The highest points in the Santa Ana Mountains. Rough mountain roads or very long trail hikes are involved to reach this area, the highest points in the Santa Ana Mountains.
There are three access roads that are usually used: the Maple Springs Road from the end of Silverado Canyon on the west side, Main Divide Road from Hwy. 74 to the south and the Indian Truck Trail from the east. The roads are quite rough in places and a high clearance vehicle is best. Occasionally roads are closed due to fire or road conditions. Hiking to the peaks is an all-day experience, leaving little time to enjoy the plants.
Santiago Peak (5,689 ft. elevation) has dozens of towers, gravel roads and telecommunications facilities, but also plenty of pockets of natural vegetation. Modjeska Peak (5,495 ft. elevation) has no towers or development. Both can be visited in a single day (by car).
Once within the area, different plants will be found in the various habitats, be sure to check as many as possible. North facing slopes are dominated by oaks and conifers, and an understory of interesting woodland plants. Rocky trail sides, areas of scree and old landslides will support their own variety of disturbance-preferring annuals and smaller perennials. Areas around the peaks support some higher elevation specialties that are unique to the area.
The best time to visit is probably March to May, but other months also offer rewards. Orange County CNPS occassionally offers field trip expeditions to the area. Check OCCNPS.org and the Field Trips tab for more information).
The canyons first appear in historical records in 1769, when the Governor of Lower California, Senor Don Gaspar de Portola, a former explorer, celebrated Saint Anne’s feast day on July 26th in the foothills. He called the area “Canyon de la Madera,” or "Canyon of Timber." (Canyon Land Conservation Fund). On July 1st, 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt signed a declaration that created the Cleveland National Forest, which now encompasses almost all of the Santa Ana Mountains..
The Silverado-Modjeska area: history and geology Over 75 to 80 million years, the slow, steady downward dripping and lateral cutting of water carved out the rugged canyons. On the cliff faces, iron rich minerals leached out by water produce stunning red stains.