Explore San Marcos Hikes - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

San Marcos Hikes Map
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hiking
2 days ago

hiking
7 days ago

If you like hiking after sunset, make sure to park out on the street, or you could end up with a $52 ticket like I did. The views are great. Good workout. I would go back, but make sure to read the parking signs throughly!

Overcrowded. Overrated. And relatively boring most of the hike. A nice workout and a gorgeous wait in line at the top. This hike wouldn’t be so bad if not as many unprepared and rude people hiked it. Go extremely early if you want to enjoy yourself and the nature around you.

Definitely recommend this hike! Great cardio!

Good hard hike for a nice workout. Did this during summer so I Started at 6 am with my dog and ended at 9/10 am. Start and end with a walk near the lake. Potato chip was a little disappointing and you have to climb up on to get to but still a nice fun hike.

I absolutely love this hike! Super easy lots of fun!

Try to go early in the morning. You’ll bit the sun and the line to take a photo at the famous potato chip rock.

This is my second time on this hike and is fun and challenging as always. I went with a ton of my family so we kept stopping to take pictures. This trail is definitely a leg killer but if you push yourself you will make it! People need to pick up their dogs crap and throw the bags away! I’m trying to enjoy a nice hike without worrying about stepping in dog crap! It’s also very crowded, but really fun!

Very crowded, kind of boring

Fun little hike. I enjoy getting lost. It is great until you see the plethora of houses right next to each other. I would do it again.

Great hike with lots of options to shorten or lengthen the adventure. Wildlife and amazing views year round.

Trail itself was great. People hiking not so much. Unleashed dogs. Poop bags left on trailside everywhere. Way to crowded. Worst of all was the amplified music, seriously invest in some headphones if you really need the tunes. And the mountain bikers, why even try on a weekend?

we loved this hike. Alot of people was on the trail and at the "chip". Rain made it a lil slippery coming back down but overall it was amazing.

Nice hike, was surprisingly easy with only a few steep parts. It was a bit crowded, even in the morning. Some nice views but wasn't super breathtaking. Wouldn't recommend if you're hiking to see lots of nature. Good exercise, didn't take too long, and had some scenic moments. It was good, but I won't be rushing to do it again.

This is a really nice hike. It is a difficult one though. There is alot of elevation change over a short period. Start early, understand it will be cold at the top. It had rained the day before and the puddles further up this hike were all ice.

The trail itself is extremely well marked. Just keep following towards Mt Woodson. The first few miles are about 10 feet wide, well maintained and as the trail progresses it slowly gets narrower but never much below about 3 feet wide. The very steep parts all have rock stairs on the trail.

As you're hiking you might be wondering where the peak is. Look for all the anteneas. They are just above potato chip rock.

If you don't want to pay for parking, you can park across the street from the entrance, but it adds about 1.5 miles round trip to your hike and a bit of elevation.

A great hike! A challenge as you go up some really steep climbs and another whole challenge going down! Loved the 911 tribute placards along the way!

hiking
13 days ago

Fun hike! I started this trail right at dawn and had the sun peaking over the east hills. There were spectacular views from Escondido to the east, Catalina Island and Carlsbad to the west, and all of San Marcos to the south. It would be fun to time the end of this hike at sunset as you'd be returning west to the trail head as the sun drops behind the ocean.
The lake in the satellite imagery near the trail head is dried up, so hopefully it's not the feature you're there to see. I took this trail all the way to the P, turning it into a 5.4 mile out and back. There are a couple of very steep hills with loose gravel that can be avoided by going around a longer way.

hiking
14 days ago

Pretty hike. TONS of people.

Loved this hike! Will definitely do again soon!

Beautiful and scary at top!

First of all follow the signs and stay on the trails. I got stranded before entering parking and took an alternate route which lead through non existing paths. Finally made my entry through a different point than Poway lake.

It took me around 5 hours to complete this trail
One of the best experience , saw people of all ages making with enthusiasm. At halfway I almost got exhausted due to the climb but got encouraged by fellow climbers.
Potato chip rick was crowded as usual. I made it back to the Poway lake by sunset.
Will recommend for all who want to take the challenge of completing this difficult trial.

tough hike ...I got sore knees and hips FOR 10 DAYS !

hiking
16 days ago

Our first time on this trail. it is very popular, but clean and well maintained. The views are excellent and the terrain varies. The first 1.2 miles are climbing with a gentle grade. The lake was peaceful like a sheet of glass. Parking lot was full, we parked on the road. There is another parking lot just up the road. The preserve opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm. Avoid the porta-potties.

Good hike. I recommend wearing ankle high boots if you plan on going the whole 6.4 mile hike. There were a few spots with loose stone and rubble. I did the LH Loop at the end and that added a bit more to the hike, but it was nice to change it up. I didn’t do too much research prior to the hike but there are two bodies of water. You’ll start seeing the lake at mile 2 or so.

A good workout for sure. We started at the lake and walked up. Paths were pretty wide and well laid out. Some shade but mostly exposed so I’d suggest wear a hat and sunglasses.
As an aside...Some groups take a long time at the photo opp at the rock that caused a long (45 min) line on a Friday. Maybe there should be a sign reminding people to be more considerate.
Not a beginner hike but saw people of all age and size on this trail! Just need determination.

It’s so beautiful! Lots of amazing views. Go early if you can.

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