Along with Cowles Mountain, and innumerable other locations in San Diego County, Viejas Mountain is an interesting peak with cultural significance for the Kumeyaay people. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Kumeyaay people would climb the mountain to watch the sunrise on the winter solstice. Today, like Cowles Mountain, Viejas Mountain is on the list of San Diego’s “100 Peaks” - the one hundred tallest mountains that grace the confines of the county. However, unlike Cowles Mountain, Viejas Mountain features a leg-burning ascent up a steep slope, and for large parts of the year, a great deal of hiking solitude to go with the suffering.
While there is technically not a “bad” place to hike in Zion National Park, many of the park’s signature hikes present a number of challenges. Angel’s Landing, for example, tests an individual’s fear of heights. The Narrows, as yet another example, tests an individuals willingness to wade in cool to chilling water. Further complicating Zion’s hiking is the fact that as one of the National Park service’s signature - and most popular units, hiking in the main areas of Zion requires additional planning, from parking one’s vehicle outside the park, and riding the shuttle to a number of areas in the valley. While some of these issues can be avoided by going in the off-season, or into other areas of the park, the fact remains that some of the best views in the park can be found outside of the main valley of Zion at the Canyon Overlook with little to no effort.
At 1,291 feet high, North Fortuna Mountain is the third highest mountain in the confines of Mission Trail Regional Park and is 197 feet higher than its neighbor, South Fortuna Mountain. In my mind, however, out of all of the five mountains in the park, North Fortuna Mountain features the toughest leg burning ascent. Like many things, this is something that is open to debate. While both Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak for the most part do not feature tough straight uphill sections, both South Fortuna and Kwaay Paay Peak have solid claims to the toughest leg burning ascents as well. Even with the toughest - or near toughest leg burning ascent, North Fortuna Mountain is a great hike as it provides great views, and is part of the Five Peak Challenge within Mission Trails.
Mission Trails Regional Park is an area that is rich in pre-European history from the Kumeyaay people, and an area that is rich in post-European history with the Old Mission Dam along with the remnants of Camp Eliott. Within the confines of its 7,220 acres are five mountains, which comprise a hiking challenge for adventurous locals and visitors alike. However, a little known historic fact is that the park actually has four - not five mountains. Earlier maps of the region called both South Fortuna Mountain and North Fortuna Mountain simply “Long Peak”. Even today, from a distance, the separate summits of South Fortuna (1,094 feet elevation) and North Fortuna (1,291 feet elevation) separated by the Fortuna saddle appear to be one mass with a number of humps. Despite visual appearances and former maps, even though South Fortuna is the smallest summit in the park, it can be a great strenuous day hike, as part of a larger trek, or as a stand-alone summit.
San Jacinto Peak is the highest peak in the San Jacinto mountain range at 10,834 feet of elevation; and the second tallest mountain in Southern California. It is also the sixth most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous United States.In the past, San Jacinto was known to the Cahuilla Native Americans as Aya Kaich, meaning an area with smooth cliffs. To them, the mountain was the home to Dakush, the meteor and legendary founder of their tribe. Today, San Jacinto is known to hikers and mountaineers as one of the “Three Saints”, a term that refers to the three tallest mountain ranges in Southern California – the San Jacinto Range, the San Gabriel Range, and the San Bernadino Range. The other mountain members of the Three Saints are Mount San Antonio, and Mount San Gorgonio. The mountain has also been popular with modern explorers and conservationists, including John Muir, who stated, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth”. The mountain is also a popular destination due to its proximity to Southern California, and has multiple points of access on both its Eastern flank (Palm Springs) and its Western Side (Idyllwild).
For those that have never visited a desert, there is a popular perception that such areas only have miles and miles of flat, featureless terrain. In reality, however, deserts have a huge variety of terrain, ranging from mountains, sand dunes, slot canyons, sunken basins, and a variety of things in between. One of the most interesting things about deserts is that many of them provide evidence of dormant volcanism (such as the Ubehebe Crater), and active volcanism (such as the Mud Pots in the Salton Sea). In the Mojave Desert, there are a number of locations that one can see evidence of dormant volcanism, from the Cinder Cone area within Mojave National Preserve, and the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark.
Joshua Tree National Park is renown for its signature tree, and for its rock climbing routes. Interspersed through the park, however, are some excellent hiking trails. Although a lot of “hiking” occurs within the confines of the campgrounds, and to and from climbing routes, the most popular trail is the park’s second highest mountain, Ryan Mountain. At a glance, the 5,456 foot tall mountain does not appear to be a challenging hike; especially as it is only one and a half miles to the summit, but with over one thousand feet of elevation gain, along with a number of other desert factors, this trail, and hike is not to be underestimated. But, for those hikers willing to brave the conditions, and at times, the crowds, the payoff for this hike is a desert summit with great three hundred and sixty degree views.