Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: Santa Ana Mountains, eastern Orange County. From Santiago Canyon Road, turn east on Silverado Canyon Road. Drive through the town of Silverado. Four miles later, you will pass through a parking lot for the Silverado Motorway trail. Leave the parking lot to the east, on Maple Springs Road. This one-lane road goes in and out of a stream before turning to dirt at 3.5 miles. There is a small turnout for parking at the hairpin turn when the road becomes dirt. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase. (NOTE: Silverado Canyon Road is subject to weather related closures. Click the link below for updates.)
- Agency: Cleveland National Forest, Trabuco District
- Distance: 10.5 miles (out and back)
- Elevation gain: 2,450 feet
- Suggested time: 6.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: November to June
- USGS topo map: “Santiago Peak”
- Recommended gear: insect repellent; sunblock; sun hat
- More information: here
- Rating: 9
Modjeska is the shorter and pointier of the two peaks that comprise “Old Saddleback”, the feature that is visible from all of Orange County and from as far away as the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest. The 5,496 foot summit, like many things in Orange County, is named after the Shakespearean actress Helena Modjeska (1840-1909). While summer temperatures in the Santa Anas can hit three digits, this trail is primarily on northern-facing slopes, and with an early start on a cool, clear day, the hike can be very enjoyable. If possible, hike on a week day, when the noise from the motorized vehicles that often use the trail is likely to be less. One thing to be careful of however are flies and bugs, which can be particularly annoying during the mid-day hours.
The dirt road climbs up the side of Modjeska, giving views of the northern Santa Ana summits such as Bald Peak and Bedford Peak. While the lower portion of the trail is exposed, higher up you enter the cover of oaks and pines. After 4 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain, the trail arrives at Main Divide Road. Take a left and then a quick right, past a gate, and then almost immediately pick up an obscure single-track trail climbing off to the left. A short but steep stretch (gaining 800 feet in less than a mile) takes you to another dirt road. Take a left, and walk the last quarter mile, switchbacking twice, to the Modjeska summit.
Although Modjeska is shorter than Santiago, the view is arguably better (due to Santiago’s many antenna installations). On a clear day, the visibility includes the ocean, Mt. Baldy, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and more.