El Modena Open Space, Orange CA

El Modena Open Space

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El Modena Open Space

  • Location: East end of the city of Orange.  From the 55 freeway, take the Chapman exit and go east for 2 miles.  Take a left on Cannon St. and go 1.3 miles.  Take a left on Patria Court and park on the side of the street.  Alternately, take the 91 freeway to Imperial Highway and drive south for 3.9 miles (Imperial becomes Cannon along the way) and turn right onto Patria Court.
  • Agency: Santiago Oaks Regional Park
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days; watch out for broken glass and cacti)
  • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair in some spots
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None (nearest is at Chino Hills State Park)
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Article about the hike here; slideshow here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 4

Like its parent park Santiago Oaks, Orange’s El Modena Open Space is one of Orange County’s most accessible natural areas. The good news is that for those who live or work nearby it’s as convenient a workout as you are going to find – with views (on clear days) that extend to Catalina Island, downtown L.A. and even the Hollywood Sign. The price of this easy access, besides the noise of traffic on the surrounding streets, is litter. Fortunately trash cans positioned at both ends of the trail make it easy for conscientious hikers to pack it out.

Hiking counter-clockwise, as described here, gets the steepest part of the route out of the way first. From the trail head on Patria Court, follow the trail through a shallow trench paralleling Cannon before making a sharp climb to the north-south running ridge. Once on the ridge, you continue your ascent, ultimately climbing about 450 feet in 0.6 mile. Your climb ends at the first and highest of three separate bumps you will encounter along the ridge. The views are impressive including the Santa Ana Mountains to the east and suburban Orange to the west. If visibility is good, the ridge of Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee can be seen. The Hollywood Sign appears as a thin white line beneath the peaks. The view may also include Catalina Island, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, downtown Los Angeles and the round dome of Mt. Lukens.

After dropping off the bump, the trail continues south along the ridge. A few other trails, mostly unofficial, branch off; there is one route that heads down to Cannon St. for those who want to shorten the hike. After descending from the second bump, you reach a “Y” junction. The left fork also heads to Cannon St. while the right fork climbs to the third bump. From here, look for a trail descending steeply off the west side of the ridge toward Santiago Charter Middle School. After dropping almost 200 feet, the trail bends back toward the east and meets Cannon St. 1.4 miles from the start. From here, simply follow Cannon north for one mile back to the starting point. You can also pick up one of the trails you saw earlier from the bottom end, follow it back to the ridge and retrace your steps from there.

El Modena Open Space, Orange, CA
Ascending to the ridge
El Modena Open Space, Orange, CA
Following the ridge
El Modena Open Space, Orange, CA
Looking east from the ridge
El Modena Open Space, Orange, CA
Descending from the ridge


Text and photography copyright 2018 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.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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