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.

4 / 5
15.6 miles (25.1 km)
8 hours
3920 ft (1195 m)
Trail Condition:
Marked trails, dirt roads
Climbing, distance
Some other hikers, but not crowded.
Known For:
Best Time:
Early morning
Hike Weather:

Saddleback Mountain Hike Trail Maps

Google Maps trailhead:
Main Parking for Holy Jim Falls and Trail, Corona, CA, 92883, USA

Hike Location

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

3D Hike Map

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.

Hike Elevation Profile

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 Hike Map

Saddleback Mountain Hike Map Downloads

Download a GPX file to use on your GPS device. GPS devices are great to plan and follow routes, and there are tons of free electronic hiking maps that you can use. But don't rely solely on electronic navigation, always have a paper backup. Print out the PDF below, get a topo map, and/or print these directions.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Saddleback Mountain Hike Directions

Saddleback Mountain Hike

Do you have the right gear for this hike? Check out all the gear and clothing that I personally use and recommend. I've tested it all and cut the junk out so you don't waste your money.

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. UPDATE: I got a report that the sign is gone, so be extra aware when you’re looking for this turnoff, it’s easy to miss.
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!
path to summit on saddleback
So the summit can get a bit tricky. There are a lot of roads and tower areas. This satellite map shows you the path to the summit marker.
path to summit on saddleback
When you first get to the summit area, stay right toward the higher towers.
path to summit on saddleback
At the other side of the summit you’ll see this little building. Continue around the side of it for the actual summit.
path to summit on saddleback
This little trail brings you up the summit. Pretty anticlimactic after the miles you just did, but who cares!
path to summit on saddleback
THE SUMMIT OF SANTIAGO PEAK! You did it. There’s a trail register and sometimes a wood summit sign.
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.