Hike to Potato Chip Rock from Mt. Woodson Trail at Lake Poway

HIKE TO: Potato Chip Rock
TRAIL: Lake Poway Trail > Mt. Woodson Trail
MILES: 7.5 miles
TIME: 3:50 hrs
DATE I WENT: 12/27/14
DIFFICULTY: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,881 ft
PARKING: parking lot at Lake Poway, see details below
LOCATION: Poway, Southern California
potato chip rock hike

Potato Chip Rock Hike in Lake Poway is a popular hiking trail located in San Diego County, California. The trail is known for its moderately steep ascent, scenic views of the surrounding mountains, and of course, the iconic Potato Chip Rock at the summit. The trail is approximately 7.5 miles round trip, and while it can be challenging, the reward at the top makes it all worth it. Potato Chip Rock is a unique geological formation that juts out from the mountain, resembling a potato chip, and offers stunning views of the area. This hike is a must-do for anyone looking for a challenging and rewarding adventure in San Diego.

I’ll admit – one of the reasons I really wanted to do this hike was for the Pride Rock photo opp: I wanted to get a photo holding Argy like in the Lion King pose with Simba.

I have been trying to plan this hike with my brother for at least a month now, but something always came up.  It was chilly at 49° Saturday morning but I was determined to do it. (I did this hike before I learned about hiking layers). My alarm was set to 5:30 am, we were on our way from the west side at 6:30 am, and arrived by 8:25 am with a crowd for parking.

How long of a hike is Potato Chip Rock?

The hike took us 3 hrs 50 mins to complete.  We hiked under 8 miles with almost 2,000 ft elevation.

Where does Potato Chip Rock hike start?

The hike to the famous Potato Chip Rock near San Diego starts at Lake Poway. The Mt. Woodson Trail technically starts on the Lake Poway Trail

Potato Chip Rock Parking Fee

There is a $10 fee for parking for non-residents on weekends and holidays. Poway residents and militaries with ID are free of charge. There is a free overflow parking lot at the bottom of Lake Poway Road.

Lake Poway

How to get to Potato Chip from Mt. Woodson Trail?

Facing the lake, the trail starts on the right side. It’s a wide, straightforward trail and there are so many trail signs that you cannot get lost. You start on the Lake Poway Trail and merge onto the Mt. Woodson Trail once you reach the end of the lake. 

The hike is a gradual incline for the first half and then you see the elevation shoot up with lots of rocks and small boulders along the path. There is little to no shade on this hike.

We got to the top around 10:15 am and left by 11. It was a stupid, long line in the freezing cold at the top to take a picture with the Potato Chip Rock… but I did not make the trip over just to see it and not take a picture – of course, I had to!

Potato Chip Rock is a lot smaller than it appears in photos, and the drop down is very close.

You have to get on this big rock to get to the potato chip rock.  That rock is doable to climb, but still pretty tall.  I had to stretch my legs pretty high.  Then there is the small jump to the potato chip rock.  It is easier to just leap to it than trying to climb down to it.  It’s maybe 2-3 ft wide and 2 ft lower.  Totally doable… just not while carrying Argy.  I had to leave him behind for someone to watch and hand over to me.

Well, our turn finally came and I was holding on to Argy for dear life.  I knew I was not going to drop him, I could never do that to him, but the thought did linger in the back of my mind.  What if he’s scared and squirms in my arms up there and slips?  My arms were already tired and sore from carrying him, and numb from the freezing weather, so it did take effort to extend him in my arms for our kodak moment.  The first time, I got nervous and pulled him back in.  The second time, I did hold him straight out quickly before my arms gave out.  I may work out a lot, but I lack upper body strength still.  Oh, & the rock is not a very high drop down… but I am still afraid of heights so it was scary to get close to the ledge.  

To get off the rock, most people say you go up one way and there’s a general understanding that you go down through the hole you jumped from. It’s steep and I’ve heard people say they crawl down, or they go down right behind their man, but since I had Argy, the people behind me did not mind me going back the way I came up.  I had to climb back up from the rock though, so someone had to hold him for me and he kept trying to get away.  He jumped to me as soon as I got up.

After waiting 45 mins in line to get a photo on Potato Chip Rock, we hiked back down the same way.

Other San Diego Hikes You Might Like

6 pack of peaks 14er alpine lakes angeles national forest arizona backpacking baldwin hills scenic overlook big pine biking city hike colorado Death Valley eastern sierra gear gear guide hiking los angeles mammoth mountaineering national park san diego san gabriel mountains san juan santa monica mountains snow socal utah waterfall winter workout

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top