Iron Mountain (Poway)

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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Looking north from Iron Mountain
Looking north from Iron Mountain
Looking east from Iron Mountain
Looking east from Iron Mountain

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Iron Mountain (Poway)

  • Location: East of Poway.   From I-15, take exit 22 (Camino del Norte).  Go left on Camino Del Norte, which changes to Twin Peaks Road.  After 4.2 miles, turn right on Espola Road, go 0.8 miles and turn left on Poway Road.  The trail head is at the juncture of Poway Road and state route 67.
  • Agency: City of Poway
  • Distance:  6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: September – June
  • USGS topo map: San Vicente Reservoir
  • Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
  • More information: Trip reports here and here.
  • Rating: 8

Iron Mountain shares its name with an infamous summit of the San Gabriels, said to be the most difficult hike in that range.  Fortunately, Poway’s Iron Mountain is a little more user-friendly.  While it is a somewhat long hike that ends up climbing over a thousand feet, it is easy to follow, never too steep and offers hikers a great variety of scenery.  The trail’s accessibility makes it very popular, with mountain bikers as well as hikers, so this is probably not the place to go for solitude, but it offers a good workout close to the San Diego metro area.  Residents of Orange County might consider making the trip, and Iron Mountain is not much farther from downtown L.A. than Big Bear or Idyllwild.

The beginning of the hike may be a tad monotonous for veteran hikers, but the terrain starts getting more interesting about a mile in, as the trail works its way up into a canyon.  It passes by a small seasonal waterfall, and continues onto a junction at 1.5 miles.    Take a right here, and begin the push to the summit.  There are a lot of interesting rock formations (one in particular reminds me of someone giving the “sign of the horns” with their hand a heavy metal show), and during the spring time, many wildflowers.  The coast can also be visible on clear days to the right.

Finally, you work your way up to the summit (elevation 2,696), where you get a nice 360 degree view, including the reservoir to the south and the Cuyamaca mountains to the east, as well as the ocean to the west and some foothills to the north.   After you’ve taken it all in, retrace your steps back down the hill to the trail head.

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