Hike to the summit of North Fortuna Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park.

Fortuna Mountain, in East County's Mission Trails Regional Park, presides over a great deal of as yet undeveloped territory. Peering north and northeast from Fortuna's 1291-foot summit, you can see thousands of acres of empty, corrugated land spreading eastward from the Miramar air base. In the southeast several nearby peaks jut skyward, culminating in 1591-foot Cowles Mountain, the highest elevation in the city of San Diego. Views in other directions besides these take in much of the variegated urban tapestry of San Diego and its satellite cities.

Dawn view from Fortuna Mountain

If you pick a clear day for the five-mile round-trip trek to Fortuna's summit (starting from Tierrasanta), you'll be rewarded with an ocean vista to boot. Be sure to wear shoes with good traction. Sections of the trails -- or rather the eroded access roads that serve as trails -- are steep and slippery.

Begin at the Colina Dorada trailhead, where Colina Dorada meets Calle de Vida, 0.3 mile east of Rueda Drive in Tierrasanta. Head northeast along the wide trail, and at 0.5 mile pass a deep road cut (accompanied by a trail) on the right where Clairemont Mesa Boulevard may someday cut east toward a proposed Jackson Drive-to-Highway 52 extension. These on-again, off-again road-building proposals have been tabled for the foreseeable future, to the relief of park proponents who wish to keep the west side of Mission Trails park quiet and serene.

Continue straight (northeast) along the west side of a hill to a wide intersection of trails on a 730-foot saddle at 0.8 mile. The cylindrical structures nearby are ventilators for the Second San Diego Aqueduct. Continue straight, descending sharply northeast toward the bowl-like valley west of Fortuna Mountain. This secluded valley, its oak-lined, intermittent stream dubbed Suycott Wash, still hosts mule deer and coyotes.

Let the northeast-trending powerlines be your guide as you continue across the bottom of the valley, cross Suycott Wash (1.3 miles), and climb to the 910-foot saddle of Fortuna Mountain (2.0 miles). The last 300 yards to the saddle are extremely steep and slippery. Bear left at the intersection on top, and proceed about one-half mile northwest up a steep, eroded firebreak to Fortuna's 1291-foot summit, which is referred to as "North Fortuna Mountain" on park maps but simply as "Fortuna Mountain" on nearly all other maps.

If you're looking for a cool resting or picnic spot on the way back, then Suycott Wash is the place. Follow the narrow trail downstream from the Suycott Wash ford you crossed earlier. A strip of oak woodland extends from about 0.3 to 0.8 mile south. In places the creek trickles over boulders, and oak limbs arch overhead in an intricate tangle. Be aware of the abundant poison oak in the area.

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