Hike Mission Gorge Trails to South Fortuna Peak in San Diego, CA
South Fortuna Peak What to bring: Head lamp, blanket, wine, water or hot chocolate, camera
Distance and Difficulty: 4 miles of moderate hiking/running, easy enough for kids and dogs
What is average for California, is great for San Diego! Mission Gorge Trails doesn’t have the awe inspiring views of the Sierras, seclusion of Joshua Tree or the wildlife of Yosemite, but it does offer great views, some seclusion and wildlife with easier access. Located between HWY 52 and Mission Gorge Road, it is the only escape from the hustle and bustle of San Diego. Hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, rock climbing, wildlife or experiencing the California sunset like you never have before. Forget about the sunset right on the beach, imagine a sunset with a view you will never forget! Fall is the perfect time of year to enjoy this hidden gem.
Bring a head lamp, blanket, small thermos of wine or hot chocolate and hike up the South Fortuna Peak. Standing tall at a whopping 1094 ft the trail is easy enough for the entire family. Don’t get sucked into Cowles mountain, the most overrated and most populated hike in San Diego. Instead of fighting crowds and getting your car broken into, find the the secluded trails near the visitor center. In order to reach the South Fortuna Peak, park at the overflow parking lot on the corner of Mission Gorge Rd and Jackson Dr. This lot always has parking and offers a more secluded trail.
I’ve been on this trail during the week and haven’t seen anyone the entire time. Even on a weekend there are only a handful of people. After leaving the parking lot, head north on the San Diego River crossing trail. It is the only distinct gravel road heading downhill from the parking lot. After about a 1/2 mile you will come to the raging San Diego River! (actually just 3 feet deep and barely moving lol) You can wade across or stay to the left on a small trail through the bush. It will lead you across the river without getting wet. This is a great spot to take dogs who love to swim. Once across the river, continue north on the distinct gravel road at is winds up the hills.
From this point on, you want to take every distinct trail to your right. Halfway up the gravel road you will see a wooden fence, the road will come to a Y intersection. Take the gravel road to the right for about another hundred yards. You will see another wooden fence to the right and a dirt trail, this is your trail. It leads east and downhill toward the dry creek bed. At the end of this trail, you will find a nice picnic area and a dry creek bed running north and south. If there aren’t too many people on the trails that day, this is a great spot to see some wildlife such as wild hairs or coyotes.
Follow the trail to the right/south along the dry creek bed. After about 100 yards there will be a wooden bridge and the trail will intersect with the South Fortuna Trail. Take a right on this trail past a large patch of prickly pear cactus. This is the trail that leads to the South Fortuna peak and an amazing unforgettable sunset view. The trail gains altitude very quickly from this point but starts to give way to the beautiful views. Once at the summit, roll out the blanket, sit down, relax and pour that glass of wine.
Watch as the deep purples, reds and orange colors dance across the sky in Mission Gorge. The cutout of the San Diego coast silhouetting off the the reflecting ocean backdrop is breath taking. I guarantee the 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and oceans as the sun fades will be one of the most memorable sunsets you have ever seen. As the day gives way to night, watch as the city and wildlife comes alive, surrounding your little slice of peaceful heaven. Hike down with the beautiful sounds of nature as coyotes howl and crickets chirp!