Ortega Ridge divides the two main western drainages flowing off of Ortega Peak. The lower section of the Ridge holds a variety of homes scattered around the dramatic rock precipice that crowns the first mile. The homes and the shear rock cliffs that surround the crown make it impractical to attempt to hike the lower portion. The best approach is to hike up either the North or South Ortega Canyon drainages and access the Ridge at the very obvious saddle, about a mile in. If you follow the South Ortega Canyon you might as well hike on up to the first waterfall, then reverse back to the side drainage taking you up and onto the Ridge. It would be a shame to miss that section of Ortega Canyon!
Once on the Ridge you have fairly open, if often steep, access to range back and forth to enjoy views down into either canyon. You also have options for descending down into the canyon bottoms, but exercise caution. The rock here is often razor sharp, and can be loose and unstable.
Proceeding up the Ridge you will eventually be confronted by a band of rock wall forming the crest of the meadow plateau that runs west and north from Ortega Peak. Ascend that barrior and proceed on to the Peak, connecting with T119 ("A" Trail) for any easier hike back down to town, or follow Lost Trail around and down to the northwest. Walking back down the Ridge is probably the easiest option if you do not plan to include the walk up to the top of Ortega Peak.
This is a nice hike to enjoy on some of the colder winter days when full sunlight exposure is a welcome idea.
The hike is all off trail. Exercise care and caution... lots of prickly stuff up there!
If you begin this Ridge hike using Ortega Canyon South, please park at the lower city water tank, not near the upper tanks. That area is private property, and you will be crossing private land in the early portion of the hike. Be quiet and respectful to preserve our ongoing access to this area.