If you associate potato chips with unwanted calories, get ready for a re-education. You’ll burn a lot of energy on the hike to Potato Chip Rock—a one-of-a-kind boulder jutting out from the top of Mount Woodson in north San Diego County. Before you gain bragging rights (picture walking on a twelve-foot-long granite diving board at the top of a mountain), you’ve first got to hike 3.8 thigh-burning miles (one-way) up Mount Woodson Trail from the Lake Poway Recreation Area. Things start off leisurely enough along the 64-acre Lake Poway.
Then the haul begins as you climb up, up, and up a boulder-strewn mountainside. The lake shrinks in your rearview while the vistas expand over the surrounding valleys and small mountain ranges. You’ll catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean to the west as the trail turns east, closing out the 1,800-foot ascent on a ridge covered in a garden of boulders. Potato Chip Rock pops out just below the antenna-tower-covered summit. Inch your way out to the edge of this boulder for a gravity-defying experience. Take a victory photo: you’re the king of Potato Chip Castle.
Start from Lake Poway Recreation Area (14656 Lake Poway Rd. in Poway; map). Hike up Mount Woodson Trail for 3.8 miles to Potato Chip Rock, just below the summit. There is a $5 entrance fee for the park, open sunrise to sunset. Dog-friendly!