Indians called it Mountain of Moonlit Rocks, an appropriate name for a landmark visible, even at night, over great distances. Later settlers dubbed it Cobbleback Peak, a name utterly descriptive of its rugged, boulder-strewn slopes. But for more than 100 years now, the peak has appeared on maps simply as Woodson Mountain, in honor of a Dr. Woodson who homesteaded some property nearby well over a century ago. Today, this local landmark draws significant numbers of hikers, who can ascend the peak from a variety of directions.
The light-colored bedrock of Woodson Mountain and several of its neighboring peaks is a type geologists call Woodson Mountain granodiorite. When exposed at the surface, it weathers into huge spherical or ellipsoidal boulders with smooth surfaces. The largest boulders have a tendency to cleave apart along remarkably flat planes, leaving gaps several inches to several feet wide. Sometimes, one half of a split boulder will roll away, leaving a vertical and almost seamless face behind. It's no wonder that local rock climbers consider Woodson Mountain (a.k.a. Mount Woodson) to be the best place in the county for bouldering challenges.
Don't come here during the midday hours of summer. It's simply too hot. Instead, arrive very early in the morning, when Woodson's 2894-foot summit often pokes above a dense blanket of stratus clouds. Or try the evening time slot, starting around 6 p.m., when your effort in reaching the top will be rewarded by a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. Tuesday, July 23, and Wednesday, July 24, are particularly auspicious for an evening visit, as you can witness the full moon rising in the east while at the same time the sun sets in the west.
The following directions refer to the most straightforward and popular route to Woodson Mountain's summit. Park in one of the large turnouts on the east side of Highway 67, three miles north of Poway Road, opposite the entrance to the California Division of Forestry fire station. Carefully cross the highway, and follow the beaten path south past the fire station to a paved road, closed to motor vehicles. Continue 1.5 miles up this road to Woodson's antenna-topped summit, some 1200 feet higher than your starting point. To obtain the optimum western view, walk about 0.2 mile farther west along the narrow summit ridge, past various antenna towers, to reach a vantage point overlooking Poway and much of the North County.