Cowles Mountain & Pyles Peak

Peak Name: Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak
Distance: 4.97 miles
Date: June 6, 2019
Summit: 1,592 feet – Cowles, 1,379 feet – Pyles

The San Diego Adventure Club was hosting an evening hike up Cowles Mountain and onto Pyles Peak. Since Cowles is so popular, any chance to do it when there is less crowded I will take it. June Gloom was in full force as we set off from the Staging Area near Golfcrest.

We quickly found ourselves at the summit of Cowles, amongst a small crowd of folks. There was a slight breeze, so we did not linger, a couple of quick photos before we headed off toward Pyles.

One of the hikers in the group was excited, as once she summited Pyles, she will have completed the Mission Trails 5 Peak Challenge. We descended down from Cowles and across the saddle.

Some opted to take the side trail to the top of P1380, but with the low clouds, I opted to skip it this time. We made our way up to the summit and again took our photos. It was getting later and a tad chilly. We began making our way back down. The group opted to descend via a use trail near an overlook. I opted not to follow and return the same way.

Once I reached the summit of Cowles, I broke out my headlamp and began the careful trek down. The last thing I wanted to do was to turn an ankle with a simple misstep. There were some city lights to provide some visual treats. I was surprised at the number of people still climbing up with maybe an iPhone to light their way.

These summits complete my second Mission Trails 5 Peak Challenge and #34 and #35 of my 100 Peak Challenge Reboot.

North & South Fortuna

Peak Name: North Fortuna
Distance: 5.88 miles (both peaks)
Date: May 24, 2019
Summit: 1,291 feet – North Fortuna, 1,094 feet – South Fortuna

I had hiked the Fortunas a number of times when I lived in Tierrasanta. When summiting them again for the 100 Peak Challenge Reboot, I decided that they should have their own post and not be apart of my Mission Trails 5 Peak Challenge post.

Rather than follow my standard route of up the South Fortuna stairs then over to North Fortuna and back to the Claremont Mesa trailhead, I opted to approach these peaks via the Oak Canyon route. Since we just had some more rain, I knew that I would have a flowing stream for part of the trail to enhance the scenery.

I parked along the road near the Old Mission Dam and quickly crossed the bridge and onto the trail leading up Oak Canyon. The rains had certainly created a lot of growth along the trail. The trail to the Fortuna Saddle provided a good hard warm-up.

Once at the saddle, I opted to summit North Fortuna first. I worked my way up toward the peak, which is initially hidden from the saddle. Since it was a late Friday afternoon, the traffic on the trails was light. I did encounter two hikers asking about routes since I carry a paper map, I showed them where we were and the best route back to the visitor center. I let them keep it.

Atop the summit, I could see the clouds starting to form to the east, as a storm was forecast for the weekend. I opted not to sign the register, and then back retracing my route down to the saddle. The new peak marker had not been installed here yet.

The trail up to South Fortuna was a bit easier and much easier than up the stairs. The marker for South Fortuna has been replaced with one that is a bit more impressive. Across the canyon, I could see Kwaay Paay standing tall, and Cowles and Pyles a bit beyond that.

While descending toward the saddle from South Fortuna, a rattlesnake was making its way across the trail in front of me. I let it pass, but it still stopped and hissed at me as I gave it a wide berth.

Retracing my route down Oak Canyon, I pass the Oak tree with a very bent branch. One of my favorite family photos was taken here. I had to reflect that in a few weeks my twins would be graduating high school and moving on with their lives.

Kwaay Paay (P1194)

Peak Name: Kwaay Paay (P1194)
Distance: 3.03 miles
Date: May 26, 2019
Summit: 1,194 feet

Since I had to drop my daughter and friend off at 5:15 am to catch a train to a youth group event in Simi Valley, I decided to see if I might be able to sneak a short hike in before the predicted rains came. While Kwaay Paay seemed to fit the bill, short and in-town. I drove out to Mission Trails and parked in the lot just outside the locked gate. The skies were gloomy as I made my way down the road to the trailhead. While Kwaay Paay is a short hike, it does offer a nice elevation gain to offset that.

Working my way up, I encountered a few early morning folks trying to squeeze in a workout before the rains came. The trail has seen some damage from the winter’s rains, so there were a few rutted sections to be aware of.

The cloudy skies did dampen the views at the summit, which was still sporting the old summit sign. The Fortunas were visible from across the canyon.

On the way down I opted to take the east side trail just for something different. This trail follows the eastern edge of the park next to the apartments.

I made back to the car, and about 3 minutes later the rain came. This was peak #28 of the #100PeakChallenge Reboot.

5 Peaks of Mission Trails

I used to live in Tierrasanta, and Mission Trails was my go-to place to hike. When the twins were little, I would do a loop with them in the jogging stroller. There are five summit-able peaks in Mission Trails: Cowles, Pyles, North Fortuna, South Fortuna, and Kwaay Paay. I summited these peaks again as part of the park’s 5 Peak Challenge. The first set of summits was the Fortunas. These will give you a nice workout, especially up the stairs to South Fortuna.

Fortuna Loop from Tierrasanta side

I bagged Kwaay Paay after work. This peak is a great little summit, as it gets a lot less traffic than the other four.

Cowles Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in town. So, I opted to approach it from the backside to avoid some of the crowds. Once at the summit, Pyles is a short hike from it, and the crowds drop away as you head toward it.