Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Orange County - Santa Ana Mountains & Foothills Rating: 4-6 Season: All year

SilMod Loop (Black Star Canyon/Irvine Ranch)


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SilMod Loop (Black Star Canyon/Irvine Ranch)

  • Location: Black Star Canyon Road, Orange County.  From the 55 Freeway, take the Chapman Ave. exit. Head east for 10.7 miles (Chapman becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). Turn left onto Silverado Canyon Rd. and take a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Follow it 0.7 miles to a small parking area on the right, just before the junction with Baker Canyon Road. From I-5 in Laguna Hills, take the El Toro Road exit and head northeast for a total of 13 miles (El Toro becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). Silverado Canyon Road is on the right, six miles past Cook’s Corner. Turn right and make a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Follow it 0.7 miles to a small parking area on the right side of the road. You must be registered for all activities on Irvine Ranch lands. Registration is free and can be done online via the link below.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy (Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park)
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours when hiking individually; 2-2.5 hours when hiking with a guided group
  • Best season: Year round during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule)
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Weak on Black Star Canyon Road, none on the SilMod Trail
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Chemical toilets at the Baker Staging Area (0.1 mile from the main trail head)
  • Camping: None
  • Recommended gear: sun hat sunblock
  • More information: AllTrails report here; MTB Project pages for the SiLmod Trail here (fire road) and here (single track)
  • Rating: 5

Like neighboring Baker Canyon, the SilMod (Silverado and Modjeska) Trail is one of the newer routes in the area of Black Star Canyon overseen by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. It can be done either on wilderness access days or when it is offered as a guided hike by the conservancy (usually as a spring wildflower hike). Highlights include views of Irvine Lake, the Red Rocks formations and the interior of the Santa Ana Mountains. Despite its proximity to Silverado Canyon Road and several overhead power lines, the hike feels pleasantly remote, especially considering how close it is to the encroaching suburbs.

From the junction of Baker Canyon Road and Black Star Canyon Road, pick up the signed Baker Canyon single-track trail (if you are here on a wilderness access day, a volunteer ranger will usually be stationed by the gate.) Follow the Baker Canyon Trail 0.1 mile to a staging area where there are portable restrooms and an information board. The trail continues a quarter mile to the SilMod trail which crosses a bridge, crosses Baker Canyon Road and then enters a wide field.

For the next 0.3 mile, the trail, which follows the route of an old fire road, meanders through a sloping meadow with good views of the red geological formations to the west. After dropping into a shallow, oak-shaded ravine, the trail begins its climb, gaining 350 feet in about 0.6 mile. Your efforts are rewarded with increasingly wide views as you approach the top of the ridge. Just below, the single-track SilMod trail branches off to the left and begins a descent along the slope. Vegetation includes a few large oak trees, bunches of cacti and white sage. In the spring, wildflowers such as goldfields and non-native black mustard dot the hills as well.

After 0.9 mile, the SilMod trail reaches Black Star Canyon Road. Turn left and follow the road south for a pleasant if not terribly varied 0.9 mile back to the staging area, enjoying more views of the rock formations to the west.

Silmod Trail, Orange County, CA
View of the red rocks from the start of the SilMod Trail
SilMod Trail, Orange County, CA
Mariposa lily on the SilMod Trail
Silmod Trail, Orange County, CA
Oaks on the SilMod Trail
SilMod Trail, Orange County, CA
Goldfields on the Silmod single track

Text and photography copyright 2017 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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