Potato Chip Rock hike up Mount Woodson
There is a lot of hoopla over the Mount Woodson hike to Potato Chip Rock in San Diego County. A quick internet search will yield a number of creative shots of brave souls who venture out on the thin, precarious, potato chip-shaped ledge to capture a daring moment in time. My sister Susanne was enamored by the photos she saw on the web and asked if I would like to hike up there with her. “Sure,” I said. We then called our sister Carylee to see if she’d like to make it a family affair. An avid hiker that she is, she quickly agreed.
While I was hoping we could hike during the week to avoid the weekend crowds, it just wasn’t possible with Susanne’s work schedule. Sunday it was, to brave the crowds and test our endurance and nerve.
There are a few ways to ascend Mount Woodson in search of Potato Chip Rock. By happenstance, we ended up choosing the shortest route, but also the steepest. With an 1100 foot gain in elevation over 2 miles, the hike certainly got our hearts pumping. We made it to the top of the mountain and found Potato Chip Rock in about an hour, but ended up waiting in line for an hour and half at our chance to scamper onto to the unnerving ledge.
It was interesting to see one person (or group) after another approach the ledge with little fear, as if falling was not even a remote possibility. I have few fears in life, and while I was excited to get out there, I would be lying if my butt didn’t pucker a little as I dangled my legs over the edge. After we each took a quick solo shot, the three of us posed for a group shot. Some people get quite creative, but I have to think many of them have been to Potato Chip Rock more than once in order to know which angles are best for shooting. Most people simple hand their phones to someone in line. I however, brought my DSLR and Joby tripod and placed it on a nearby granite boulder and attached an intervalometer. This device allowed me to get back in line with my sisters, while also taking a photo every few seconds.
After our exciting moment on the ledge of Potato Chip Rock, we meandered away and found a large boulder that was perfect to sit and enjoy the picnic lunch we had brought. The views were quite extraordinary on this clear day and it was fun to talk about our brave experience. After our lunch we leisurely made our way back to the trail-head to conclude a fun-filled day.
Tips for hiking Potato Chip Rock
- Make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks.
- Be sure to go to the bathroom before you hike, no services available. Lots of trees, brush and boulders to find privacy in a pinch.
- Wear/bring sunscreen.
- Be prepared to wait over an hour for your turn at Potato Chip Rock.
- Respect the edge. Don’t get cocky…you could fall to your death.
- Make sure you’re in good physical condition…the hike and the scrambling can be a bit challenging.
- Get creative. Look at photos on the web and see what others have done, you may want to bring props.
- The shortest hike is off Highway 67 near Romona (east side of Mt. Woodson), it’s about 4 miles round trip. The longest is over 8 miles long on the west side of Mt. Woodson, near Poway Lake.
- Duration of the hike really depends on your condition. Good condition you can make the short hike round trip (excluding time at the top) in 90 minutes or so. Plan for three hours for moderate condition.
- This hike would be best in Spring, Winter or Fall. Summer would probably be too warm for most.
If you’ve ever hiked Potato Chip Rock before, please leave a comment and share your experience and/or tips.