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Saddleback Mountain Hike

Saddleback Mountain Hike (Santiago Peak)

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.

Rating:
4 / 5
Distance:
15.6 miles (25.1 km)
Time:
8 hours
Difficulty:
Hard
Climbing:
3920 ft (1195 m)
Trail Condition:
Marked trails, dirt roads
Challenges:
Climbing, distance
People:
Some other hikers, but not crowded.
Known For:
Views
Best Time:
Early morning
Dogs:
Yes
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Fee
Weather:

Saddleback Mountain Hike Trail Maps

Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Main Parking for Holy Jim Falls and Trail, Corona, CA, 92883, USA

Saddleback Mountain Hike location

The Saddleback Mountain hike trailhead is about an hour east of Newport Beach, and about 70 minutes south of Anaheim.

Saddleback Mountain Hike 3d map

This route takes the Upper Holy Jim Trail for the ascent, then descends down the Main Divide Road back to the Lower Holy Jim Trail.

Saddleback Mountain Hike

Santiago Peak is the highest point in Orange County, so plan on going up. There are a few sections to catch your breath. The first half of the hike is gentler than the second half.

Interactive Map

Saddleback Mountain Hike Map Downloads

hiking map on garmin fenix 3

If you have GPS device (I use this one by Garmin and I love it) for your hike, load the GPX file below into your device to navigate the hike. For help on loading the GPX file, read this article on converting and transferring to a Garmin GPS.

Also, don’t rely on electronics as your sole means of navigation. There’s a basic printable PDF map below, and I strongly picking up a good topo map too.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Saddleback Mountain Hike Directions

Saddleback Mountain Hike

What to Expect

Turn by Turn Directions

The hike directions start with the last part of the drive to the trailhead. It’s on a dirt road that’s best tackled with a 4×4 or high clearance vehicle. You can do it in a car, but some sections are very rutted and require a careful drive.

dirt road
The directions to the Holy Jim trailhead will bring you onto the dirt road. This is the start of it.
sign for the Holy Jim Trail
A few miles in on the drive, you’ll see a sign for the Holy Jim Trail. The road gets more rutted here.
Holy Jim Trailhead sign
When you get to the trailhead, there’s an incorrect sign pointing back the way you came for parking. Ignore and park in the lot around the Holy Jim Trailhead sign.
Holy Jim Trailhead board
Park in the lot by the trail board. The Holy Jim Trailhead board has a map and some hike information. The Holy Jim Trail is what you hike to Santiago Peak.
holy jim trail sign
Hike to the left of the board. There’s a huge sign pointing you in the right direction.
Saddleback Mountain Hike dirt road
As you hike up the road, you’ll pass private cottages. Keep hiking straight on the dirt road.
Holy Jim Trail trailhead
At about 0.5 miles you arrive at the official Holy Jim Trail trailhead. The mile markers you will see on the trail start from here, but the mileage in these hike directions start from the parking lot.
Saddleback Mountain Hike
The trail is well defined and meanders through alders and oaks. There are also some some stream crossings, which are dry for most of the year.
Saddleback Mountain Hike trail split
At about 1.4 miles, the trail splits. Head left to Santiago Peak.
Saddleback Mountain Hike
Now you climb. And climb some more. The hike goes steadily uphill. Mile markers motivate you as you continue up the trail.
Saddleback Mountain Hike views
The views of the Santa Ana Mountains open up as you climb. Stop to enjoy them and catch your breath.
4 mile marker on Saddleback Mountain Hike
The climb to Santiago Peak eases up for a bit around the 4 mile marker.
Saddleback Mountain Hike views
As the trail crosses the mountain face, views of the Pacific Ocean open up.
Saddleback Mountain Hike trail junction
At about 5.1 miles, you arrive at the Main Divide Road. You can make the left turn, but don’t, it’s not the scenic route. Make the (counterintuitive) right turn here.
Upper Holy Jim Trail sign
Right after getting on the road, you’ll see a sign for the Upper Holy Jim Trail – this is the next trail you’ll take.
Main Divide Road
The Main Divide Road to Upper Holy Jim is pretty wide and easy.
Upper Holy Jim Trail start
Keep your eye out on the left for the Upper Holy Jim Trail start. It’s about 0.5 miles after getting on the Main Divide Road.
sign for the Upper Holy Jim Trailhead
There’s a sign for the Upper Holy Jim Trailhead. Take this trail and start hiking uphill again.
5 mile marker
The 5 mile marker encourages you to keep climbing.
Saddleback Mountain Hike
The radio antennas on the Santiago Peak summit look so close, but you still have some work to do on the hike.
Saddleback Mountain Hike views
The Upper Holy Jim Trail has great views of the Inland Empire and the San Bernardino Mountains. Stop often to catch your breath on the way to Saddleback Mountain.
Saddleback Mountain Hike right turn
At about 6.4 miles, you’ll rejoin the Main Divide Road. Make the right here and continue to climb.
Main Divide Road
The Main Divide Road climbs steeply to Santiago Peak. Almost there!
santiago peak summit
You did it, Santiago Peak!
Santiago Peak summit
The Santiago Peak summit is a mess of roads and antennas. Head left at the big split.
Santiago Peak summit
Hike up to the green hut where there’s a log seat with a great view. Explore the peak if you want. There’s a USGS marker and lots of buildings and antennas. It’s not the most picturesque summit, so just focus on the views.
cris hazzard on Saddleback Mountain
Take your selfies and head back down the way you came. My recommendation would be to skip going down the Upper Holy Jim Trail and just continue down the Main Divide Road until you reach the (lower) Holy Jim 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.

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