If you want to bag both peaks of Saddleback Mountain, Modjeska and Santiago, the route from Maple Springs is a great option. In this guide I'll show you how to park at the end of the paved road and then hike through the heart of the Santa Anas to the summits. The first few miles of the hike are on a dirt road, but then we'll switch onto rugged singletrack. There's a lot of confusion around hiking this route, and this guide should clear it all up and make it easy.
In this Guide:
Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions From Maple Springs
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
Where is Maple Springs Trailhead?
If you've looked at other guides, there are usually multiple starting points listed for Maple Springs or Silverado Canyon. I'm going to start this guide at the spot you can safely get to with a low-clearance 2WD vehicle in all conditions. You drive to the end of the paved road and then start hiking.
The point we're ultimately going to is where the pavement ends, which can be found here: 33.745171, -117.544064.
If you have a high(er) clearance vehicle and want to cut some mileage off the hike, you can drive about 4.5 miles past this point to a large parking area (informally) known as Four Corners. The condition of the road varies over time. I believe fire crews keep the road passable; otherwise, it's not graded or maintained. I've seen Subarus do the road, and I'm sure other 2WD have tackled it as well. But if you want to play it safe, park at the end of the pavement.
Gear For the Hike
This long hike is mainly exposed and offers no water along the way. Bring at least 3L of water.
If you're unfamiliar with the Santa Ana's, they can get very hot, sometimes into the 100Fs. The hike is best done when temps are cooler.
The singletrack portions of this hike can be slightly overgrown. Having long pants and sleeves can save you from some abrasion.
As a hiking guide, I test lots of hiking gear. On my picks page, I'll show you all of the gear that I actually use. I don't accept paid promotions or talk about the stuff that doesn't make the cut. It's just the gear that works best, so you don't have to waste your money.
You will be sharing the road with vehicles. Usually I'll see a few 4x4 and motocross bikes. Sometimes more, sometimes none. You'll generally hear them coming before they reach you. Do the smart thing and move to the side to let them pass.
If you choose to drive up Maple Springs Road on the dirt road, the parking is here on the right.
This peak is named after Helena Modjeska, who lived in Santiago Canyon. Previously it was known as the "North Peak" of "Old Saddleback."
What's up with all the towers up here? The first one went up in 1946, and today there are 20. Over the years the antennas have served different uses, from private industry to Air Force communications. Today most serve as cellular data links between Southern California. Private users pay leasing fees to the US Forest Service to use this land.
Does the last photo's building look a little like a fire tower structure? The first fire tower on Santiago Peak was built in 1914, and the structure in front of you was the last iteration of a tower, built in 1951. Since then the fire tower watch area has been replaced with radio antennas, but the structure dates to that 1951 tower.
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).