- Location: Highway 67, Poway. From San Diego, take I-15 north to exit 17 (Scripps Poway Road). Turn right and head east for 8.6 miles to Highway 67. Turn left and go north for 2.4 miles to Ellie Lane (easy to miss; keep an eye out for it after you pass the more prominently marked Iron Mountain trail head). Turn right and park in the dirt lot. From points north, take I-15 to Camino del Norte (exit 22). Turn left and follow Camino del Norte for 4.2 miles, during which time it becomes Twin Peaks Road. Turn right on Espola Road and go 0.8 mile to Poway Road. Turn left and follow Poway Road for 2.6 miles to its ending at Highway 67 (and the Iron Mountain trail head). Turn left and go 0.7 mile to Ellie Lane. Turn right and park in the dirt lot. If you are coming from Ramona, Ellie Lane is 8.5 miles southwest of the junction with Highway 78, and you will turn left. NOTE: When leaving the trail head, if you are going south on Highway 67, the left turn can be tricky because traffic does not stop; exercise caution.
- Agency: Lake Poway Recreation Area
- Distance: 5.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain)
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Best season: October – June
- Recommended gear: Hiking poles, sun hat, sunblock
- Dogs: Allowed on leash but not recommended due to the exposed, rocky terrain
- Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair in spots
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None (vault style toilets are available at the Iron Mountain trail head, one mile to the south)
- Camping/backpacking: None
- More information: Map My Hike report here; trip descriptions (including extension to Iron Mountain) here, here and here; Yelp page here; All Trails report (from Iron Mountain trail head, including the summit) here
- Rating: 7
Updated September 2018
Ramona Overlook is the unofficial name of a bump on the ridge between Iron Mountain and North Iron Mountain. Though the overlook doesn’t provide the 360-degree panorama of Iron Mountain, the views are still outstanding and the hike to reach it using the Ellie Lane and Wild Horse Trails as described below, offers more solitude.
The beginning of the hike might not seem that promising as the trail threads its way between two private ranches, but you soon leave much of the traffic noise behind as you begin a small ascent among boulders before dropping to an unsigned junction 0.4 mile from the start. The right fork is the Wild Horse Trail, your return route if you opt for a loop hike. The Ellie Lane Trail continues on the left, climbing rigorously (about 500 feet in 3/4 of a mile). You make your way up a west-facing ridge, weaving through boulders as before. Though the only tree is a lone fire-surviving oak, the vegetation (mostly chaparral and sumac with some manzanita) is tall enough that it can provide a semblance of shade, depending on what time of day you are hiking. As you grind up the hill, your efforts are rewarded with panoramic views toward the west, including the ocean if visibility is good.
Just over a mile from the start, you get a welcome break as the trail gains the ridge and levels out. You pass by a formation as Table Rock before reaching an unsigned junction. The two forks will eventually merge; the left fork stays higher up while the right fork drops into the valley toward a eucalyptus grove. Even those opposed to non-native trees will welcome the shade of the grove, but you now have the unenviable task of climbing almost 600 feet in 0.7 mile. At a junction in the grove, head left (the right fork is the Wildhorse Trail, your return route). You begin your ascent, rejoining the other fork from near Table Rock.
The short but intense climb brings you up the west face of the ridge, offering wider and wider views. Switchbacks near the top make the grade a little easier but you will likely need a moment to catch your breath when you reach the saddle, which is the high point of the route, 2.3 miles from the start. Your efforts are rewarded with an impressive view to the east, dominated by Cuyamaca Peak in the distance. Corte Madera, El Cajon, Viejas Mountain and Lyons Peak are among the other summits that are visible, towering over the rural landscape of Ramona.
If you are short on time or energy, this is a good turnaround point. To continue to the overlook, descend via more switchbacks to a lower saddle where the trail continues toward Iron Mountain. Head east on a use trail, climbing over a small bump before reaching the overlook. Here you can enjoy more views the Ramona Valley. To the south is the pyramid of Iron Mountain and to north, the boulder-studded ridge curves downward gradually before dropping sharply to the valley hundreds of feet below, a feature that resembles Corte Madera.
After soaking in the view, you have several options. A popular choice is to continue south to the Iron Mountain trail and following it back downhill to the Wild Horse Trail. Ambitious hikers can continue to Iron Mountain itself, a three mile round trip detour with almost 600 feet of elevation gain. The quickest way to get back to the trail head however is to retrace your steps back up to the saddle and then down the slope to the eucalyptus grove. Continue west on the Wild Horse Trail, which descends through a shallow canyon before reaching a T-junction, 4.6 miles from the start (1.8 miles from the overlook). A sign erroneously lists the distance back to the trail head as 0.5 mile – that is actually the distance to return to the junction with the Ellie Lane Trail. From there, turn left and retrace your steps another 0.4 mile back to the trail head.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.