North Fortuna

I needed to think through a presentation I was making the next day, so I figured a nice hike would help me focus. Since I needed some photos for some trail guides I am writing, I decided to hike up the Fortunas in Mission Trails. I wanted some better photos of the “infamous” South Fortuna stairs and the new summit marker atop North Fortuna. As I neared the parking lot, I remembered there was some construction happening on this side of the park, courtesy of the San Diego Water District. I looked over the map and realized that I wasn’t going to have an easy route to get to the South Fortuna stairs, but I still had a route to North Fortuna. 

I crossed the bridge into the park and headed north toward the Rim Trail. Clear signs warned me about various closures and detours. Cruising along the trail, I could see two work areas, to the northwest and southeast. The work was supposed to be done in early 2022, but construction is rarely on time. I reached four corners and had a decision to make – I could take the Suycott Valley Alternative Trail to connect to the Fortuna Saddle Trail and then the summit, or I could take the Shepherd Ridge Trail to approach the summit from the north side. Since I had never done North Fortuna from the north side, my choice was an easy one. 

I had passed a few folks on the trail, but as it was about 4 pm on a Thursday, I did not expect to see many. The trail took me northward, getting closer to the northern edge of the park and the 52 freeway. The evening commute was starting to pick up. The trail connects briefly with the Perimeter Trail before turning southward to begin the real climb up North Fortuna.

While it wasn’t the South Fortuna Stairs, I did have a small section of stairs to assist me. After crossing a false summit, the real summit was just a short bit away. I snapped my photos and took a short break before continuing southward toward the saddle. 

I took the saddle back down to the west until it reached Suycott Valley Alternative Trail. Normally, I would stay on this trail, but the construction closure prevented that. As I made my way on the trail back toward Four Corners, it was clear that this trail was heavily favored by mountain bikers, and was glad I was here on a weekday. I would not recommend this trail on a weekend. Once back at Four Corners, I retraced my route to the car. Just before I started the short climb from Four Corners, two mountain bikers came screaming down the wide trail, reaffirming my thoughts about weekend use. As I made my way back to the car, I passed several more mountain bikers. Back at my car, I saw that both sides of the street were now packed. This route was 5.75 miles with 1,195 feet of elevation gain.  


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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