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.
My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move. It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33 (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles. I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon
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.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated December 2020.
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 offset website expenses. 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.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.
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!
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.