True confessions week on lastadventurer.com continues today with my second confession: I’m not a fan of the hike heading up the Eastern side of Woodson Mountain (a/k/a Mt. Woodson) in San Diego County. Perhaps I’ve done the hike too many times. Perhaps it’s because whenever I’ve done the hike, there’s tons of people on the trail. Or perhaps, it’s just difficult for me to get behind a hike that heads up an asphalt and dirt road and ends at a cluster of antennas. But, despite my opinion, Woodson remains a popular hike within the county, which confounds me, as San Diego has so many hikes that have better views, better locations, and don’t end with the aforementioned cluster of antennas. In my mind, it’s almost as if the antennas are emitting some sort of mind control signal to the surrounding county, “Cooooooooooome, cliiiiiimb Woodson.” Perhaps I’m onto something here: I should start warning the public not to climb Woodson from the Eastern approach because the pod people will get them at the top. That’s right – you heard it here first. Don’t climb Woodson – it’s controlled by pod people (and rattlesnakes)!!!
Directions (If you’re willing to take the risk): The Eastern approach starts from the CA-67; I usually take Poway Road East to the junction with the CA-67 and from this point, the trailhead is three miles to the North. If you are not following this route, you want to take the CA-67 until it intersects with Hedy Drive. At this point, you should look for parking, either on the East side of the CA-67 (near Hedy Drive) or on the West side of the road near Mt. Woodson Road. I guarantee that there will be parked cars on either side of the road to further aid you in finding the location. Once you have parked, take care crossing the CA-67 if you are on the East side, and head to the trailhead which is well-marked, trodden and easy to follow near Mt. Woodson Road.
From the beginning of the hike, you will be on a well graded road that is paved for a majority of the time. The road/track/trail ascends somewhat steeply over the course of 1.8 miles and eventually reaches the summit of the mountain. In my opinion, the best portions of the hike are at or around three-quarters of a mile to the summit, when you pass a number of interesting free standing boulders. Should it not be too hot, these are a great spot to practice rock climbing and or bouldering. If it is spring or summertime, do keep an eye out for rattlesnakes in and around the boulders, as it seems to be an extraordinarily popular spot for them in my experience. Once you are past the boulders, you will be at the summit which has lots of antennas, and on clear days, an average view of the ocean and the surrounding area. (Sorry people, I’m just not buying that this is one of the best views in the county, even on bluebird days). From the top, it’s 1.8 miles back down to the road, for a roundtrip distance of 3.8 miles.
Tips: My main tip is that unless you absolutely have to do this hike, hike somewhere else. Alright, that’s a bit harsh. I just think that there are better places to head in the county where you can see better views with less people, such as Corte Madera, Mt. Lawson, Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Peak, or heck, even Iron Mountain. But, on the plus side, Woodson Mountain is a great hike for a quick morning jaunt, and is a great way to get into the wilderness when you are pressed for time. The Eastern Route is also a great spot to bring up climbing mats for bouldering; and is a great spot for a quick, steep trail run that will test your hill climbing ability. In the summer, do bring a lot of water as the Eastern side is very exposed, and gets hot fast; and do watch for the aforementioned rattlesnakes. Last, do note that the “potato chip” rock is not at the summit of the mountain, but extends from a grouping of rocks off the trail.
So, if the pod people have persuaded you to go here and you have no other choice – see you on the trail!