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While San Diego is known for its beaches, there is so much more natural beauty to enjoy beyond the sand and water. For months I’ve stared enviously at pictures that friends have taken from the top of Mount Woodson and on Potato Chip Rock. But I never made it to the hike because…it’s in Poway. If you are a fellow Carmel Valley resident, you might find it hard to get outside of the bubble. Why drive all the way out to Poway, where this hike is located, when Torrey Pines is practically in our backyards?
But few weeks ago, a friend invited me, and I seized the opportunity. I definitely wasn’t disappointed! The hike starts at stunning Lake Poway and weaves through the mountains until you reach the top which features breath-taking ocean views and unique Potato Chip Rock. Perhaps you’ve seen photos of it before, but thought, “Where in the world was that photo taken? It can’t possibly be in San Diego!” Think again! Poway is actually closer than you might think.
While the view is worth the trek, it takes commitment to make it to the top. Roundtrip, the hike is seven and a half miles. Moving at a moderate to quick pace, you can make it to the top in two hours and then back down in another hour. To be on the safe side though, plan on a four-hour window. Additionally, allow time to take photos on Potato Chip Rock. Particularly on the weekends, expect to wait between fifteen and thirty minutes before getting on the rock, as a line forms to give everyone a fair chance at a photo-op. Also, be prepared to jump a short distance in order to get onto the rock.
Finally, be sure to take enough water along and, if you plan to employ a more leisurely pace, bringing a snack is advised. Given its location, the temperature is considerably warmer in the summer than at the beaches. This time of year is perfect as dehydration is less likely to occur with the milder temperatures.
So this weekend, put on your adventure hat and hiking shoes and get out to Mount Woodson!
Darcie Czajkowski lives, works, and plays in Carmel Valley. While she is a securities litigation attorney by day, her passions lie in writing, cooking, and traveling. She has written two women’s fiction novels and is pursuing publication. She also enjoys playing tennis, hiking at Torrey Pines State Reserve, and frequenting North County’s best happy hour spots.