Santa Ana Mountains Hikes

The map and table included below contain all the Santa Ana Mountains hikes covered on this site.

The Santa Ana Mountains are a wonderfully diverse range that form an impressive backdrop for Orange County, which lies on the western side of the range. The 15 Freeway corridor from Corona to Temecula lies on its eastern side. The most distinctive feature of the range is the “Saddleback”, which is a saddle formation shaped by the two highest summits in the range, the tall point of 5684′ Santiago Peak and its sister Modjeska Peak. This range is quite large and while bordered on most sides by densely populated communities, it remains surprisingly pristine in most areas. The range travels from the north at the 91 freeway across from Chino Hills, and then south all the way into the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, running on that axis about 60 miles. If the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness is included the area of the range is an astonishing 2,000 square miles. The Santa Ana Mountains include dramatic vistas from the high peaks, sub-alpine areas with pine forests, dramatic rock formations, and some amazingly lovely tree-lined canyons featuring wonderful waterfalls.

santa ana mountains IMG_2147

The Santa Ana Mountains are crossed by only one paved road, the scenic and twisting Ortega Highway. This is a dramatic drive and one you should take to familiarize yourself with these mountains. The wonderful San Juan Loop Trail hike is a great introduction to these mountains and is accessed via Ortega Highway. The road crosses the crest of the range and then descends steeply down into Lake Elsinore. One little known fact about the Santa Ana Mountains is that a dirt fire road exists that runs along almost the entire crest of the range, called Main Divide Road. You can access this road from Ortega Highway as well, but note that a high clearance and/or four wheel drive vehicle is recommended. I mention this road because you may want to use it to explore more of the range prior to hiking.

Map of Santa Ana Mountains Hikes

Santa Ana Mountains Hikes

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Upper Hot Spring Canyon Falls: 33.657719, -117.450903
Harding Falls: 33.710722, -117.618639
San Juan Loop Trail: 33.612668, -117.427223
Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Hike: 33.681312, -117.664653
Holy Jim Falls: 33.676943, -117.517264
Coal Canyon Mini Moab Hike: 33.871395, -117.667875
Weir Canyon Trail: 33.836252, -117.741136
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop Trail: 33.613540, -117.427099
Black Star Canyon Falls Hike: 33.764471, -117.678013


Table of Santa Ana Mountains Hikes

Hike NameDifficultyTypeLocationLength (RT)TimeElevationSummary
Harding Falls Hike – Orange CountyStrenuousWaterfall/Adventure HikeModjeska Canyon Area7.5 miles6 hrs1,500'A hidden Shangra-La of sparkling pools and lush forest, leading to a majestic 60' twin-tier waterfall.
San Juan Loop TrailEasyWaterfall/Trail HikeOrtega Highway Corridor 2.2 miles1.5 hrs500'Great beginner’s loop trail featuring seasonal waterfalls, nice views down San Juan Creek basin, and old growth oak forest.
Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon HikeEasyTrail/View HikeWhiting Ranch Area4.5 miles2.5 hrs550'Exotic red sandstone formations like Sedona (on a much smaller scale) in the OC with super easy access.
Upper Hot Spring Canyon FallsStrenuousWaterfall/Adventure HikeOrtega Highway Corridor 7 miles4 hrs700'Boulder hopping/scrambling down an amazingly rugged and pristine canyon to reach several wonderful waterfalls
Holy Jim FallsEasyWaterfall/Trail HikeTrabuco Creek Area3 miles1.5 hrs700'Easy hike to lovely 18' waterfall in a beautiful mountain canyon, but a rough road to the trail head.
Coal Canyon Mini Moab HikeModerately StrenuousTrail/View Hike91 Freeway Area11 miles5 hrs1,800'Hike up a well maintained yet shadeless trail to unique sandstone outcrops offering awesome canyon and city views.
Weir Canyon Trail – Orange CountyEasyTrail/View Hike91 Freeway Area3.5 miles1.5 hrs350'Easy, uncrowded, and surprisingly scenic loop in an unspoiled canyon close to civilization.
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop TrailStrenuousWaterfall/Adventure HikeOrtega Highway Corridor 5 miles3 hrs750'Great easily accessed adventure hike uses San Juan Loop Trail to drop into San Juan Creek then up the stream bed to 35' Ortega Falls.
Black Star Canyon Falls HikeModerately StrenuousWaterfall/Adventure HikeSilverado Canyon Area6.5 miles5 hrs900'Hike to a wonderful 65' tall waterfall in a beautiful wooded canyon. Easy fire road for first 2.5 miles or so, but then off trail boulder hopping up the stream bed .8 mile to reach Black Star Canyon Falls.


  1. Pat Reply

    Thanks. I’m traveling to Temecula for a wedding but I’m sure I’ve just found one of my day trip experiences to round out my experience.

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth Falls - The Hikers Way

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