SAMNHA

Serving the Cleveland National Forest

Santa Ana Mountains

The Santa Ana Mountains are a short peninsular mountain range along the coast of Southern California.  They extend for approximately 35 miles southeast of the Los Angeles Basin, largely along the border between Orange and Riverside counties.  Much of the range is within the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest. 

The western part of the mountains contain Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park and on the eastern edge is Glen Ivy Hot Springs.  The highest summit in the range is Santiago Peak at 5,687 feet above sea level with very steep topography in most places. More than 90% of the district is covered with chaparral. 

A warm, dry Mediterranean climate prevails over the Cleveland National Forest - hot in the summer, mild in the winter. Most of the precipitation comes as rain during the winter months.

 

See the Santa Ana Mountains Natural History Association's Trail Information page for selected trail maps and other online resources.

Trabuco Ranger District, Cleveland National Forest

The Trabuco Ranger District administrative office and visitor information is located at:

                        

1147 East Sixth Street  
Corona, CA 92879
(951) 736-1811
Fax - (951) 736-3002 .

 

The Trabuco Ranger District is named for Trabuco Canyon on the west side of the Santa Ana Mountains. Trabuco, meaning "blunderbuss" in colonial Spanish, was a weapon apparently lost in the canyon by a Spanish soldier during the Portola expedition of 1769.

The main visitor access route is the Ortega Highway (State Route 74), which connects Lake Elsinore (on I-15) to San Juan Capistrano on the coast. This scenic route climbs steeply above Lake Elsinore and then follows San Juan Canyon through the Forest. Along this route are campground and picnic areas in woodlands of coast live oak and sycamores. The Main Divide Road is a dirt road that runs north and south along the mountain crest; always check for road conditions or closures before planning to use this road. The El Cariso Visitor Information Center is located next to the El Cariso Fire Station off Ortega Highway. Two favorite walks for families are in this area. The El Cariso Nature Trail is a 1.5-mile loop that begins at the El Cariso Fire Station.

The San Juan Loop Trail is a populat trail that winds along San Juan Creek, through the chaparral but also through wooded areas as well. The trail has trail connections that lead to the San Juan Trail which begins next to Blue Jay Campground and terminates at Hot Springs Canyon.

 

On the Orange County side of the mountains, located next to the Maple Springs Road gate in Silverado Canyon, is the recently re-opened, volunteer staffed, Maple Springs Visitor Center.  Parking passes are not available at the Maple Springs Visitor Center which has only limited weekend hours of operation.

Also on the west side of the Santa Ana Mountains is the Holy Jim Trail, named after an early settler. Access is via Trabuco Canyon Road, which can be reached via Santiago Canyon Road or El Toro Road out of Lake Forest. The trail follows Holy Jim Creek and at 1.25 miles reaches the Falls. A 5.0-mile hiking trail to the Main Divide Road branches off just below the Falls.

The San Mateo Canyon Wilderness makes up the southwest corner of the Ranger District. Mountains covered with chaparral and coastal sage dominate the landscape. Many deep drainages hide a lush growth of vegetation, with oak woodlands thick in the lower elevations. Established in 1984, this 39,540-acre wilderness has over 60 miles of hiking trails. There are four trailheads: Bear Canyon, Morgan, Tenaja and Tenaja Falls. A permit is not required for day use in the wilderness but a free permit is required for overnight camping.

Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.

For more information, check out the Cleveland National Forest Visitor Guide.

Wildflowers at Caspers Wilderness Park