Poway is a small inland city north of San Diego, California, in the shadow of Mount Woodson. It is known as “the city in the country” and is surrounded by 4,700 acres of open space with 25 parks and 55 miles of trails. A number of protected areas offer great recreation and are a popular destination for hikers from San Diego.
1.Potato Chip Rock
Potato Chip Rock is a fascinating rock that hikers love to take selfies on. It is located on top of Mount Woodson near Poway, California, and can be reached by an 8-mile long hike on a fairly difficult trail. With an elevation gain of 1,700 feet, it is steep and it goes straight up once you reach the trailhead after looping around Poway Lake. The trail is well maintained and well-marked. From the top of the mountain, you still have about a half mile of scrambling over some cool boulders before reaching Potato Chip Rock, although the view is spoiled by a bunch of communication antennas. You will see Potato Chip Rock from far away, it is just a sliver of stone jutting out over a precipice. Scrambling to the end of it is scary, especially knowing that it is inevitable that one day it will break.
Ramona, CA 92065, Phone: 858-668-4772
2.Old Poway Park
Old Poway Park is one of the favorite parks in town, spacious and full of all sorts of activities and attractions. You can stroll through it along the meandering trails, have a family picnic, or get the feel of California in the early 20th century by hopping on the fun Poway Midland Railroad cable car. The Depot Store at the train station has wooden Thomas trains for kids to play with. You can also visit a fascinating Poway Heritage Museum or explore the beautiful turn-of-the-century Nelson House, both perfect activities for a rainy day. On Saturday morning, a farmers market brings folks looking for fresh produce and home-made goodies.
14134 Midland Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-668-4576
The Iron Mountain is a mountain range located in San Bernardino County, California, part of the mountain complex between the city of Poway and Ramona. One of the most popular trails up the mountain is 5.3 miles long, with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet, with easy access to San Diego, fairly challenging and offering spectacular views. The trail passes through a corridor of planted oak trees, the only shade on the trail. It continues through fields of wildflowers that alternate with large granite boulders. A few switchbacks will take you to the peak of the mountain, where you can rest on a bench and enjoy the views of entire San Diego. This is not a good hike to attempt in the summer as it gets so hot and dry that many hikers have to be evacuated by helicopter due to dehydration.
4.Mount Woodson Trail
The Mount Woodson Trail is a fairly difficult 6.4-mile trail with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. It has a number of steep uphill segments that are not suitable for beginners. Nevertheless, Mount Woodson is the highest peak in the area and thus it offers an irresistible challenge to many hikers, especially as at the end of it is the famous Potato Chip Tock, a curious rock formation that looks like a potato chip jutting out over an abyss. The trail runs through alternative patches of chaparral full of wild flowers and large granite boulders. The views along the trail of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain are spectacular. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, but it goes through mostly dry and hot area and requires a lot of water.
© Poway-Midland Railroad
The Poway-Midland Railroad is a narrow-gauge full-size heritage railroad that carries passengers aboard antique railroad cars through Old Poway Park in Poway, California. The cars are pulled by a 1907 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam locomotive, The railroad is operated by the Poway Midland Railroad Volunteers, who provide interpretation to the passengers and work on the preservation, restoration and operation of the historic railroad equipment. The trains run on weekends and each loop through the park takes about 5 minutes. The railway depot, where the tickets are sold, also provides wooden train toys for the kids to play with. The railroad is owned by the City of Poway.
14154 Midland Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-486-4063
6.Blue Sky Reserve
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is a 700-acre canyon that runs through the hills above Poway, California, providing a habitat to unique flora and fauna. It is also a popular hiking area with wonderful trails and organized guided tours. The canyon is lined with oaks and eucalyptus groves and flanked by hills covered in chaparral full of wild flowers and coastal sage scrub. A tree-lined creek runs through the canyon, with a scenic trail running alongside. Guided tours are organized by experienced docents who offer information on the plants and animals living in the area. There is a dam that connects the reserve with Poway Lake.
16275 Espola Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-668-4781
7.Poway Sushi Lounge
© Poway Sushi Lounge
Opened in 2006, the Sushi Lounge is a popular Japanese-inspired eatery in Poway that provides a unique dining alternative in town with a wide range of sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese favorites. The space is large and modern, providing an inviting atmosphere and a relaxed vibe in its lounge-like setting. Their focus is on fresh, high quality ingredients. The menu is extensive and offers classic sushi rolls, bento boxes, sashimi, small plates, salads, and other delights. Check out their specialty rolls with imaginative variations such as Happy Wife with tempura sweet potato, cucumber with salmon, avocado, spicy yellowtail, albacore, fresh cilantro, jalapeño, and a truffle “happy wife” sauce.
13132 Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-748-0070
8.Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve
Sycamore Canyon Preserve is a 2,272-acre protected area near Poway that includes coastal sage scrub, rolling hills covered in chaparral, and the 325-acre Goodan Ranch. The ranch is a mix of grassland, coastal sage, riparian areas, oak woodland, and chaparral. It also has an outdoor amphitheater, a horse trough, a hitching post, and 10 ten miles of trails with spectacular vistas, rich wildlife, and centuries-old reminders of human use. Goodan Ranch Center was built near the original ranch house that burnt in the 2003 Cedar Fire. It has a demonstration room, exhibit room, and a range of support spaces with a low environmental impact and high energy efficiency.
16281 Sycamore Canyon Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-513-4737
9.PowPAC Community Theater
PowPAC is an award-winning community theatre located in the heart of Poway on the second floor of the Lively Center. It was established in 1981 and every season since then they have been delighting, amusing, and entertaining the folks in Poway and surrounding communities. The first show was a vaudeville called Firemen’s Follies and was a fundraiser for the local fire department’s paramedic program. The first few shows were set in the Community Center and moved in 1984 to the small 71-seat theatre. Their repertoire today includes dramas such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, comedies such as Cactus Flower, and musicals like Charlie Brown. They are also known for pushing the boundaries of traditional community theatre with some controversial scripts such as Michael Cristofer’s The Shadow Box.
13250 Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-679-8085
10.Maderas Golf Club
© Maderas Golf Club
Maderas Golf Club, a Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves masterpiece, is located in the hills at the outskirts of Poway near San Diego. It is considered one of the top golf courses in San Diego County. It offers a combination of beauty and challenge with a setting that includes the cliffs, creeks, rock outcroppings, and forests. The course has three lakes, a number of waterfalls, and more than 40 acres covered in native plants. Maderas provides players with a unique combination of golf course strategy and masterful design. An upscale restaurant The Grille is located in the club house and is a popular location for the local weddings and other celebrations.
17750 Old Coach Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-451-8100
© Lightning Brewery
Lightning Brewery is Poway’s first and only craft brewery established in 2006. It is famous for its German-style lagers and ales. In 2018 they decided to reformat into a nano-brewing and to scale down their production from 1,500 bbl to 100 bbl. Lightning today offers constantly rotating artisanal small-batch beers together with their award-winning legacy ales and lagers such as Elemental Pilsner, Black Lightning Porter, Thunderweizen Ale, and Electrostatic Ale. Lightning’s Old Tempestuous Ale was voted the “best beer in California in 2012” at the California State Fair. They offer their beers at the popular tasting room and biergarten next to the production facility.
13200 Kirkham Way #105, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-513-8071
12.Brigantine Seafood Restaurant
© Brigantine Seafood Restaurant
Located in Creekside Plaza, Brigantine in Poway is one of the oldest restaurants of this popular California seafood chain. Upscale, clubby, and cozy, the place is one of the city’s favorites for fresh San Diego-style surf and turf and the place to get together with friends or bring the family for a Sunday brunch. The indoor dining room offers several seating options – from cozy velvet banquettes to the perch at the oyster bar. The outside patio is a wonderful spot for afternoon cocktails and people-watching. If you like oysters, they have great selection, always freshly shucked. Most people cannot resist Brig’s famous fish tacos that come with cabbage, cheddar, salsa fresca, corn tortillas, and ranch dressing. Everything else from their extensive menu is delicious, fresh, and cooked to perfection, from the marinated grilled swordfish to the superb filet mignon. They have a nice selection of wines and local craft beers and fun custom cocktails.
13445 Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-486-3066
13.Villa Capri Trattoria and Wine Bar
© Villa Capri Trattoria and Wine Bar
Villa Capri Trattoria and Wine Bar is located in the Twin Peaks shopping mall in Poway, California and it offers superb traditional Italian food in spacious, modern, casual surroundings. Their massive menu redefines fine dining with home-style dishes with an Italian and Amalfi influence. Everything is made fresh from the best ingredients and you can find just about anything, from the large selection of pizzas and pastas to famous Italian desserts and an excellent wine list. Villa Capri was the Diner’s Choice winner in 2015 and is a popular spot for a special occasion. It is also a favorite with the business community and it has several options for prix fixe business lunches. Once a month, Villa Capri offers Wine Dinners, offering an exclusive wine selection from the collaborating wineries accompanied by chef specials.
14771 Pomerado Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-391-9400
14.Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant
© Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant
The Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant is located in Old Poway Park and is a popular spot for families and friends to come for a meal after spending a day having fun in the park. The atmosphere is quirky and unique, with an Old West theme and a large menu of American favorites. It all starts with their fantastic signature hamburgers. You can choose one-half-pound and one-quarter-pound sizes. All burgers come with tater tots, coleslaw, steak fries, potato salad, or chips. This popular Poway restaurant has been voted as having the “Best Hamburgers” by Rancho Magazine six years in a row. The best time to come for burgers is Monday, when they are 20% off. If you are not feeling for burgers, they also offer sandwiches, salads, barbeque ribs, chicken, steaks, and much more.
14122 Midland Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-486-4575
15.Twin Peaks Trail
Twin Peaks Trail is a short, 1.8-mile-long but steep trail through Silverset Park in the suburbs of Poway, California. The trail has elevation gain of 700 feet, so be prepared to go uphill. From the trailhead in Silverset Park, the trail runs first along a fire road. A steep segment will take you to a ridge that offers a panoramic view of Poway and the ocean on clear days. There is another ridge before the summit where the trail becomes rocky and loose and runs through chaparral that is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Once you reach a saddle between the two peaks, follow a small trail to the shorter peak. Be prepared to use your hands as well as your feet to scramble up. You will see Iron Mountain and Mount Woodson and the entire Poway area.
15 Best Things to Do in Poway, CA
- Potato Chip Rock, Photo: samantoniophoto/stock.adobe.com
- Old Poway Park, Photo: Kateryna/stock.adobe.com
- Iron Mountain, Photo: samantoniophoto/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Woodson Trail, Photo: mkldesign/stock.adobe.com
- Poway-Midland Railroad, Photo: Poway-Midland Railroad
- Blue Sky Reserve, Photo: Kathywooding90/stock.adobe.com
- Poway Sushi Lounge, Photo: Poway Sushi Lounge
- Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve, Photo: ramonespelt/stock.adobe.com
- PowPAC Community Theater, Photo: danr13/stock.adobe.com
- Maderas Golf Club, Photo: Maderas Golf Club
- Lightning Brewery, Photo: Lightning Brewery
- Brigantine Seafood Restaurant, Photo: Brigantine Seafood Restaurant
- Villa Capri Trattoria and Wine Bar, Photo: Villa Capri Trattoria and Wine Bar
- Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant, Photo: Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant
- Twin Peaks Trail, Photo: PatriciaDz/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Autumn Sky/stock.adobe.com