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Iron Mountain San Diego Featured
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Hiking San Diego

Hike Iron Mountain (San Diego)

  • 5.6 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 3 Hours (Total)
  • 1,220 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 2,696 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

Iron Mountain, in San Diego County, is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Hiking to the summit is tough, but not extreme, and once there, you can soak in panoramic views from the high mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The summit even has a viewfinder and picnic benches where you can relax. In this guide, I'll show you how to safely do the hike, avoid the crowds, and beat the heat.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn by Turn Directions for Iron Mountain
  • How to Get to Iron Mountain Near San Diego
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike

Don't confuse this Iron Mountain hike with the hike of the same name in Angeles National Forest. This Iron Mountain in San Diego is much easier and is doable by most folks. There are 50 peaks named "Iron Mountain" in the USA, so it's easy to get confused.

How to Get to Iron Mountain in Poway

Since there are few "Iron Mountains" around, make sure you pay attention to the address you use, otherwise you could easily get routed to the Iron Mountain near LA.  And there a few trailheads and routes to hike Iron Mountain. This guide covers the most popular route that also has the largest parking area.

Use this trailhead address:
Iron Mountain Trailhead, 14847-14909 CA-67, Poway, CA 92064

Iron Mountain Parking Lot
The parking lot is located one one side of the intersection.
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There are two arms to the parking lot, here's one.
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And here's the other, which is the front parking lot, also listed as the "Iron Mountain Commuter" lot.

This lot is also used by trail runners, bikers, and people hitting the other trails in the area. It can get very busy; on the weekend there can be 100s of cars parked here and along highway 67. Your best bet is to do this hike at sunrise on a weekday or later in the afternoon. 10am on a Saturday is setting yourself up for a bad time.

If the lot is full, and you decide to park along Highway 67, use extreme caution, as the traffic moves fast and drivers don't expect pedestrians.

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There are bathrooms at the trailhead.

Parking in the lot is free.

Gear For the Hike

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated June 2024)

Iron Mountain Trail Maps

Overall the trail to the summit of Iron Mountain is very well marked and very busy. There are a few intersections (that I show you in the directions below) but otherwise the hike is straightforward.

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These helpful trail signs along the route give you distance updates every half mile.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Hike Iron Mountain San Diego Elevation
The first 0.75 miles is mellow, and then you start heading uphill. The nice thing about this hike is that none of the steep sections are very long; there's always a level section to catch your breath on. The last push to the summit is the steepest.

3D Map

Hike Iron Mountain San Diego E3d Map
The hike is unique in that the approach is a straight line. Once you start climbing there are zigs, zags, and switchbacks as the trail weaves its way to the summit.

Iron Mountain Hike Directions

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From the parking lot, head under the iconic gate to start the hike. Get your selfies early before the crowds start photo-bombing you.
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After a gravel section you'll come to a trail board with a big old sign telling you that you're in the right place.
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Walk down the shaded path through the oaks. This section is exceptionally beautiful and could be the scene for wedding pictures.
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But the trees don't last long, and soon you are hiking on a dirt trail straight up toward the hills. Go straight through at the intersections.
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The trail climbs gradually. You pass the trail marker for 0.5 miles.

The land around you was all destroyed in the 2003 Cedar Fire, one of the largest in California history. Everything you see now has grown back since then.

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At the end of the straight section the trail dog legs right and downhill into the gully.
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And from there you start climbing.
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When you reach a fork and a trail marker, make the left.
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The climb has some level sections to catch your breath. Here you pass the 1 mile marker.
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There are some steep rocky sections to climb.
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Don't forget to look behind you for some nice views.
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When you get to the junction with the big sign, make the right.
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Here's a closeup of that sign. 1.45 miles to go!
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At the 1.5 mile marker, keep right, avoiding the trail to the left.
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One you past the big sign, there are some ups and downs as you approach the final climb to the summit.
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Look backward on this stretch of trail for some nice views of Cuyamaca Peak, the second highest in San Diego County.
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2 miles down, almost there.
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When you come to the next trail split, stay left.
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Keep heading up the climb, which is rocky in spots.
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Soon you'll reach the saddle and the 2.5 mile marker where views to the west open up.
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At this point you're going to hike up a series of short switchbacks for the last short section to the summit.
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And before you know it, you've reached Iron Mountain summit!
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There's a few picnic benches.
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And a magnifying viewer.
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And an analog viewfinder.
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Look at the base of the viewfinder to identify what you're looking at.
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The peak with the antennas at the top is Woodson Mountain, home of Potato Chip Rock.
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And off to the east you'll see Cuyamaca Peak and the other high peaks in the county. To the west, you'll see San Diego and the ocean.

From here, you just turn around and go back down the way you came up. That's the hike!

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.