We at DiscoverSD have written a few articles pertaining to San Diego’s amazing topography and plentiful hiking trails. As a surfer coming off a torn MCL and ACL in my right knee, I felt I was healed enough to take on the challenge of climbing the Mount Woodson Trail up to Potato Chip Rock, in the hills east of Poway.
I learned a few things on that hike, and I’d like to share them with you, along with some insight into what you may see on this adventure.
The trailhead to Potato Chip Rock starts on the east side of beautiful Lake Poway and rises 2,000 feet to the summit of Mount Woodson. The path is roughly 6.6 miles and will take you 3 to 5 hours depending on how awesome you are. For the record, I wasn’t so awesome.
Make sure you wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes and socks. I can’t stress this enough. Your initial hour and a half walking uphill is a different experience than what you will encounter heading back down the trail. Your shoes and socks will be your friend or enemy by the third hour.
I saw some crazy business on the trail. There were ladies in mom jeans and Teva sandals and guys in sweater-vests and khakis. While you’re not climbing Everest, you should take it seriously.
For you “not-so-fit” folk who have some extra thickness like I do, consider clothing that will prevent the ever-dreaded “chub rub.” That means well-fitting yoga pants or shorts for the ladies and maybe some compression shorts under your pants/shorts for the fellas. You can take or leave this advice but if your thighs touch, please consider this a golden tidbit of information.
Hiking on a hot afternoon and hiking on a cloudy cool morning are two entirely different things. Plan accordingly by checking the weather and wearing layered clothing that will make your hike much more enjoyable. Try to avoid going midday as it gets really hot and there is little to no shade on this hike.
You may have heard of this hike from friends or co-workers and maybe you want to head up there to check out the beautiful scenery this weekend. First, ask yourself a question: When was the last time you walked farther than from your cubicle to the break room?
Tips for hiking to Potato Chip Rock
Mt. Woodson trail
Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation change: 2,000 feet
Time: 3-5 hours
Trail rating: Difficult
CamelBak 50-ounce hydration pack or other water container
Sunscreen SPF 30
First aid kit
If the answer is never, then start out with something a little mellower than a 2,000-foot vertical climb. I saw more than a few people getting helped down the trail after they rolled an ankle or fell. In one case, a woman could barely walk and eventually an ambulance was called. Don’t be that person.
Look, anyone can hike on this trail, but know what you can handle and be prepared to share the trail with hundreds of people on a weekend. Besides the hacks and rookies huffing and puffing their way up (I’m talking about myself here), you will also encounter the overachieving couple running up to the top or the guy who didn’t bring water for his dog, so a crowd of people have stopped to help rehydrate the poor creature.
My point is - the trail gets crowded. When you finally get to the top after your two-hour hike, be prepared to wait for another half-hour to get that picture of yourself on the thin slab of granite. This is a good time to rest, eat a snack and take some photos.
On the way back down, take your time, as the ground is uneven and the loose dirt is a test for even the best of knees. As a reward, there is a convenience store at the parking lot. Get yourself an Otter Pop and enjoy a nap under a tree. Good luck and good hiking!