North Fortuna Mountain via Oak Canyon (Mission Trails Regional Park)
- Location: Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, Old Mission Dam area. If you are using Google Maps, enter the address 10164 Father Junipero Serra Trail, Santee. From the west, take the 52 Freeway to Mast Blvd. (exit 13). Turn left, go 0.2 mile and turn right onto West Hills Parkway. Go 0.7 mile and turn right on to Mission Gorge Rd. In 0.2 mile, bear right onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. Follow it 0.7 mile to the Old Mission Dam area on the right (just before the street becomes one-way). Park in the lot or if it is full where available on the street, noting posted restrictions. Alternately from the east, take the 125 Freeway to Mission Gorge Rd. Turn left and follow Mission Gorge Rd. 1.7 miles to Father Junipero Serra Trail. Bear right and follow Father Junipero Serra Trail 0.7 mile tot he Old Mission Dam parking area.
- Agency: Mission Trails Regional Park
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain)
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Best season: November – May
- Recommended gear: sun screen sun hat hiking poles
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution during warm months; some of the rocky terrain may be difficult on paws; expect there to be many other dogs)
- Cell phone reception: Good; fair or weak in some spots
- Water: Water fountains (including for dogs) at the trail head
- Restrooms: Chemical toilets at the trail head
- Camping: At the Kumeyaay Campground (about half a mile from the Old Mission Dam)
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; description of Oak Canyon here
- Rating: 7
You already know how to climb South Fortuna Mountain so in this post, we’ll look at its taller neighbor: North Fortuna (elevation 1,291), the third highest peak in Mission Trails Regional Park, behind Cowles and Pyles. Many hikers combine the two Fortunas into one big trek and while that’s a challenging and worthwhile endeavor, hiking to North Fortuna via Oak Canyon, described below, offers variety. In fact, the combination of Oak Canyon’s peacefulness (especially during the winter months when the sound of the trickling stream enhances the experience) and panoramic views from the summit make this arguably the best hike in the park.
From the parking area, head past the Old Mission Dam (note the historical marker and the fact that the dam was completed more than 200 years ago), cross the river on a narrow footbridge and begin hiking on the Oak Canyon Trail. Oak Canyon is a pleasant riparian habitat which is not entirely shaded but is nevertheless home to several impressive live oaks as well as a seasonal stream. Make your way up canyon, occasionally crossing a footbridge, staying left at two intersections and negotiating a rocky gorge. At 1.1 miles from the start, bear left on the North Fortuna Summit Trail. Follow it a short distance to a junction (the start of the loop).
The loop portion of the hike is more easily done counter-clockwise, as described below. Head right (north) on a single-track, signed as Oak Canyon North. You’re likely to have less company in this more remote section of the trail; other than the 52 Freeway overpass in the distance, there aren’t many signs of civilization. After a final stream crossing, the trail climbs the rocky eastern wall of the canyon and reaches a T-junction by an information board.
Turn left and head uphill on a dirt road. The next 3/4 mile is the only part of the hike that might feel like work as the trail makes a steep, exposed ascent. However, even this stretch has its rewards; keep an eye out for a small scenic waterfall shortly after the first climb and enjoy increasingly wide views to the north and east. When the dirt road ends, turn left on a single-track which climbs up a staircase and reaches the toe of North Fortuna Mountain’s north ridge (2.7 miles from the start.)
Follow the trail north (left) toward the summit, climbing an exposed ridge for 0.4 mile and 300 vertical feet, passing a false summit on the way. After some huffing and puffing, you’ll find yourself on North Fortuna Mountain, with a 360-degree view: South Fortuna, Cowles and Pyles to the south; San Diego and the ocean to the west; Mt. Woodson and Iron Mountain northeast. You may even get a glimpse of the distant San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains.
After enjoying the view, continue south on the trail which is level for a few hundred feet before dropping steeply down to Fortuna Saddle (3.7 miles from the start). Turn left and begin another steep, sometimes loose descent, dropping back down into Oak Canyon, completing the loop. Retrace your steps on the Oak Canyon Trail back to Old Mission Dam and your starting point.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.