While I really enjoy the main trail leading up Iron Mountain, I have to admit it gets pretty crowded at times. If you’ve ever attempted to start this trail mid-morning on a weekend, you’ve probably experienced the challenge of the very full parking lot. Fortunately, there is an alternate trailhead and route just up the street that connects with the Iron Mountain trail. The Ellie Lane staging area is usually much less crowded and offers a great alternative to the more popular main route.
Since we knew parking would be less of an issue, we didn’t worry about getting a super early start. We had a leisurely morning and reached the parking area shortly after 9 am. Even though it was a Saturday, there were only a couple of other cars in the lot. We set off down the trail, corralled by a wooden fence between a narrow road on the left and a private ranch on the right.
We spotted a couple of Border Collies and their humans honing their herding skills at the ranch. Watching dogs herding sheep is pretty amazing, and we enjoyed the show as we made our way down the trail.
At .4 mile we came to a junction. The Wild Horse Trail continued straight ahead going downhill towards the main Iron Mountain trail. We’d be returning by that route, but for now we turned left to stay on the Ellie Lane Trail.
By now we were well away from the road and houses and were enjoying the quiet tranquility of the morning. The narrow trail wound through the dense chaparral. On the slopes above us, brilliant white boulders were scattered about.
We returned to the trail and continued on, finding a junction amid the tall ceanothus less than .1 mile beyond Table Rock. Examining the map, there appear to be several branches of the Ellie Lane Trail one can take that all end up in roughly the same place, and this is the first of them. We went ahead and took the left fork here.
We came to another junction, this one a little more faint. From looking at the map it appears that going straight or taking the branch to the left both end up in the same spot. We went straight, beginning a brief ascent through tall brush.
At 1.95 miles we encountered a “T” junction. The path to the right would lead us back down to the Wild Horse Trail and eventually to the parking lot. We were nowhere near done hiking though, so we headed left to continue on to the Ramona Overlook and then Iron Mountain.
It was a very short .1 mile climb over a smaller peak to the Overlook just beyond. The views did not disappoint, and neither did the peacefulness. We had been encountering increasing numbers of other hikers on the trail as we got closer to Iron Mountain, but no one else seemed interested in this side trip so we had it all to ourselves. We took advantage of the solitude to sit down for a couple minutes and have a snack while we enjoyed the views.
The trail leveled out somewhat, then it was a gradual climb until we came to the intersection with the main Iron Mountain Trail at 3.6 miles. The right fork would lead back towards the main staging area or the turn off for the Wild Horse Trail. This is the way we’d be returning, but first we had to summit the peak, so we continued straight.
Finally, at 5 miles, we reached the summit. As usual there were a fair amount of hikers lounging about the rocks at the summit, but we did manage to snap a picture of one of the picnic tables while it was empty.
After lounging for a bit and eating some snacks, we headed back down to finish out our loop. We returned to the junction of the Iron Mountain and Ellie Lane trails at 6.4 miles. You can retrace your route along the Ellie Lane trail for an even 10 mile hike, but we wanted some variety so we turned left onto the main Iron Mountain trail.
We turned down this path and quickly left the throng of other hikers behind. Once again we could hear the sound of birds in the bushes around us. As we pressed on we could see Mount Woodson rising before us.
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, and go approximately 2.4 miles, then turn right onto Ellie Lane. The parking area will be almost immediately on your right. map
|Total Distance:||8.8 miles|
|Total Ascent:||2250 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
For more information, visit:
City of Poway – Trails and Hiking