Santiago Peak today was the final piece of my local four-county Southern California quest:
San Gorgonio at 11,500', highest point in San Bernardino County
San Jacinto at 10,834', highest point in Riverside County
Mount Baldy at 10,064', highest point in Los Angeles County
Santiago Peak at 5,867', highest point in Orange County
I've hiked the other three at least two times each. Hiking to the top of Santiago Peak seemed less exciting so I decided to bike this one. Harding Truck Trail to the top of Santiago Peak would be a rather long and uneventful hike. Basically, it's fourteen miles up a fire road with open exposure to the sun and few trees. Biking is definitely the faster way up and down.
My biking buddy Dan and I headed up the trail at 6:50am. The sun was just rising on this beautiful December day. The weather was ideal, basically temps in the 60s all the way up. The skies were exceptionally clear. It was quite windy coming around a few of the passes on the lower parts of the canyons. On top, the skies were so clear that it was easy to spot a full assortment of Southern California landmarks: Catalina Island, downtown Los Angeles, other cities, local mountains, highways, and lakes.
The ride to the top is a relentless grind up an old fire road accessing the many antennae on top of the peak. The opening two or three miles are quite steep (mostly between 10%-20% grade), but then the road ascends at a more gradual pace (about 5-10% grade) the rest of the way up. There are three sections where the road goes downhill for a few hundred yards (around miles 1, 7, and 11). One of the most challenging sections of the bike ride is the couple of miles after reaching "four corners" about 9.2 miles into the trip. This section just above four corners is not the steepest part of the journey, but the loose gravel and scree make biking exceptionally difficult, both up and downhill.
The ride up is quite scenic, most of the way up there are great views west towards the Pacific. Being on top is very nice because there are great views in all directions. One of the best places for views is at the U.S. Coast & Geodetic marker on the "peak" itself. It's also a great place to each lunch and discuss with a friend how many brain cells you're losing due to all the electro-magnetic waves from the antennae. Seriously, we didn't notice any bad effects... bad effects... bad efffffects... bad efffff.... bad... ba...