Enjoy the Trails
Mission Trails consists of five sections: West Fortuna, East Fortuna, Mission Gorge, Cowles Mountain, and Lake Murray. Each area is unique, and offers visitors the opportunity to experience various terrains and wildlife.
Hikers, equestrians, runners and mountain bikers alike love the variety of trails at Mission Trails. There are over 60 miles of trails for all ages and fitness levels. Depending on which trail you choose, expect to see SoCal nature at it's finest, from colorful wildflowers to incredible mountain top views.
The Visitor's Center Loop is a great choice for families or novice hikers. It is a 1.5 mile loop with a slight elevation that runs along the San Diego River. There are multiple places to stop for shade, and you can expect to see beautiful wildflowers throughout.
Helping the Park
Choose from a range of MTRP branded products (three t-shirt styles, hats, etc.), toys, books for adults and children, botanical soaps, notecards, and more. All proceeds support the park through the MTRP Foundation.
The Cowles Mountain Trail is one of the most popular trails at the park, and is rated as moderate. It is a 3 mile out-and-back trail with the trailhead starting in the San Carlos neighborhood. The summit of this trail is a real reward- 360 views of San Diego, Mexico, North County and Orange Country from the top of Cowles Mountain.
Another well-traveled trail is the Father Junipero Serra Trail, which is a 4.5 mile out-and-back trail that follows the canyon that splits Kwaay Paay and South Fortuna. It is fully paved, which makes it a popular choice among those with baby strollers or wheelchairs.
The Oak Canyon Trail to South Fortuna Trail is considered one of the most difficult hikes in the park. It is a 10.3 mile out-and-back trail, gaining over 2,300 feet in elevation. This trail can be used to access both North and South Fortuna summits, with truly incredible views!
Dog are welcome on all the trails at Mission Trails Regional Park. We have even featured Mission Trails as a great dog friendly hiking spot as seen in our Best Things to do in San Diego article.
Tackle the 5-Peak Challenge!
The 5 Peak Challenge was created in 2015 to bring awareness to the less-traveled parts of Mission Trails, and to redistribute trail traffic. The challenge is to hike the 5 main peaks in the park, and take a selfie next to the sign at each summit. The five main peaks are Cowles Mountain, Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay Peak, South Fortuna, and North Fortuna.
This does not have to be completed in one day, and only approximately 5% of hikers complete it in one day. In total, the challenge covers approximately 12 miles, and hikers gain a maximum elevation of 1,592 feet at Cowles Mountain, which is the highest peak in the city of San Diego. Those highly trained athletes who do complete it in one day typically take about 6 hours.
Successful finishers are able to claim a logo pin and certification of completion from the Visitor Center. Dogs are welcome to join the challenge, and can even earn their own certificate, but unfortunately canine hikers are not awarded logo pins.
Check out the Visitor and Interpretive Center
The 14,500 square foot Visitor and Interpretive Center is impressive in both size and offerings. Many visitors come to the center for the thrilling view of Mission Gorge! Head out to the terrace and prepare to be wowed.
At the Visitor Center, there is information on the various trails, camping, boating and guided hikes and registration for programs. Visitors can also use the gleaming restrooms, or fill up their water bottles at the water station before setting off on the trails. The center is open daily from 9am-5pm, and is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
The center offers many educational programs and exhibits for visitors to learn about the history and wildlife at Mission Trails. There is a 94 seat theater, with a rotating schedule of shows focusing on the people and nature of the area. There is also a library, art gallery and gift shop offering authentic treasures unique to Mission Trails.
Also Camping, Boating and Fishing!
In April 2000, the park opened 46 campsites at Kumeyaay Lake Campground, as an addition to the San Diego Camping scene. Reservations are required, and all fees must be paid online in advance. The campground offers picnic tables, BBQ grills and fire rings.
Boating and fishing are very popular in the Lake Murray area. The season runs from November-Labor Day, and during that time the lake is brimming with trout, catfish, and largemouth bass, among others. There is a concessionaire which offers bait and tackle, fishing permits, boat and canoe rentals.