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Classic View of Iron Mountain near the trailhead. Ascent follows Skyline ridge in upper part

Classic View of Iron Mountain near the trailhead. Ascent follows Skyline ridge in upper part

Trip Summary

Multiple Dates, last hike - January 24, 2018


Iron Mountain is favorite Poway hike.  I used to do it around the clock for US Thanksgiving when I lived in San Diego; it was tradition.  It is not challenging by any stretch of imagination, but it does provide bit of different feel compared to 'beach hikes' or walks around Poway Lake or Lake Hodges.  Optimal time is November - April, as temps can get quite high rest of the year.  Views are simply fantastic and include sweeping panorama of Poway, distant Pacific Coastline and Cuyamaca Rancho Mountains to the east.  There is no  water source anywhere on trail, so take plenty specially in warmer months.  Only objective hazard are rattlesnakes, but they tend to mind their own business unless provoked.  Hike can be extended for loop return via Ramona Overlook and Ellie Lane staging area.   Highly Recommended!


Parking lot is at junction of Poway Road and Highway 67 (Ramona Road).  From trailhead kiosk wide and sometimes dusty trail heads east, flat for ~15 min, then ascends to obvious saddle and junction sometimes called 'Iron Mountain Base Camp'.  Turn right and continue past the helipad up some unnecessarily wide switchbacks then intercept summit ridge visible from Highway and continue to the top - roughly 1:15 of moderate pace from parking.  Picnic bench is usually busy, but solitude can be found by trashing a bit couple of boulders on south side.   On descent back to 'base camp' junction,  optional return is continuing north to Ramona Lookout then looping across Poway Crags down to Ellie Lane staging area.  This extension is more rough with steeper trail and added elevation gain, but will provide additional viewpoints.  Potentially confusing part is unmarked junction on descent from Poway Crags - see GPS Map (no waypoint, sorry) and correct way is left, not right.  Eventually turn south by small lake and intersect main Iron Mtn. trail near the parking.


Iron Mountain Trailhead at junction of Poway Road and Hwy 69.  This photo was taken in April;  note high heat advisory warning.  There is no water anywhere so make sure you bring enough. Click to Zoom
Iron Mountain Trail Initial flat section heading towards low saddle on horizon.  Ellie Lane trail comes in here from left side (loop return via Ramona overlook)
Rattlesnakes are frequent during summer months - watch your step.  They will not attack but will defend themselves if threatened. Click to Zoom
Ramona Overlook Junction Ramona Overlook junction,  35-40min from parking.  Keep right for Iron Mountain summit
Distant Cuyamaca Mountains Great views east towards Rancho Cuyamaca State Park as trail switchbacks towards summit ridge
San Diego County Rolling Poway Hills with distant Pacific ocean on Horizon as trail starts final switchbacks.  This is the best part and summit is 15-20 away
Summit Telescope Iron Mountain Summit with Telescope that used to be free
Summit Prayer Box Southern California version of Summit Register
Summit Picnic Table Picnic Table just below the summit looking south towards Mexico and Baja California
Telephoto towards Mexican border just below Iron summit on south side. Click to Zoom
Summit Picnic Bench View north towards Mount Woodson from Iron Summit.  Distant Lake Hodges upper center left
Pacific Sunset Sunset Sky from loop descent via Ramona Overlook and Poway Crags.  Keep left at unmarked junction lower down



Overall Difficulty D2 Half-day hike on well established trail with some rocky parts and couple of steeper sections.  In summer rattlesnakes are biggest objective hazard.  More involved (D3) in case of loop return via Ramona Overlook
Scenery Sweeping Panorama of San Diego County North Inland and distant Cuyamaca Mountains to the east
Trail/Marking Very Good Main Trail is wide and well defined.  Unmarked junctions for loop return via Ramona overlook
Suggested Time 2-3 hrs Add 1 - 1.5 hrs for loop return via Ramona Overlook
Elevation Start: 495m     Max: 815m     Total: ~320m  (550m Ramona loop) Round Trip: ~8km (12.5 km Ramona Overlook loop)
Gear Day Hikers are optimal (Runners not recommended).  Hiking pole helpful for stability on some rocky sections, but not required
Water Dry hike. Carry 1 - 1.5L
Dog Friendly Yes Please keep dog on leash for courtesy to other hikers as this is very popular trail