Santiago Peak! I finally crossed it off my list of to-do hikes. I had wanted to do this since 2009, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Finally, the Sierra Club of San Diego posted an outdoor outing and I quickly signed up as I knew it would fill up quickly, and it did. Santiago Peak is in the Santa Ana Mountains and it is the highest peak of Orange County. The 15 of us hikers met at 6:30 a.m. at a Park’n Ride and carpooled to the trailhead, which was about an hour and a half drive. I highly recommend high clearance vehicles as you have to drive 4.7 miles to the Holy Jim trailhead. The Volvo I was in took a while to navigate over the holes and big rocks on the path. It was overcast in the OC area, but once we reached the trailhead the sun was out and I knew we would be hiking under sunny clear skies while the rest of southern California would be blanketed with clouds. Once we had assembled our packs we hit the trail at around 8:50 a.m.
Morning at the trailhead.
Hikers getting their gear ready.
I stayed near the front of the group and the hiker who was leading was going at superfast speed up the steep inclines, but I was determined to stay with her. The leader warned us a head of time of black flies, but thankfully I didn’t need to wear my bug net. The terrain is mostly chaparral, but you will find oaks and sycamores when you hike through the deep canyons.
Hiking through chaparral.
And once you get higher up in elevation you have beautiful views of the Santa Ana Mountains and can see San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and the San Gabriel Mountains.
Almost near the top.
Finally, we reached the summit after a long push. It is a difficult hike, but well worth it. We had lunch near one of the many electrical towers, rested, and located the summit register.
The view from the summit.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, there is a vehicle road to the top and you will find JEEPS, trucks, motorbikes and mountain bikers going up the dirt road. On the parts were hikers do have to take the vehicle dirt road, be wary of the drivers. Some are polite while others not so much. After our lunch break, we headed back down, which is so much easier and faster.
Returning to the trailhead.
We arrived back to our cars a little after 4 p.m. According to my GPS we covered 16.7 miles with an elevation gain of 4,202 ft. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Several hikers decided to go to the biker bar afterwards for beers and burgers, but even though they did have a vegetarian burger on the menu, I opted out of it. Instead I enjoyed Silva Stout by Green Flash from the comfort of my home. I highly recommend that beer! Oh, and I recommend this hike as well.
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