The Iron Mountain Trail in Poway is one of the most popular trails in San Diego County. Easy parking just off of Highway 67, an accessible challenge level, and beautiful scenery help make this trail a local favorite. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you on the six-mile round-trip hike, but you'll want to make sure your pup is physically capable before taking them to Iron Mountain.
Not only does the three-mile trail gain over 1000 feet in elevation, but the hike takes place in full sun and can be quite hot during midday hours. There's even a helicopter landing pad carved into the side of the mountain due to the frequency with which dehydrated hikers need to be rescued. Be sure to bring lots of water for both you and your pup, wear sunscreen and a hat, and only hike in early morning and evening hours in the summer.
The trail begins at an entrance gate that frames the distant peak. A beautifully etched sign declares the mountain's name in bold capital letters. Soon after passing through the gate, you and your pup will continue through a tunnel of oak trees where you'll enjoy some of the only shade on the entire trail. You'll emerge into open chaparral scrubland where wildflowers abound in warmer months. As you ascend, you'll pass rock formations that look like fingers poking up out of the dirt and boulders like spilled marbles. The views become more impressive the further you get along the trail. The 360-degree panorama at the peak is one of the best scenic views in the county.
It's a good idea to consult a map before heading out on your hike. The main trail features an alternate route near the beginning that doesn't significantly change the trail length but provides different scenery, including stream crossings and small seasonal waterfalls. The Wild Horse Trail and Ellie Lane Trails loop around and intersect with the Iron Mountain Trail at different points. Following these trails can more than double your hike and neither one provides an alternate route to the peak. To get to the top of Iron Mountain, you'll need to stick to the main trail.
If you and your pup are looking for an accessible adventure and a fun challenge, you'll love hiking Iron Mountain together.