Blue Sky Ecological Reserve To Mt. Woodson

Via Lake Poway Trail, Mt. Woodson Trail, Fry-Koegel Trail, Ridge Trail To Mt. Woodson

Individual Trip Writeups


This trip is about 10 miles round-trip, with ~2350' altitude gain and loss. Beginning from the Parking lot, take the main road into the Preserve for 0.75 mile to the signed road leading to Lake Poway. After another 0.4 miles, take the signed Lake Poway Trail up and to the left of the dam. After another 0.9 miles, take the signed Mt. Woodson Trail 0.9 miles to the signed "Fry - Koegel Trail: To Mt. Woodson". Near the top of that trail is a wonderful tree shading a nice place to sit, rest and enjoy the view. At the top of the ridge, the trail heads east directly to Mt. Woodson. Return the same way.

The detailed basic route, with mileage and time elapsed since the start is:

Key for all trip logs

Recording numberMileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.000:00 700parking lot
10.750:17 550Jct. Trail to Lake Poway
21.100:30 800Jct. Lake Poway Trail. Left.
32.000:56 1050Jct. Mt. Woodson Trail. Left
42.301:06 1300Jct. Road. Left.
52.501:11 1400"Mt. Woodson Trail 0.5 miles"
62.891:25 1550Jct. Fry - Koegel Trail. Left
73.021:34 1700"Fry Koegel Trail 0.5 mile"
83.301:39 1850Sign: "Fry-Koegel Trail 1.0". Left. Trail to right goes to bench and easternmost trail.
93.501:512:032100The Tree
103.702:09 2300Fork to left now seriously blocked.
113.922:17 2450Short trail on right to sign on old trail, entrance blocked by rocks across trail.
124.502:38 2720The Boulder Flake, just after beginning of the eroded road.
134.652:43 2900Road Summit.
144.742:463:102900Just east of summit, a good Ramona overlook
156.203:474:022100The Tree
166.404:07 2000Pac-Man Rock
176.654:13 1800"Fry Koegel Trail 1.0 mile"
186.824:18 1700Jct. Mt. Woodson Trail. Right.
197.254:28 1500"Mt. Woodson Trail 0.5 miles"
207.704:40 1050Jct. Lake Poway Trail. Right.
219.705:26 800Car

The names of the trails in this area leave something to be desired. The "Mt. Woodson Trail" actually doesn't go to Mt. Woodson, but instead traverses the southern flank of Mt. Woodson from Lake Poway to Highway 67. To arrive at the summit of Mt. Woodson, there are three separate trails heading up the ridge to the north from the "Mt. Woodson Trail". The westernmost one is quite steep and not well-constructed. The use of that trail is now being discouraged, with its entrance covered with wild grasses and a pile of cut branches. The middle one is the recently-signed "Fry-Koegel" Trail, and someone has hand-written "To Mt. Woodson" on that sign. This is by far the best way to go up and come down, and is a well-constructed trail. The easternmost trail is simply signed "To Mt. Woodson", and is also a very steep trail, poorly-constructed, and like the westernmost trail, is not recommended for downhill travel by me.

Once up on the ridge, there are many unsigned trails going off to the left, all of which should be avoided. To stay on the proper trail, just remember you always want to go up at any junction, as well as head toward Mt. Woodson. However, you need to pay attention to those junctions, since on the way back it will be slightly confusing at several of those junctions, and you'll see trails going off that you didn't notice on the way up due to their oblique angle with the main trail. Only one trail to the right (again unsigned) provides possible confusion. Although its entrance is blocked by a series of rocks (#9 above), that trail is also a decent trail leading to Mt. Woodson.

On the way back, close to Mt. Woodson you may prefer taking two separate branches to the right of the main trail, which provide an easier descent.

A lot of trail work has been done in 1999, and the middle part of the ridge trail is either brand new or seriously reworked. It again is constructed very well, and I very much appreciate whoever is responsible for such fine work. Future trail work will probably make it yet clearer as to which is the main trail at the junctions.

The part of this hike from the Lake Poway Trail Junction (#3 above) is described by Schad in Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, 1998, Trip 5 - Woodson Mountain, West Approach, p. 78. I prefer to start from Blue Sky, which adds a bit of mileage and altitude to the hike, making it more exercise, and also avoids a Lake Poway fee charged for non-Poway residents.

Individual Trip Writeups

These are arranged in chronological order below, so that one can see the seasonal changes in proper time order. See the latest trip for the most recent trail conditions.

20 August 1999 and Trip Log (partial trip, taking Fry-Koegel Trail 0.3 miles northeast from the ridge)
30 August 1999 and Trip Log (via middle trail)
15 October 1999 and Trip Log (via middle trail)

20 August 1999

Plants in bloom: Buckwheat, two types of yellow ~4' bush, poison oak leaves, dodder, everlasting in its final form. Yucca seeds are freshly dropped on the trail. Giant evening primrose has just finished blooming.

This was a very hot and humid day, significantly slowing me down. That heavily contributed to my decision to skip the peak and explore a bit of the Fry - Koegel Trail to the northeast of the ridge. In compensation, there were only a few gnats today.

That part of the Fry - Koegel Trail has been cleared recently, but the stumps left in the trail are growing back.

One snake track observed on Lake Poway Trail.

Trip Log

30 August 1999

Plants in bloom: buckwheat still going strong, the 4' tall yellow-flowered bush, poison oak has lost a lot of its red leaves, but now has its white seed balls very evident, everlasting is firmly in its dried flower phase, dodder's little white flowers still in full swing, penstemon blooming in the wash below the Lake Poway spillway, and the last few flowers of the giant evening primrose were blooming when I returned to BSER at 7 p.m.

I hiked in the afternoon, 2 - 7:30 p.m. The hike was a bit hot, but a delight in that there were no bugs at all except for a single house-fly-like bug that buzzed me a bit at the 0.5 mile marker for the Mt. Woodson Trail. The temperature at 2 p.m. in Blue Sky was 84°, warming to 88° on the Mt. Woodson Trail. The climb up to the ridge was quite hot, but nearly immediate relief occurred near the ridgeline, where the temperature was a much more pleasant 77° in the shade of that wonderful tree near the top.

There was one snake trail across the road just before the campground toilet. As I passed Lake Poway, one person was flying a model airplane, but fortunately its drone disappeared quickly as I climbed the Mt. Woodson Trail. Near the beginning of the Fry-Koegel Trail, a yucca continues to drop its seeds over the trail.

On the ridge, I found to my surprise that the previous ridge trail was now walled off with a low rock wall. That trail leads to the signed junction with the very steep trail to Mt. Woodson from farther along the Mt. Woodson Trail. In its place is now a wonderful trail, graded properly with at least a 4' wide clear area, that leads along the north side of the ridge to a junction with the old trail just beyond the last summit before Mt. Woodson. My thanks to whomever constructed that trail.

On the ridge trail, it was easy to see the Mt. Baldy fire, and then from Mt. Woodson the smoke had cleared enough to see Baldy clearly. As nearly always, the rest of the view was superb as well.

On the way down, a non-rattlesnake and I mutually surprised each other just before the end of the Fry-Koegel Trail. At the campground toilet, one snake trail had become two nearby trails! Just inside BSER I noticed a single small-snake trail.

Trip Log

15 October 1999

Plants in bloom: Very few. The most noticeable was the 4' tall yellow-flowered bush still has a number of flowers, but also has quite a few seedheads present. Also noticeable was a tall shrub whose leaves looked like long pine needles that was covered in small white buds at the end of the needles. Some of the buckwheat still have a few white flowers, but most of the flowers have turned black. Dodder looks dead overall except for its tiny white flowers which still look prime! Even everlasting is no longer looking its best. In the dam-overflow creek bed, a few penstemon, mustard, and a purple non-aster have a few blooms left.

Reddish leaves of poison oak lined the sides of the Green Valley Truck Trail in BSER.

I hiked from 10:30 to 4:00 on a delightful day, with temperatures in the high 60s. Showers had been predicted in the morning from a spritz of a storm going down the coast, but none materialized. Hence the humidity was a bit on the high side, but this sure beats hiking with the temperature in the 90s.

At the beginning of the hike, three deer charged uphill from the Lake Poway Campground before I passed. After that, all was still, with no animals and no wind at all. The entire area seemed like it was just waiting for the first winter storm. It was beautiful to sit in the shade of The Tree (#7 above) and survey the quiet landscape.

Black flies were a bit troublesome only at Lake Poway and in Blue Sky, disappearing as I ascended the Mt. Woodson Trail and reappearing on the descent.

No snakes, no ticks, no trouble. I observed one snake trail across the Lake Poway Trail, and met a hiker early in the morning who told me he saw a small King snake.

Trip Log

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Last update: 11 September 2000.