Day Hike - Woodson Mountain: East Approach
Distance 5.5 miles (loop)
Hiking Time 3 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss 1,500'/1,500'
Trail Use Dogs allowed
Directions: The starting point is a California Division of Forestry fire station at the eastern base of Woodson Mountain, on CA 67, 3 miles north of Poway Road, and 6 miles southwest of the CA 67/CA 78 intersection in Ramona. Park on the wide eastside shoulder or on the narrower westside shoulder of CA 67. Do not park on the fire station property.
American Indians called it Mountain of Moonlit Rocks, an appropriate name for a landmark visible, even at night, over great distances. Early white settlers dubbed it Cobbleback Peak, a name descriptive of its rugged, boulder-strewn slopes. For more than 100 years, however, it has appeared on maps simply as Woodson Mountain, in honor of Dr. Woodson who homesteaded some property nearby well over a century ago.
The light-colored granitic bedrock of Woodson Mountain and several of its neighboring peaks in the Poway/Ramona Mountain granodiorite. When exposed at the surface, it weathers into huge, spherical or ellipsoidal boulders with smooth surfaces. The largest boulders have a tendency to cleave apart along remarkably flat planes, forming chimneys from several inches to several feet wide. Sometimes, on has of a split boulder will roll away, leaving a vertical and almost seamless face behind. It's no wonder that Woodson Mountain (or Mount Woodson, as it is popularly called) is regarded as one of the finest places to practice the sport of bouldering in Southern California.
From the fire station entrance, follow a well-beaten path south, parallel to the highway. Soon you will hook up with a paved service road (Mount Woodson Road, closed to vehicular travel) that curls up the mountain's east slope. The road is at times very steep and slightly less than pleasant to walk on , but it offers good traction underfoot.
On most weekends, the sounds of nature along the road will be accompanied by the clink of aluminum hardware, plus shouts of "on belay!" and other phrases in climbers' parlance. Even if you don't see climbers, chalk marks (from gymnasts' child) on the larger boulders mark their favorite routes. near the top of the mountain, the road passes narrowly between immense, egg-shaped boulders and split-boulder faces 20-30 feet high.
When you reach the top of the mountain, at 1.7 miles, you'll be amid a forest of radio antennas and a small woodland of planted pines rising from the outsized boulders. Walk west, not he first now, along the narrow summit ridge to reach a vantage point overlooking Poway, north San Diego County's coastal regions and the great blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands are visible on the clearest days. Nearby, you'll spot an amazing cantilevered "potato chip" flake of rock, the results of exfoliation and weathering. If you're weary, or if you have smaller children along who have had enough, this is a good spot to turn back and return the way you came.
Otherwise, on ahead you quickly pick ups newly graded trail that tilts downward, steeply at times, along Woodson's boulder-punctuated west ridge. After about 0.5 miles, there's a fork. Ignore the left branch, which is the older version of the Mount Woodson Trail leading to Lake Poway. Continue west, down the ridge. Ahead a short distance you'll come to the old Fry-Koegel Trial on the right. Ignore it if you want to travel not he newer and improved Fry-Koegel Trail another 250 years ahead, again on the right.
The scenic descent on the Fry-Koegel Trail takes you obliquely down the north slope of Woodson Mountain through wildly tangled, mature chaparral. Near the bottom, the trail meanders through spooky clusters of coast live oaks. Watch out for copious growths of poison oak through here.
Back in the open air again, the trail skirts the Mount Woodson Estates subdivision and then hears for Archie Moore Road at CA 67. A few minutes' walk along the highway shoulder from there takes you back to your car.