Potato Chip Rock Hiking (CA)

Potato Chip Rock Hiking (CA)

  • Distance: ~11 milesshowy
  • Elevation Gain: ~2000 ft
  • Difficulty: Pretty hard. Like, not harder than teaching your cat to walk on a leash, but it’s up there.
  • Dog Friendly? Yes! But make sure your pooch is up for the steep climb. Horses are allowed on the Blue Sky trail only.
  • Costs? Parking is free if you start at Blue Sky Ecological Reserve.  If you start at Poway Lake (making this hike ~6.7 miles vs 11), you’ll incur a $5 parking fee.
  • Bring: Sunscreen (Headhunter for those like me who are Nordic by nature) water, snacks, comfortable sneakers, trekking poles, and a camera.
  • Wildlife: Along the way we witnessed “BEES!” (they might be over-exaggerating a bit with the sign) butterflies, and circling hawks.
Photo-Chip Potato-Op. The Hike.

The hike to Potato Chip Rock is a popular feat and photo op for San Diego residents and visitors alike, and the trail is bustling come late morning.

Personally I was a bit nervous about this hike. I had tried it once before from Lake Poway under the heat of the midday sun and failed miserably. And at 11 miles this was to be the longest trail hike I’d ever done.

Fortunately the first part of the trail from Blue Sky to Lake Poway begins with a flat mile that leads to a moderate climb full of scurrying lizards and lazy switchbacks.  But once you hit the Mt Woodson trail, it’s all up from there. A whole, heck of a lot of up.

The trail winds through some beautiful rocks, and in the early morning the scenery is just gorgeous as you climb through wisps of cloud cover.


As far as trails go, this one is very well maintained and marked. There are a few switchbacks and the odd outcropping of rocky stairs (always with the stairs, these SoCal hikes) and one reliably shady tree to rest under on the way up about a mile or so from the top.


Once you hit Potato Chip Rock, expect to stand in line for your photo op. There’s a small ravine in between the adjacent rock queue and the chip, but a couple friendly hands or a brave leap can get you across just fine.


If you want to make a day of it at Lake Poway, you can finish your hike with a pedal boat rental, feed the ducks, or picnic after your adventure.


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