The hike starts from the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary located at the end of Modjeska Canyon Road. Parking is limited but no Adventure Pass is required. The route to the sanctuary is signed from Santiago Canyon Road. From the south take I5 to El Toro Rd. Follow El Toro until it virtually becomes Santiago Canyon Rd. Follow it west to Modjeska Canyon Road and turn right. Follow it for two miles to its end at the sanctuary. From the west follow either Katella or Chapman to Santiago Canyon Road. From this junction take Santiago Canyon Road east for 9.2 miles to Modjeska Canyon Road and go left for two miles until it ends at the sanctuary. Water, bathroom, and two vending machines (soft drinks) are available at this time (3/12/05). An Adventure Pass is NOT required to park at this trailhead.
This is certainly not the shortest or easiest way up to the top of the peak but it is a fairly common route used by mountain bikers, runners and fit and prepared hikers. Rarely does anyone make an over night trip of it. The total round trip is 28 miles so expect a long day if walking. There is NO water along the way with the exception of Laurel Springs at 5 and 23 miles. The springs are off-trail by 1/4 of a mile and the quality and flow are always suspect especially in late season. Most people will want to filter it although I have drank from it with no problems from time to time. Best to carry plenty of water. The surface is dirt road for the entire way with all but the middle 10 miles closed to any vehicles. Light hiking shoes or running shoes are recommended. The route is exposed most of the way so it is often more enjoyable during cooler times of the year. Snow has been encountered regularly in winter months at the higher elevations.
The route starts on Harding Truck Trail located just beyond the wildlife sanctuary building. Walk past the gate and stay on the main road. Do not take the road leading down and to the left encountered in about 1/2 mile. There are mile markers located along the first nine miles of your route. After one mile you come to a rise with views across the canyon. Now descend briefly before steady climbing to an intersection on your right just prior to the 5 mile marker. This signed trail leads down to Laurel Springs. Many hikers visit the springs and return down for a 10 mile trip. With the summit as our goal we continue on passing an abandonded helipad at about 7.25 miles and through a gate at about 9 miles. At 9.25 miles we intersect a road comming up from Silverado Canyon called Maple Springs Truck Trail which is actually another route option. Maple Springs Road is closed much of the year by the USFS for species protection. At this point you can enjoy excellent views of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. Stay to your right and walk 30 yards to the intersection with Main Divide Truck Trail and bear right again. You can follow this all the way to the top of the peak. Cars are allowed on this road during much of the year. Along the way you will pass an interection with the Joplin Trail leading down to your right. Stay on the main road. There are several radio antennas on the top of the peak. Return down the way you came. Strong ultra runners have made the round trip in under 4 hours. One strong regular hiker in his late 60's maintains better than 3 mph for his weekly trip up to the 9.25 mile point and back. At 2 mph this trip will take you over 14 hours. Plan accordingly. Every year some unprepared hiker has to be rescued from this area because they have over estimated their ability or under estimated the trip. Views from the top are terrific and in spring the bugs can be horrific.
No special gear is required for this trip and route finding is easy. Bring plenty of water! USGS 7.5 series topo - Santiago Peak.
Harding Canyon gets its name from Ike Harding who raised goats in the area.
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