There's little shade on the trail from the sun and the heat will make your hike much harder.
2. Stay hydrated - When you begin walking up the trail you'll see a sign that says "Bring plenty of water." They’re not kidding! You will be sweating up a storm and you'll need all the hydration you can get.
3. Wear proper shoes - I know we all want to look cute for our photos at Potato Chip Rock but make sure you've got appropriate footwear for climbing mountains A.K.A. no sandals or fashion boots. Your feet will need all the help they can get to make it to the top. Also while climbing onto the rocks there are some steep parts that will require you to jump.
4. Avoid the weekend - Because Potato Chip Rock is such a popular destination for photos, on the weekends there's often a long line for photos at the rock. Best way to avoid this is to hike during the week when the line is shorter. Heading out to the trail early before the crowds helps as well.
5. Rattlesnakes - On my second time hiking the trail I was looking for a comfy rock to rest and drink some water. As I searched around for a spot, I noticed a rattlesnake coiled up and chilling on a rock. I'm not terribly afraid of snakes so I didn't panic (too much lol) but my friend literally ran up the hill. Lesson learned, when hiking the trail be aware of your surroundings and don't accidentally sit on a snake.
6. Rise with the sunrise - While I was walking up the trail, a fellow hiker told me that the best time to take photos on Potato Chip Rock was around 5am (or whenever the sun in rising). I would totally do this but I haven't found a hiking buddy willing to get up so early.
7. Plan your photoshoot - I've seen some really creative photos taken at Potato Chip rock, including yoga poses, Lion King Simba style family portrait and even eating potato chips on the rock. Plan ahead and bring along some fun props for a one-of-a-kind photo.
8. Go bouldering - During our hike we caught glimpses of some very daring rock climbers who were scaling the sides of giant boulders, A.K.A. bouldering. Give it a try if you're up to the challenge!
9. Choose your path - There's two trail heads leading to Potato Chip Rock. I prefer to begin at 16310 Highway 67, Ramona, Ca because I've heard it's shorter but more intense. I like a challenging hike and I like getting to the top faster. I've never taken the second trail which begins at 14644 Lake Poway Rd, Lake Poway Park, Poway, Ca. If you try the Poway trail let me know how it goes!
10. Photo tip - If possible plan your hike during the springtime to enjoy more lush greens. In the dead of summer much of the landscape has dried up and turned brown. Don't worry, it will still be worth it any time of year!
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