We love Mission Trails Regional Park for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s close by and easy to get to. Second, it has a huge variety of interconnecting trails so you can make as long or as short of a hike as you have time for, and as easy or challenging of a hike as you can handle. The numerous trails also makes it hard to get bored – you can take different routes and constantly mix up your routine. Although we’d hiked North Fortuna Mountain before, we’d never gone up the backside near Highway 52. With recent rains filling up the San Diego River and adjacent creeks, we decided we’d head up Oak Canyon which has an idyllic creek flowing through it wet seasons, then follow the North Perimeter Trail adjacent to Highway 52 up to the summit of North Fortuna. Since it was a nice cool day, perfect for hiking with a dog, we were joined by the ever courageous Khan.
We started from the Mission Dam parking area. It’s important to note that during the winter, the gate on the road into Mission Trails is closed and locked at 5pm, so if you’re starting this hike later in the day you might want to consider parking outside the gate and walking in. You’re allowed to be in the park after the gate is locked, it’s just your car that isn’t welcome. We were actually doing an afternoon hike this time around (we almost always hike early in the morning), so we went ahead parked at the Bushy Hill parking area just to be safe.
On our right was the Old Mission Dam, a relic from the early 1800’s. The dam was built to provide water for the Mission San Diego de Alcala several miles downstream. While the flume that carried water from the dam to the Mission has long since been dismantled, the remnants of the dam still remain. There were a fair amount of people with young children hanging around the dam area, so we snapped a couple of quick photos and headed on. At quieter times, this is a fantastic spot to watch birds and practice your photography.
Once across the bridge, the trail bent eastward again. Thick tufts of dark green grass adorned the trail side, a spectacle that we only get to enjoy for a few months each year in arid San Diego.
The trail started a small ascent and gradually began to turn north. There were a few trails branching off to the right that led back down towards the dam area and an overlook, but we stayed on the main trail as it curved north.
At 1.2 miles the Oak Canyon trail intersected briefly with the Fortuna Saddle trail. This was the way we’d be returning, but for now we took the branch on the right to continue on the Oak Canyon Trail.
We passed a section full of poison oak, helpfully identified with a bright yellow sign. At this point in the season, the plant was mostly bare sticks, with only a few of the tell-tale red leaves to alert passers by to its presence. We knew that even the bare branches could still cause a rash, and made sure to keep ourselves and Khan well away from it.
We had to cross the creek a couple of times here, this time without the aid of a wooden footbridge. But the water was shallow here and there were lots of sturdy rocks, so it wasn’t particularly difficult and our paws and shoes all stayed dry.
The next hill was a little bit steeper, and the footing wasn’t fantastic on the loose gravel, but we’d hiked much worse before. I should also note that as we were right next to the 52 in mid-afternoon, the traffic noise was somewhat overwhelming. But the scenery of Mission Trails in mid-winter is pretty stellar, so we happily climbed up the next hill.
We were rewarded with a somewhat level stretch at this point. I’d actually just hiked El Cajon Mountain 2 days prior, and found that going up these hills was doing wonders for alleviating the residual soreness I felt from that adventure. In the distance, we could see another hill awaited us, this one appeared to be even steeper still.
The severity and frequency of the steep ups and downs would put a roller coaster to shame. But at long last, we reached the top of the final hill. Looking back from where we’d come was an impressive view.
Continuing on, the trail ran into a chain link gate and fence blocking off access to the highway. We turned left onto a narrow set of wooden steps heading up the hillside along the fence, following signs for the North Fortuna Summit.
At 3.7 miles we reached the bottom of the slope and found a “Y” junction. We took the left fork and almost immediately came upon a 4-way junction between the power lines. We took the first left down the East Fortuna Service Road.
From here we followed our original route back to the parking lot.
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From Mission Gorge Road, turn onto Father Juniper Serra Trail and continue to the Old Mission Dam Parking area (located approximately 1.8 miles east of the Visitor’s Center and .5 miles west of the campground). Make note of the gate closure time, and park outside the gates and walk in if you are hiking later in the day. map
|Total Distance:||5.4 miles|
|Total Ascent:||1340 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed on Oak Canyon Trail|
|Facilities:||Drinking fountain and port-a-potties at Mission Dam parking area|