SoCal local who has two four footed furballs.
Mt Woodson hike is called the Potato Chip Rock hike by localsMount Woodson Trail
This is a great trail, though it offers very little shade -- so try to take your pooch on a cooler day.
The current photo in BringFido is for a completely different trail in Poway (Iron Mountain); that is a good trail as well, but it is not Mount Woodson. . If you want to know all about the Mt Woodson trail, just do a Yelp of Potato Chip Rock (which is what locals refer to this hike as .... once you see the photos and description you'll know why).
Some key things to note:
If you hike from Lake Poway all the way to the base of the radio towers at the peak, that is roughly 4 miles (though many people turn around at Potato Chip Rock, which is close to but not at the absolute peak).
NO trashcans at the top. The only trashcans that exist on the trail are in the vicinity of the picnic tables (located about 1.7 miles into the hike).
Everyone wants to take a photo of themselves atop Potato Chip Rock. If you don't want to stand in line for 1+ hours to get that iconic photo of yourself, I'd recommend going on a Mon thru Fri during a non-Holiday week (Tue thru Thur have the least wait times, normally no longer than 5 minutes).
Pick your entrance and pick your exitCowles Mountain Trail
As a San Diego local, I can tell you that Cowles provides a great "set" of hikes. I say "set" because there are multiple places you can enter (all different parking areas), with multiple routes up and down to the peak(s). Plan your route beforehand to come up with the distance / elevation gain hike that best suits you and your pup.
On the short end, you can make this a 3 mile hike / 900 ft gain straight to Cowles peak via the Golfcrest entrance and the switchbacks. Alternatively, you can make this a double-peak exercise (continuing from Cowles peak to Pyles peak) and taking one of the meandering routes from say the "Mesa Trail" entrance., which turns this into a 9mile hike / 2250 ft gain. And there are multiple distances / elevation gain, depending upon where you enter, which trails you opt to take, and whether you stop at Cowles peak, or whether you continue on to PYles peak.
I personally prefer to enter from Mesa Road and do the Mesa Trail, as it is much less crowded than the main/golfcrest entrance, the trail is longer and more meandering, and it provides much more shade in the afternoon. Also, the main entrance/route is very crowded, as the 3 mile hike is an extremely popular exercise venue for the locals; I prefer to stay off of that for the bulk of the hike.
No matter which trail you do, I would consider these trails moderate to moderate/strenuous depending upon one's level of shape. I'd rate the hikes as 5 bones, but I drop to 4 bones only because of the intense number of people on the main portion of the trail.
Love this hike when its not too hotIron Mountain Trail
6mile hike (3up / 3back), 1000ft elevation gain. Definitely best to take the pups in the fall, winter, or spring, as it can get quite hot in the summer (when temps can be 15-20 degrees hotter than at the beaches). I've hiked the dogs here on cool days, and at night. Good times to be had by all as long as your dog is friendly and doesn't have issues with other dogs or people (it is a popular trail, so there will frequently be folks & pups passing close by you in the opposite direction on the moderately narrow trails). Bring plenty of water for your furballs. Trashcans to dispose of your poop bags available at the top of the trail and at the entrance to the trail.