Cleveland National Forest Hiking

Cleveland National Forest hiking often takes a backseat to the more popular hikes to the north, but there are plenty of great hikes in CNF. And because the elevation is lower, you can enjoy hiking all year, usually without the crowds.

Don’t forget to leave your parks pass on your dashboard when you do these hikes.

Name Distance Level Location Climb Dogs
Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail2.8EasyCorona600Y
Hike Black Star Canyon Trail7.1ModerateSilverado820Y
Hike the Bedford Peak Trail (Orange County)7.2HardSilverado2000Y
Sitton Peak Hike9.2ModerateTrabuco Canyon1960Y
Caspers Wilderness Park – Hike San Juan Hot Springs10.5ModerateSan Juan Capistrano830N
Modjeska Peak Hike15HardTrabuco Canyon4820Y
Saddleback Mountain Hike (Santiago Peak)15.6HardCorona4300Y
Hike Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak21HardCorona4910Y
Hike Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak

Hike Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak

21 miles - Hard

The Indian Truck Trail offers an alternate way to hike Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain). It’s not a rustic single-track trail like  the Santiago Peak hike from Lower Holy Jim Trail, but instead includes some wider Forest Service dirt roads (Indian Truck Trail is also known as forest road 5S01). You might see a few 4x4s or mountain bikes, but otherwise it’s very mellow.  It’s a beautiful hike, so don’t let this stop you.

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black star canyon hike to the falls

Hike Black Star Canyon Trail

7.1 miles - Moderate

Hiking the Black Star Canyon trail is a local favorite for a reason. The trail follows Black Star Creek to Black Star Canyon Falls, and there’s a haunted history to ponder as you hike through this beautiful part of Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park. Hiking on the Black Star Canyon Trail can be a challenge, especially when it’s wet. This guide has everything you need to navigate the hike safely and get to the falls.

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Hike the Bedford Peak Trail

Hike the Bedford Peak Trail (Orange County)

7.2 miles - Hard

The Bedford Peak hike in Orange County is a tough one with big payoffs. Bedford Peak trail climbs about 2000 feet in 3 miles, and your reward is great views of Mt Baldy, Saddleback Mountain, and Catalina. It’s a fun, under-rated hike that recommend.

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san juan hot springs

Caspers Wilderness Park – Hike San Juan Hot Springs

10.5 miles - Moderate

This is a a fun hike to San Juan Hot Springs, which is located in Caspers Wilderness Park, a lightly-visited, 8,000 acre, protected wilderness preserve in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.  The San Juan Hot Springs were first opened in the late 1800s as a full blown resort, complete with cabins, soaking tubs, and pools. Over the years they’ve closed and opened again, with the latest version being closed down in 1992. Today you can hike to San Juan Hot Springs, but whether you can go in them is up for debate (see the article for more). This hike to the hot springs can be done as an 10.5 mile out-and-back trip, or you can do a longer 14 mile loop that circles through the ridges in Caspers Wilderness Park, offering incredible views.

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sitton peak hike

Sitton Peak Hike

9.2 miles - Moderate

The Sitton Peak hike offers great 360 views of the Santa Ana Mountains, San Diego County, Orange County, and Catalina on a clear day.  Sitton Peak (3,273ft) is one of the high peaks in the southern part of Cleveland National Forest, and this hike is much easier than the hike to Saddleback Mountain, with views that are comparable. The trail has some flat sections to catch your breath, making it a great hike for beginners.

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hike holy jim falls trail

Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail

2.8 miles - Easy

The Holy Jim Falls Trail hike is an easy hike to a small waterfall tucked into the heart of the Santa Ana Mountains. The hike follows Holy Jim Creek, which is one of the pristine mountain tributaries of Trabuco Creek, and eventually flows out to the ocean at Dana Point. Today the Holy Jim Falls Trail is family friendly, relatively easy, and well marked hike.

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Modjeska Peak hike

Modjeska Peak Hike

15 miles - Hard

The Modjeska Peak hike is challenging – long, steep, and sometimes primitive. The hike climbs to the second highest point in Orange County, Modjeska Peak. Modjeska Peak, at 5,499 feet, is the lower peak in Saddleback Mountain. The highest peak (and other peak in Saddleback Mountain) is Santiago Peak. The actual summit is undeveloped and much nicer than nearby Santiago Peak. This is a challenging hike. Don’t try this hike without a good level of fitness.

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Saddleback Mountain Hike

Saddleback Mountain Hike (Santiago Peak)

15.6 miles - Hard

Hiking Saddleback Mountain takes you to the highest point in Orange County, Santiago Peak. It’s also the highest point in the Santa Ana mountains at 5,689 feet. This hike takes the scenic Holy Jim Trail, which is also the shortest route to the summit. This is a long and challenging hike. Don’t try this hike without a good level of fitness.

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