The Potato Chip Via Mt. Woodson Trail

Activity: Day Hike

Date: March 4, 2019

Mt. Woodson Trail, Poway, California

Less than 8 miles, 4 hours in duration, over 2,100′ change in elevation, rated Hard

This is a must do hike for locals and visitors to the Poway area. It was rated as hard, but I would have to disagree with that rating as I would say it is moderate. Perhaps they gave it that rating as it has a descent elevation change over a fairly short amount of mileage. The elevation is quite gradual as you are pretty much always climbing as you head for the summit.

The terrain is very interesting it’s not alpine, it’s not desert, it’s something else. What it is, at least for my trip, was rolling green hills, (green from this winter’s unusual rain amounts), covered with brush and dotted with boulders, some of which are monstrous.

The most interesting of all the rock formations along the Mt Woodson Trail is the “Potato Chip.” I have never seen anything like it. It appears to me a large boulder where the whole underneath has eroded away leaving basically a “Walk the Plank, Arrrrr!” type of platform. It looks as thin and frail as a potato chip thus the name, “The Potato Chip”.

When you walk the plank, or in this case the Potato Chip, some say you can hear your foot steps echo as it vibrates with each step you take. You can only truly appreciate the peril of the situation if you are the person taking the picture. The person whom took my photo squealed, “oh geez”, as I just walked out there to the edge and especially when I dangled my feet over the side. He told me when he had gone out on the rock he crawled. From the top it pretty much looks like any other boulder you might be walking on. I figured I was not the first one to ever try this feat so it must be okay.

The “Potato Chip” is just shy of the Mt Woodson summit. If you care to dare then this is the only scrambling you will do on the trip, as you climb up on the first boulder. Then you take a bit of a leap over a crevasse to get out onto the rock. After my little adrenaline rush I slid down the boulder on the seat of my pants while attempting to jam my hiking boot into a crack as I went down to slow my descent.

The Mt Woodson trail has outstanding views in all directions much of the hike, but especially from the summit. Even though this was a cloudy Winter Monday, with temperatures in the 50’s, (which by the way is the perfect time to go as it is not too crowded), I could in the distance make out the skyline of downtown San Diego, Point Loma, and even further out a couple of islands off of Mexico.

I mentioned I went at the perfect time as it wasn’t too crowded. I did run into nearly 100 hikers on this well traveled hike but spread out nicely over the 8 mile trek. On a nice weekend, I am told, the wait to get your picture taken on the “Potato Chip” can be over an hour.

Really loved this hike, great workout, fantastic scenery, and the “Potato Chip” is pretty darn cool.

To access this hike I started in Lake Poway Park. There is a trail heading toward the Mt. Woodson Trail that goes by Poway Lake and then instead of following it around the lake you head on up.

Spring is on the way.

The “Potato Chip”

Summit of Mt Woodson

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One of the monstrous boulders along the trek.

Rock staircase along the Mt Woodson Trail

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