Hike Iron Mountain (San Diego)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||5.6 miles (9 km)|
|Hike Time||3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,220 feet (372m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,696 feet (822m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||City of Poway|
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.
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
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.
Parking in the lot is free.
Gear For the Hike
- The main thing on this hike is the heat. If it’s summer and hot out, it’s really tough. If it’s sunrise in the winter, it’s cool and comfortable. If you do go in the heat, make sure you have at least 2L of water and sun protection. Otherwise you can get away with 1L of water.
- There are steep sections on the hike. Wear good footwear and bring trekking poles if you have them.
- You can get away with fitness clothes or light hiking gear here.
- This is a popular hike, and if you get into trouble on the trail, you’re bound to see other hikers.
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
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.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Iron Mountain Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
From here, you just turn around and go back down the way you came up. That’s the hike!
This guide last updated on March 21, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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