Reaching the Santiago Peak

Photograph by Ping Tsai

The Santiago Truck and Joplin trails relentlessly ascend through scattered sagebrush and oak forests, winding along the narrow hillside, and rising into the clouds above. Beyond the cloud layer sits Santiago Peak, the tallest point in Orange County and the destination for our 16-mile trek through Cleveland National Forest. Sweat pours over my brow as I force my legs to continue moving up the steep trail toward the 5,689-foot peak above. Then the clouds part, revealing the entire landscape of the county, highlighted by the distant silhouette of Catalina Island. This moment justifies every step in my pursuit of the towering peak above.


6 hours 52 minutes

Time spent hiking out and back



Year of first recorded ascent, by the Major Horace Bell party



Liters of water consumed



Average speed of hike in miles per hour



Elevation gained in feet


Thinking of hiking to Santiago Peak? Here are some tips:

  1. Eat food equal to the number of calories you expect to spend on the hike.
  2. Carry salty snacks such as pretzels to compensate for loss of salts in the body, which can create cramping.
  3. Use trekking poles—they can help lessen the weight on your legs going uphill. During downhill sections, poles help alleviate the pressure on the knees and ankles.
  4. Bring lots of water. Plan to drink roughly half a liter of water for every hour of the hike.
  5. Wear a thin, long-sleeve shirt to avoid excessive sun exposure.
  6. Start early to avoid the afternoon heat.

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