Mission Accomplished to Santiago Peak

Peak Summited2019 Santiago Peak
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadMaple Springs Road
EncounteredFall foliage
Hiking CompanionsHiked with a group
Road ConditionsRoad recommended for high clearance only
Bug StatusBugs were not too bad
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

Hiked to the tallest peak in OC (5,689’)—Santiago Peak aka Saddleback Mountain. This mountain has been a controversial one this year due to last year’s Holy Fire federal forest closure (Order No. 02-18-15). The fine to trespass closed areas start from $5,000/person to $10,000/group. I’ve studied the map of the closure and talked at length with Park Rangers, and the legal and reasonable way to approach this mountain is through Maple Springs Road, which is closed seasonally and requires a 4WD after few miles. It is a popular terrain for off-road vehicles and bikes, so hiking through it is an adventure on its own. If 4WD is not an option, parking at Maple Springs Visitor Center is doable for total of 20 miles hike r/t.
That being said, I knew Fall season is a good time to go. Maple Springs Road is typically open all the way to the top, plus it’s cooler temp. After getting all the intels from Phil Yoho who, of course, had done this route weeks earlier, set out with my team of crazies 🤪. We drove in with our 4WD 😱; parked at the first wide area (5.5 miles in), and hiked all the way up, noting ALL the gates to the peak were Open. Total of 13 miles r/t, with 1,890’ elevation gained. Mission accomplished #SixPackOfPeaks. #hikebeyondthehills

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