Potato Chip Rock

Back in March right before COVID shutdowns, my husband and I spent three days in San Diego. A highlight of the trip was our hike to Potato Chip Rock. Potato Chip Rock is an aptly named natural rock formation at the summit of Mt. Woodson in nearby Poway. It’s more of a Pringle than a regular potato chip, but you get the idea. Here are my top tips for hiking to Potato Chip Rock including how to get the best photos.

1. Where to Park for Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock is a 7.6 mile out and back hike on the Mt. Woodson Trail in Poway, about 30 minutes outside of San Diego. To hike Potato Chip Rock, you will have to pay $10 to park at Lake Poway. There are bathroom facilities near the parking lot which I suggest taking advantage of before the hike! From the parking lot, head towards the lake for the Mt. Woodston Trailhead. The trail is well-marked. Keep following signs for Mt. Woodson Summit. You’ll easily spot Potato Chip Rock once you make it to the top.

Lake Poway

2. What to Pack for Hiking Potato Chip Rock

At almost 8 miles, this isn’t the easiest hike, but it’s certainly not too strenuous. That said, it took us a several hours total including times for pictures (and waiting in line for pictures). You’ll want plenty of water especially if you’re hiking in the summer. There is little shade on the trail so sunscreen and sunglasses are also necessary. When we visited in March, it was super hot on the way up but chilly at the top. The summit is at almost 3,000 feet so you’ll want a sweatshirt or jacket this time of year.

Potato Chip Rock

3. Ideal Time for Photos at Potato Chip Rock

We arrived at 11:00 am on a Sunday which was possibly the worst time for getting pictures. We waited in line for an hour, watching about 20 people take pictures before us. Part of what takes so long is that for each group, there is one person at the bottom taking photos. That person then has to swap with someone at the top so they can get their picture taken too (more on that below).

So when’s the best time to go to Potato Chip Rock? Definitely go first thing in the morning if possible. The gate opens around 6:00 am so the earlier you get up there, the better. We didn’t feel rushed taking photos, but it was annoying having to wait for so long.

Line at Potato Chip Rock

4. How to Get Photos of All Members of Your Group

One thing I was worried about was how we would get photos of each of us at the top of Potato Chip Rock. While waiting in line is annoying, everyone was courteous of each other’s time. Each group took only a few minutes to snap their photos, but swapping places took a few additional minutes.

For our group of three, my husband and I started on top of the rock while my sister took pictures. Then my husband slid down the side of the rock while my sister climbed up. After he took our picture together, I slid down so my sister could get some solo shots. It sounds complicated but the whole thing took about five minutes. Just make sure the group behind you is aware you’re switching so they don’t jump onto the rock and start taking their own pictures!

Potato Chip Rock

5. How to Get the Best Photos at Potato Chip Rock

There is no shortage of cool shots you can take at Potato Chip Rock. I think our best photos were the ones that cut out as much of the foreground as possible so it looks like you’re suspended in midair.

We saw other groups having fun with this. You can jump or hang your feet off the edge. We even saw one girl do a headstand! The main tip for taking the best photos at Potato Chip Rock is to take as many different perspectives as possible. It’s best to give yourself a lot of photos to choose from later.

Potato Chip Rock

Final Thoughts

Not only is the hike to Potato Chip Rock good exercise, but it’s also a fantastic photo opportunity. If you have a half-day to set aside while in San Diego, this is the perfect activity for families or couples.

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