If you feel like you and your granny ring or top cog have not had much quality
time together lately, then head out to Mt Woodson and get reacquainted.
The Mount Woodson area is a pretty cool swath of rugged landscape located in the northeast corner of the city of
Poway north of San Diego and just south of Ramona. Most of the mountain is
covered with large boulders and chaparral with some some sizable trees and
groves of oaks as well. You really need to get on the mountain to truly
appreciate the word "large" in regards to the boulders. I have
had apartments that were smaller than some of these monstrous chunks of the
planet. The trails around and on Mount Woodson are often quite steep and
technical enough to make this an advanced level ride.
Hazards: There are some spots were an over-the-bars
experience could net you some sizable air time to a very rocky landing.
The place can be absolutely blazing hot during the summer. This is
an extremely popular place with hikers so please remember to use proper
trail etiquette. I also highly recommend you have a bike bell on your bike
while on the Mt Woodson trail. Because of the tight corners and often
short sight lines, use the kind that will make noise on it's own vice you having
to ding it. The weekends see the most hiker traffic so a weekday ride
would be best.
Directions: There are four locations you could park to do
this ride. It all depends what route you wish to do based on the
- Lake Poway- From Interstate
15, exit Rancho Bernardo Road, travel east 4 miles to Lake Poway Road, turn left
and follow to the park entrance gate. The address is 14644 Lake
Poway Road, Poway, California 92064.
- CDF Fire Station - From the San Diego
area take Interstate 15, north about 15 miles to the Scripps Poway
Parkway exit. Turn right (east) and travel 8.6 miles to highway 67.
Turn left (north) onto
highway 67 heading into Ramona. You will see Mt Woodson on your left
(It is the big rocky mountain with a bunch of antennas on top) as you drive
north into Ramona. About half a mile after you crest the saddle north
of Mt Woodson, look for Hedy Drive on your right and the California Division of Forestry fire station on the left. Park
on the dirt shoulder somewhere near here on either side of the road. The
trailhead is located right at the entrance to the fire station.
- Archie Moore Road and Rancho De La Angel - Follow the
directions above, but continue on past the CDF Fire Station for maybe half a
mile (when the road bends to the right) then turn left onto Archie Moore Road. Rancho De La Angel is
about a 1/4th a mile up the road on your right. There is a dirt pull
out area on the corner.
- Highway 67 pulloff near callbox 67-170 - From the Sam Diego
area take Interstate 15, north about 15 miles to the Scripps Poway
Parkway exit. Turn right (east) and travel 8.6 miles to highway 67.
Turn left (north) onto highway 67 heading towards Ramona. After
approximately 2 miles you will see a call box on your right. There is a dirt
pull out area just beyond the call box that you will use. (Use only if you are going to brave the Warren Canyon Trail)
GPS Files for all trails in area:
Featured routes in this area
(See Description Below):
Lake Poway OAB:
Old School Map (PDF)
Related BLOG Posts
Ride Description: There are five primary trails in
this system and they can be done in different combinations. I am first
going to describe each trail then I'll give some route recommendations.
The Mt Woodson trail starts on the east side of
Lake Poway (Point E on the map) and travels
uphill at a fairly steep grade on an old dirt road for .9 miles until it
comes to the junction with the Warren Canyon Trail (Point F).
To stay on the Mt Woodson trail you will turn left and go uphill.
The next .7 miles up to the ridge top is simply freaking
steep. The average grade is 17% and that is without factoring in
the technical spots. I typically refrain from using
absolutes about what riders will do on trails, but I am going to
confidently say that, you will have to stop and carry your bike at least
once on this climb.
The climb does have a few shady areas that make nice
spots for a break. Once you are up on the ridge top the
shade is quite minimal so don't pass up an inviting spot along the
Once you do get up on the ridge top you will come to a
four-way junction. Off to your left is trail that scrabbles up a slab of
rocks to an impressive viewpoint. Heading off downhill and to the
north is the Fry-Koegle trail
. The Mt Woodson trail turns to the
right continues uphill along the ridgeline. Continuing east and uphill
on the Mt Woodson trail, the grade "mellows out" a bit and only
gains 700 feet
over the next 1.2 miles to the summit. Be on the lookout for an
unsigned trail heading off to your left about .2 miles from the ridge
top junction. This is the Old Fry-Koegle trail
that is a
real slow tech treat going downhill.
From what I can tell there have been at least
several reroutes that have occurred over the years. The most significant reroute of the
orginal Mt Woodson trail which is now referred
to as the Old Mt Woodson trail. I found the trail but opted not
to take it as I was unsure it was actually the trail at the time. (UPDATE: The new trail signs no longer reflect the Old Mt Woodson trail)
Continuing uphill you will pass by some impressive boulders before
reaching the peak. Just before you reach the peak the trail will
come out on a single-laned paved service road that will take you by a ton of
antennas on and around the peak at Point O.
2022 Update: The Warren Canyon Trail has been long neglected by the City of Poway and it is in really bad shape. My description here was first done in 2007 and while I will leave it as is for now, I can no longer even suggest that you go check it out. I'll do another update if/when the trail gets reworked.
Warren Canyon trail packs quite a bit of punch.
The start of the trail at the junction of the Mt Woodson trail to it's
terminus at highway 67 are at the same elevation and separated by 2.3
miles of rugged single track. However, over the course of that 2.3
miles you will climb and descend around 650 feet (both up and down).
None of the climbs or descents or long at all but they are steep.
I spent most of my time either nearly dragging my shorts on the rear
wheel or having my chin inches above my handlebars. I loved this
bit of trail as it sees little traffic compared to the Mt Woodson trail
and it weaved around some really large boulders. The trail had
much more of a backwoods feel to than I expected.
Just before you get to highway 67 the trail will plummet
downhill before turning sharply uphill to go up and meet the
highway. Just as the the trail starts the descend you may notice the
remains of an old trail crossing over the trail. The
City of Poway's trail guide map
indicates there are plans
for a trail that seems to follow along this old trail.
Here are a couple of pictures to help with visual
referencing. The picture to the left was taken standing on the edge of
highway 67 looking northwest at Mount Woodson with the Warren Canyon trail
in the foreground. The picture to the right shows the
pull-off area on the east side of the road that can be used as a
trailhead access point. The roadie coming down the hill is almost
right beside where the trail starts.
As with nearly all mountains
that have a plethora of antennas on their summit, there is a service
road that will take take to the summit. From the CDF
station at Point H on the map, pickup a trail that heads south
paralleling highway 67 for a short bit before coming out onto a single
lane paved service road that heads up the mountain. This
road gets pretty freaking steep, gaining 1200 feet in 1.8 miles up to
the summit at Point O. This service road is popular with
rock climbers and on a weekend you will most like hear at least few
working on a boulder or two close by the rock.
The view looking north on the Ramona and Highland Valley area from the
service road near the peak.
The Fry-Koegle trail starts off as an urban trail that
runs along the the west side of Archie Moore road near Mt Woodson
Estates. I picked up this trail at the corner of Archie
Moore Road and Rancho De La Angel, Point I on the map. This
urban trail has you "locked in" for the most part with a wooden fence on
both sides. From Point I heading south the trail will soon go by a
golf course where it will turn uphill for a short distance as the trail bends to
west. There are some wooden waterbars that add a bit of
technical flavor to the climbing. The trail, with fencing, will
soon take you right along the backyards some homes.
These homes almost exclusively
have fences you can see through or use the trail fence only.
I did not particularly like riding three feet from someone's backyard.
Several of the home owners have made gates onto the trail from their
yard which adds even more to the feeling you are riding in someone's
backyard. This was way too close for my taste until shortly after I reached the
top of a climb at Point J on the map. There is a connector
trail heading off to the south at this point. Make sure to read
the section below on the East Side Social Trails
From Point J (.83 miles from Point I) the trail
turns downhill into an sizeable oak grove which is a real change of pace
for the area. It is all downhill hill through here and is a real hoot
while it lasts. All to soon you are back out into the mostly scrub brush.
At 1.3 miles you will pass a turnoff to the right that connects to South
Woodson Drive. (In case you should need a street bailout for some
reason) From here the trail starts heading uphill in a more
earnest fashion. The grade overall is nine percent but it
deceptively feels easier than that as most of the steeper sections occur
in short bursts while other sections gives quick reprieves from the climbing.
At around 2.3 miles you will pass by a trail junction on
your left that simply says "Peak". This is
"Old Fry-Koegel" trail
You will not have much fun traveling uphill on that trail so stay on the
"New" trail. At 2.8 miles from Point I, you will reach Ridge
Top junction where this trail, the Mt Woodson trail
and a scenic lookout
trail meet. I was quite impressed with the Fry-Koegle trail once it got away from
the homes. It is well constructed and has made excellent use of the
rocks and other natural land formations to keep things interesting on
this trail. The trail gets it's name from Mike Fry and
Norman Koegel who constructed this trail in 1990
The Old Fry-Koegle trail, between Point L and M, is half
a mile long and drops 300 feet with a few incidental rises. The trail
is by no means a blaze fest as it has slow technical type terrain over
most of it's descent. I found the trail to be a real treat as this
trail does not see a lot of use so it has an untrammeled feel to it.
The lower end of this trail at the junction of the "New" Fry-Koegle
trail simply labeled with a sign that says "Peak". The top
of the trail coming off of the Mt Woodson trail
Let me start off my saying that I try to avoid putting trails on my site
that are less than legit as it has gotten me some eNastygrams in the
past. In this case I think these trails are worth mentioning
as I believe they reduce potential user-resident conflicts. The
Fry-Koegle trail between Archie Moore road and Point J goes right along
the see-through backyard fences of numerous property owners. This
section is also a fairly steep section. I felt a little
weird riding very slowly (climbing, grunting, and wheezing) almost in
someone's backyard. The trail usage/wear indicates I am not
the only one. To the left is an aerial shot of the
area. There is a network of fire roads and single tracks shown in
yellow (There are more trails than what I have mapped). The
trail is shown in blue and the service road up to the peak is shown in
red. Since I do not know the status of these trails
I'm calling them social trails. One thing is for certain, these
trails are seeing more traffic than the Fry-Koegle trail along the
homes. At Point J, there is a well used connector between
these social trails and the Fry Koegle trail. My assessment is
that the residents and routine trail users of this area prefer to stay
away from one another's backyards and are using these social trails and
the connector to bypass all but a couple of backyards. You
can access this network off of the service road or via an unmarked paved
road between the CDF station and Archie Moore road. If you know
the real story, or you would like to share your opinion about this
please contact me.
Now that I have described some of the trails here are
a few recommended routes. GPX files and Trailforks links above. Points described here are from my PDF map.
- Lake Poway to Mt Woodson - Park at Lake Poway.
Take the Lake Poway trail south around the lake and pick up the Mt
Woodson trail on the east side of the lake (Point E). Climb up
to the Mt Woodson and Warren Canyon trail junction (Point F).
Bear to the left ton continue climbing on the Mt Woodson trail. Both the grade and technical difficulty will get intense. You are a freaking rockstart if you get up onto the ridgeline with less than a dozen dabs. This get a little easier (but not easy) once on the ridgeline (Point N) and the junction with the Fry Koegle trail. Continue on the Mt Woodson trail. A short ways before the submit the trail ends at some pavement. Just before you see the pavement you should notice Potato Chip rock on your left. Do the photo thing if there is not gaggle of folks there. You can't turn around so close to the summit so spin up to the summit and find yourself a spot for a snack. When ready retrace your way all the way back down to Lake Poway. Hang a right at the lake (Point E) and follow the trail around the north side of the lake dam eventually ending up back at the parking lot. This is just a 8 miles but has 2250' of climbing.
- Summit via Fry Koegle Trails. Park at either the CDF Station (Point H) or on Archie Moore Road
(Point I) - Take either the Fry-Koegle trail or the Social Trails to
the Fry-Koegel trail at Point J. Take the Fry-Koegel trail
up to the Ridge Top junction (Point N). Take the Mt Woodson
trail east and up. Take note of the junction with the Old Fry Koegle trail at Point M and continue east and uphill. Continue on to the peak (Point O). Retrace your way back to the
Ridge Top Junction and turn right (north) onto the Old Fry-Koegle trail. Enjoy some techy rock work back down the junction with "New" Fry Koegle trai at Point L. Retrace your way back to Point J and onward to your vehicle, 7 miles and 1,434' of climbing.
- Woodson via Service Road.- Park at either the CDF Station
(Point H) or on Archie Moore Road (Point I) - At the entrance tot he CDF fire station pick up the wide dirt path under the trees heading south . This dirt path with soon come of out onto the paved service road that goes to the summit of Mt Woodson. Get to grunting and then grunt some more until you get to the summit. The service road continues past the summit and down to start of the Mt Woodson trail and Potato Chip rock. Take the Mount Woodson trail down the junction of the Fry Koegle trail (Point N). Turn right/north (and downhill) and enjoy the Fry Koegle all the way back to Archie Moore Road. Turn right onto Archie Moore road followed by another right onto side of Hwy 67 and roll back to your vehicle. 6 miles
and 1,340' of climbing.
- Just Call Me Stupid! - There are at least a few other permutations you can do here. If
you really wanted to make a mucho grande badass (aka gluten
for punishment) ride, Check out the Warren Canyon Trail and from Point G where the trail
comes out on highway 67 it is one mile ride down the hill to the Iron Mountain and Ellie Lane Trail System. Butseriously don't be stupid.