Tooth Rock via Rattlesnake Canyon

Poway is home to many of San Diego’s popular hiking areas. In between the very busy Iron Mountain and local favorite Twin Peaks lies the rather distinctive Tooth Rock. Named for obvious reasons, this bicuspid-like monolith sits perched upon a small peak overlooking Rattlesnake Canyon.

We found the trailhead on a quiet residential street and parked nearby. It was early on a Sunday, so we were careful to be quiet so as not to disturb the neighbors.

There were some residences on our left, and a mostly dry creek to our right.

We passed some signs marking the point where the City of Poway trail ended. Going forward, the trail crosses private land, but is still open for public use.

We continued on past the end of the residences and soon found ourselves among dry sage. Down the slope on our right, a lush band of green trees and brush marked the course of the creek.

Our destination towered above us on the left.

At .5 mile we came to a “Y” junction. The left fork was a very steep incline leading up to the peak. If you’re doing some serious training, or just want to bag the peak, this would be the route to take. We were more interested in taking our time and exploring a bit, so we took the right fork for a more leisurely approach. We planned on returning via the path on the left.

The trail continued along the creekside, passing under some power lines.

At .7 miles, the trail crossed the dry creek bed. Just on the other side, we turned left onto a narrow single track trail that turned north to follow the creek.

The narrow trail was a little overgrown in places, but still easy enough to follow.

We crossed the dry creek bed once again.

Then we came upon a slightly more challenging obstacle: a downed tree lay across the trail.

We took the low road, and went under it.

Just up ahead, the trail crossed the creek again. This crossing was a little more interesting than the previous ones had been. Here, the creek was a rather deep gorge in front of us. There was a makeshift bridge spanning the gap, which looked a little sketchy to us. We noticed a use trail on the left that went down into the gully and up a steep slope to other side, so we took that route instead.

Once we emerged on the far side of the creek, we had a steep climb up a rocky slope.

At 1.3 miles we reached the top of the slope where we found a “T” junction and turned left.

The trail did almost a complete 180, and we found ourselves heading south on the slope above the creek.

This section was wonderfully flat, and we enjoyed the respite. Looking across the canyon, we could see the trail we had been on just a few minutes ago.

Of course, the flat section didn’t last. We quickly found ourselves climbing again.

At 1.75 miles the trail bent northward again as we wrapped around the side of a hill. In the west, we could see our destination above.

We continued uphill.

At 1.85 miles the trail turned west and we came upon a “Y” junction. The left fork would be our return route. For now, we turned right to continue uphill.

It was another short but fairly steep climb.

At the top of the climb was another “T” junction. We could see Tooth Rock on our left, just a short distance away.

At just past the 2 mile mark we reached Tooth Rock. Sadly, it wasn’t exactly in its natural state. There were layers of painted-over graffiti marring the lower portions of the rock.

There was a nice open area with some good sitting rocks near the Tooth, but we noticed a use trail continuing south to another viewpoint, so we headed over there.

From the viewpoint, we had an excellent 360 degree view of the surrounding area. To the east were Mount Woodson and Iron Mountain. Rattlesnake Canyon was just below us.

In the west we could see Black Mountain.

After hanging around for a bit and enjoying the views, we set off back down the trail. We retraced our route to the last “Y” junction, now at 2.3 miles, and turned right.

The trail here was initially flat as we passed below Tooth Rock, heading south.

But before long we were descending the very steep and somewhat eroded slope we had observed earlier.

We passed under the power lines, and soon saw the green canopy of the creek below.

At approximately 2.7 miles we reached the bottom of the hill and met the trail we had hiked in on. We turned right and retraced our route to the start.

View the full photo gallery

Take I-15 to the Poway Road exit and head east on Poway Road. Follow Poway Road for 6.1 miles and turn left onto Espola Road. Follow Espola Road fro .4 miles and turn right onto Range Park Road. Follow Range Park Road for approximately .3 miles and find the trailhead on your right. Park on the street. map

Total Distance: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 612 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed but may have difficulty with some features
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Friends of Rattlesnake Canyon
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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