At 1,291 feet high, North Fortuna Mountain is the third highest mountain in the confines of Mission Trail Regional Park and is 197 feet higher than its neighbor, South Fortuna Mountain. In my mind, however, out of all of the five mountains in the park, North Fortuna Mountain features the toughest leg burning ascent. Like many things, this is something that is open to debate. While both Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak for the most part do not feature tough straight uphill sections, both South Fortuna and Kwaay Paay Peak have solid claims to the toughest leg burning ascents as well. Even with the toughest - or near toughest leg burning ascent, North Fortuna Mountain is a great hike as it provides great views, and is part of the Five Peak Challenge within Mission Trails.
With miles of pristine beaches, rolling chaparral covered hills, and a constant semi-arid desert climate, San Diego will never be identified as one of the hot spots for waterfalls or hikes to waterfalls. However, unbeknownst to many people, from December through Memorial Day, San Diego does have a number of great seasonal waterfall hikes that highlight some of the best features of the county’s backcountry. As all of these waterfalls are seasonal, timing is everything, and also somewhat dependent on the weather pattern for the year. During wet winters and springs, these waterfalls will have high flows, and creek crossings; and during drought years, there may only be a trickle and dry stream beds. Similarly, with respect to timing, at the right times, these waterfalls can and will appear spectacular – but at the wrong times, may be a letdown after a hot, dusty trek. Keeping all that in mind, these hikes can also be great gateways to explore other regions of San Diego County, and again, at the right times, great spots to view spring wildflowers. I’ve listed the below hikes in order of difficulty, and let me know your thoughts about them, or any additions you have to the list below!
While San Diego is a young city in terms of history, it has a number of hidden historic gems. Many of these locations are clustered near the current city center (such as the Whaley House), but one of the spots, the Old Mission Dam, is located in the middle of San Diego's largest municipal park, Mission Trails. The Old Mission Dam is a historic structure for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, it is the oldest colonial engineering project on the Pacific Coast.
Mission Trails is a park that is known for one thing and one thing only: Cowles Mountain and that is a shame. It is a shame because, while Cowles Mountain is pretty, it is only a small portion of the 5,800 acres of open space, and it is tucked away in the Southern corner of the park. The remainder of the park is a great example of preserved open space; and a great spot to find solitude and serenity from the hustle and bustle of San Diego. Mission Trails is also a great spot to see how California used to look, as it is full of native California coastal vegetation that covers its hills and valleys; and it is a great spot to see how the seasons pass and have passed in the coastal desert plain for hundreds of years, with seasonal wildflowers and waterfalls in the winter and spring, and dry slickrock and whispering grasses in the summer and fall months. The best trail to hike in all of the park to experience everything I’ve listed above – solitude, serenity, and seasonal features is the Oak Canyon Trail; and the best time to experience it is from November to May.