Santiago Peak via Holy Jim Trail

The views of the ocean are awesome, but the buzzing communications towers at the summit spoiled the mood for me.

In the interest of breaking routine, I thought I’d hike Santiago Peak instead of my usual hikes like Baldy and Cucamonga. Also, there was a lot of snow in the mountains and Santiago Peak offered a lot of elevation gain without the snow found at high altitude.

Santiago Peak via Holy Jim Trail Quick Facts

  • Adventure Pass required

  • Dogs allowed

  • Allow 7 hours

  • Hard

  • Elevation 5,689′

  • 3,920′ of elevation gain

  • 15 miles out and back

  • Hot and exposed in Summer, so bring enough water

Getting to the trailhead is quite an ordeal. By the time you make the 5 mile trip down one of that miserable dirt road to the parking lot, you’re going to be exhausted. Once you finally arrive, there are is a restroom, and a Wilderness Pass is required for parking.

I started up the road that winds through a neighborhood of cabins, then followed a creek along a lush canyon. At the end of the canyon, the trail climbs steeply via steep switchbacks. The first several miles of the hike were shaded in large overgrown hedges. These abruptly ended in an ugly fire road. As I made my way up the road, I got my first view of the ocean. As I crossed the crest of the mountain, I got a great view of the ocean on one side and the inland mountains – San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Cucamonga, Baldy, on the other. This was actually the best view of the whole hike.

In another mile I reached the summit. It was is a bit disappointing. I was greeted by an array of loud, buzzing cell towers. They are ugly and they block every great view.

It was a good fitness hike today, but I doubt I’ll be coming back. Santiago is a great hike on those days when you are locked out of the higher mountains because of snow and want to maintain your fitness. When the snow thaws a little, get yourself back to the high country!

Trail Map


Download GPX File

Elevation Profile

Holy Jim Trailhead

From the main highway, you will take a poorly maintained dirt road called Trabuco Creek Rd. for 5 miles, past the volunteer fire department to the trailhead parking lot. A high clearence vehicle is recommended. This road sucks, so get mentally ready for it 🙂

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