SD TRAILS: IRON MOUNTAIN

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By Randy Zuniga

January 15, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Iron Mountain, located at the backside of Poway, just off of the Highway 67, stands 2,696 ft. tall. I consider this a moderate hike of about 6 miles in length and 1,000 ft. in elevation gain.  I don’t want to put a time frame on it because everyone is different and anyone could spend all day out there if they took the time to take in every sight along the journey.

The start of the hike is pretty cool as the trail splits through this small grove of trees. The downside is these trees offer the only shade on the mountain and during the dog days of summer – the heat on that trail takes its toll. Always bring plenty of water for you and your dog!

The trail starts out wide as you steadily climb, winding through the northern lower flanks of the mountain. The trail then winds around the backside and later loops back over to the north side. From there the trail switchbacks all the way up to the summit. It’s well travelled and easy to follow.

At the top, the summit offers amazing ocean views. Clear days one can see San Clemente Island and on even clearer days all the way out to Catalina Island. There’s even a cool telescope at the summit and a picnic bench to relax (or eat a sandwich) before the jaunt back down. You can also look over to the summit of Mt. Woodson, which I consider to be Iron Mountain’s more difficult cousin.

The biggest downside of this hike is that the trail is over-crowded. But, if you’ve never done Iron Mountain – it’s definitely a must do! It’s especially busy on the weekends so get there early. Sometimes the parking lot overflows with cars and you may have to park along the Highway 67 itself.  

Trail etiquette can also be a problem when the mountain is crowded. On the switchbacks toward the top of the mountain, the trail gets a little narrow. Sometimes it’s forgotten there that the trail still runs in both directions, so try to avoid walking shoulder to shoulder with your hiking partner. And if someone is coming up behind you and moving faster – let them pass. It’s not a race, it’s about being out there!

One of the best parts about this particular hikes is the Ramona Wine Country is just up the 67 Highway. An early morning start to a great hike then a late morning wine tasting is always the beginning of an amazing day.

Randy Zuniga has a passion for hiking, mountaineering and trail running.  He’s hiked and run trails across East County from Cowles Mountain to the Laguna Mountains.  He has also climbed peaks in the Sierra Nevadas including Mt. Whitney and Mt. Muir. His quest for adventure has taken him to Nepal, where he trekked three weeks through Khumba Valley to the Mt. Everest Base Camp and participated in the Everest Marathon. In addition, he’s backpacked across Alaska, climbing and traversing glaciers, and climbed Orizaba in Mexico—an 18,500 foot high volcano.