Saddleback Mountain Hike (Santiago Peak)
|In This Guide|
|Distance||15.6 miles (25.1 km)|
|Hike Time||8 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||4,300 feet (1311m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,689 feet (1734m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Fee|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park Contact||Cleveland National Forest|
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.
Saddleback Mountain is actually two peaks, Santiago Peak and the lower Modjeska Peak. Saddleback Mountain can be seen from most of Orange County and dominates the skyline. It’s called Saddleback Mountain because the two peaks look like a saddle from most of Orange County. This hike goes to the higher Santiago Peak, but you can also hike to the lower Modjeska Peak.
Santiago Peak is named after Santiago Creek, which starts on the upper slopes of the mountains and then flows into the Santa Ana River, eventually joining the ocean at Huntingdon Beach.
The Holy Jim Fire has closed this hike for the near future. Try the nearby Sitton Peak Hike which offers great views as well.
How to Get to the Saddleback Mountain Hike
Use this GPS address: Main Parking for Holy Jim Falls and Trail, Corona, CA, 92883, USA.
Getting to the Holy Jim trailhead is half the fun. It’s a dirt road for about 6 miles, and is best done in 4×4. You can do it in a car, but some sections are very rutted and require a careful (and slow) drive.
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.
Gear for the Hike
This is a tough hike and you need to be well prepared with layers, water, and food. The upper slopes are generally free of snow, making it a good mountain hike for the winter. It does occasionally snow on Saddleback Mountain however, so check the weather. In the summer it can be brutally hot as well. Go early in summer months to avoid the worst of it.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
My best lightweight pack for hikes between 3-10+ hours. I use mine with the 3L water bladder from Osprey.
You can text, SOS, and get weather in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. Literally a life-saver.
Modern materials mean you get the protection of a traditional hiking boot (waterproof, etc.) with feel of a sneaker.
If you’re not using poles yet, you should be. This model takes a beating, is light, and is super comfortable.
I use a light inner toe sock and then a top-quality outer sock to prevent blisters.
Probars are great: no preservatives, vegan, low-GI, compact, and tasty. Put good fuel in your body.
If you’re hiking in the backcountry it makes sense to have a decent emergency kit and some basic gear to spend the night in a pinch.Full HikingGuy Gear List
* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:
Saddleback Mountain Trail Maps
There are mountain bikers on all these trails, so keep your eye out and give them the right of way, especially on the narrow sections of the Holy Jim Trail.
Saddleback Mountain Hike (Santiago Peak) Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Saddleback Mountain Hike Directions
View This Video in 360
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Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.