Iron Mountain is one of the more popular hikes in San Diego County, maybe second only to Cowles Mountain. The trail head is easily accessible, located right off Highway 67 in Poway, offers a reasonably challenging trek for the average person, and on a clear day has some amazing views of northeast San Diego County. Thus it is a common destination for San Diegans looking for a quick outdoor workout.
This is not the trail for quiet solitude, but its still a worthwhile excursion. Be warned that the trail is very exposed and can get incredibly hot during the summer months. Between the heat and the popularity of this spot, its a good idea to plan for an early start. The parking lot tends to fill up on weekends, so aim to beat the crowds and the midday heat by getting there by 8 am or earlier. I’m also told this makes a pleasant evening hike if that’s your thing (just bring a headlamp in case you’re out past dark!).
We made the trek on an early Sunday morning. The morning marine layer kept us nice and cool for the climb up to the peak.
Upon exiting this initial stretch of trees, the trail was wide and exposed, surrounded on either side by chaparral and brown grassland. The peak lay before us to the right, but was shrouded in fog like the rest of the surrounding hills.
At .4 mile we came to an intersection. To the left was a trail to the Ellie Lane staging area – an alternative starting point for the hike. To continue to Iron Mountain, we had a choice of continuing straight along the main trail, or taking the side branch to the right. Both routes are roughly equal in length and difficulty, however the side trail is somewhat less travelled. We headed right.
We finally caught a glimpse of one of the blue jays that we could hear squawking in the bushes all around us, but he didn’t stay still long enough to get a good picture. At 1.5 miles, halfway to the top, we reached another junction point. Heading left will take you to the Ramona Overlook, and a longer path back to the Ellie Lane Staging Area. We headed right to continue on to the peak.
We continued climbing the dusty trail, our destination still shrouded in fog. For the most part, the brush around us was lower growing than we’d seen on the earlier portions of the trail, and we found increasing amounts of beautiful red rocks poking through the brush.
Around 2.25 miles we noticed a small side trail branching off to the right, but we continued along the main trail. Around .1 mile later we found the other end of this side trail, which is simply another alternative route. We ended up taking this route on the way back, and found it offered a slightly more scenic and quieter journey than the main trail.
Around 2.4 miles we came to the base of the switchbacks leading up the final stretch. The fog was finally burning off and we could see hikers zigzagging up the trail leading to the top of the mountain.
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From I-15, take the Scripps Poway Pkwy exit. Head east on Scripps Poway Parkway for approximately 8.5 miles to Highway 67. Turn left (north) on Highway 67, the parking area will be on your right approximately 1.7 miles up Highway 67, right before the intersection with Poway Road. map
|Total Distance:||6 miles|
|Total Ascent:||1530 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes Allowed|
|Facilities:||Pit toilets in parking lot, no water|