- Home - Hiking Trails - Orange County Hiking Modjeska Peak Hike
The Modjeska Peak hike is challenging - long, steep, and sometimes primitive. The hike climbs to the second highest point in Orange County, Modjeska Peak. The actual summit is undeveloped and much nicer than nearby Santiago Peak.
15 miles (24.2 km)
5160 ft (1573 m)
Dirt roads, primitive trails
Climbing, views, cool summit
Modjeska Peak Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Trabuco Creek Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA, 92679, USA
The Modjeska Peak Hike is about 45 minutes east of Newport Beach / John Wayne Airport, and about 60 minutes south of Annehiim. The last mile or two to the trailhead is a dirt road. There are some supermarkets and a general store a few miles away from the trailhead for supplies.
There's a ton of climbing as you basically go straight up to one of the tallest peaks in the Santa Ana mountains.
The hike to Modjeska Peak is generally very steep. There's a short downhill section in the middle where you can catch your breath. Be careful on the downhill return. The steepness is extreme at parts. I strongly advise using hiking poles.
Interactive Map Modjeska Peak Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Modjeska Peak Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Modjeska Peak Hike Directions What to Expect Modjeska Peak is the second highest peak in Orange County at 5,499 feet, and is the lower peak in Saddleback Mountain. The highest peak (and other peak in Saddleback Mountain) is Santiago Peak. This is a challenging hike. Don’t try this hike without a good level of fitness. There are more mountain bikers than hikers on the Modjeska Peak hike. Give them a wide berth, the trail is narrow. There can be bugs on this hike, and they’re annoying, especially when you’re grinding uphill. Bring some natural insect repellant to deal. There’s a fire pit on the summit of Modjeska Peak, a nice clearing, and great views. It’s obvious that people have done some backcountry camping here. Most maps have an incorrect path for the Joplin Truck Trail, the main trail for this hike. The GPX file in this hike has the correct route. You need a parking pass for the Cleveland National Forest. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every national park, national monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office. Turn by Turn Directions There isn’t a parking lot, but you can park anywhere on the side of the road. The trailhead starts on the left hand side of the dirt road, in an area popular with 4x4s. The hike starts where the dirt road goes off to the left, across the road from where you parked. Hike through the 4×4 area and make the immediate left to start the hike. The 4×4 road climbs sharply. Keep an eye out for trucks that wrecked off the road (look closely on the right of this picture). This area is popular with off-roaders, but you’ll be away from any craziness shortly. At about 0.7 miles, ignore the 4×4 road to the left and keep hiking straight. More wrecked trucks litter the side of the trail. At about 1.6 miles, you pass a memorial. The trail is pretty steep. At about 1.8 miles, after a particularly steep stretch, you reach the intersection with the Joplin Truck Trail. Hike to the right on this trail. You don’t have to keep an eye open for trucks on the Joplin Truck Trail, just mountain bikers. This stretch of the Modjeska Peak hike is level and pleasant. At about 3.3 miles, you reach an intersection. Go straight through and start to descend towards Old Camp on the Joplin Truck Trail. At the bottom of the descent, the trail reaches the remote Old Camp. Continue hiking through the camp. The Joplin Truck Trail changes dramatically now. It becomes small, overgrown, and primitive. Generally you’ll be alone on this stretch, it’s too technical and steep for mountain bikers, but occasionally I encounter one coming down the trail. If you have a GPS map, you might notice that the trail doesn’t match up with the official trail path. Just continue on the trail, some official maps are incorrect on this stretch. My GPX has the corrected route. The trail hikes over some streams on the way up. It’s pretty lush, you might want long pants. The trail is very steep. Don’t forget to stop and look behind you as the views open up. There’s one section of the trail that goes through some gnarled trees. It’s pretty cool. After about 6.1 miles, you arrive at the Main Divide Road. Mountain bikers call it “Pain Divide Road.” This section is a saddle between Modjeska Peak and Santiago Peak. Take the right turn here. It’s away from Modjeska, but trust me. Catch your breath by taking in the views. You earned it, the hike up is pretty intense. You’ll see Santiago Peak ahead. Modjeska Peak is free of all the radio towers and development. After a short stretch on the Main Divide Road (0.1 miles), right before the thin point of the saddle, make the hard left up the small trail. This small trail gently climbs through some shady areas. After about 0.6 miles on the small trail, it ends on a primitive road to Modjeska Peak. Hike to the right. Views open up to the east as you hike this final climb. One last stretch of the hike and you’re there! After a ton of climbing, this last stretch can be tough. Whoa, you made it to Modjeska Peak! You can see by my face that it was a tough day for me. Have a seat at the clearing on the summit, eat a snack, and catch your breath. The day I did this hike in the summer, it was 105F at the summit. Come prepared. The summit at Modjeska Peak has some pretty incredible 360 views. I just wanted to stay here for the night. It’s on the list… There’s a firepit if you want to camp. Or drive your 4×4 up here and knock down a case of cheap light beer. You’ve got options. To finish the hike, hike back down the way you came. It’s a tough hike down, with lots of steep sections, so stay focused and use your hiking poles to stay upright. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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. This hike takes the scenic Holy Jim Trail, which is also the shortest route to the summit.
The Indian Truck Trail offers an alternate way to hike Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain). The Indian Truck Trail is long, not too technical, and a great training hike for Mt Whitney.
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I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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