3S04 - Main Divide South - Santiago Peak (aka Saddleback Mountain)

Lake Elsinore, California (Orange County)

Last Updated: 10/31/2021
4 / 5 ( 10 reviews )
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Nearby Trails
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 2-3
Length: 12.13 miles
Highest Elevation: 5689 feet
Duration: About 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Lake Elsinore
Nearest Town w/ Services: Mission Viejo
Official Road Name: 3S04
Management Agency: Cleveland National Forest
District: Trabucco Ranger District


Highlight: 3S04 - Main Divide South - Santiago Peak (aka Saddleback Mountain)
The trail is currently closed due to the Holy Fire. This can last years, so please plan accordingly. This local overland getaway is a great goto for people that live in Orange County and Riverside area. The trails are not known for a challenge but for the amazing views of all of Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside County. On top of that, there are many great spots to stop which are perfect to relax and get away from the hectic city life.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
The trail is mostly a dirt road, but some of the hill climbs, people have dug up the trail meaning a 2wd might need a locker. (This was before the fires)

Technical Rating

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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The trail is currently closed due to the Holy Fire. This can last years, so please plan accordingly. When traveling to Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain) expect a very bumpy trail with lots of articulation spots. The trail has many small to medium rocks and holes scattered throughout the trail. In some spots these rocks are up to 6 inches sticking out of the ground while the articulation spots may require you to undo your sway bars to make it up the hills. All the play areas have been closed over the last few years leaving only the trail.
The trail is currently closed due to the Holy Fire. This can last years, so please plan accordingly.


1. Trailhead - Southern End (0 mi)
The Trail starts on the north side of the road and quickly turns around the hill side.
2. Stay Left At Indian Truck Trail (7.5 mi)
Stay left on Main Divide Trail to continue to Santiago Peak. Right takes you down 5S01 - Indian Truck Trail to Corona.
3. Bear Springs (Waterfall) (9.9 mi)
You will cross a wooded area that wasn't effected by the fires. This area is Bear Springs and is also the top of Trabuco Canyon aka Holy Jim Canyon. There is a hiking trail on the lower side of the road that will take you all the way to Trabuco Canyon aka Holy Jim Canyon. Along the route there is a large waterfall which is one of the tallest waterfalls in the U.S. (when water is actually flowing).
4. Santiago Peak and 360 Degree View (16 mi)
The highest point in Orange County and easily the best view. There is no wonder why people travel this road all the way up to Santiago Peak on a regular basis. I personally recommend doing an evening run up the mountain and watching the sunset. If you continue on the trail, it takes you down the west side via 3S04 - Main Divide Mid to either Bedford Canyon or Corona Maple Springs / Silverado Canyon Bedford Canyon / Corona The 2nd and 3rd photo are part of a 360 degree view of the area which is continued on waypoint 5.
5. Lookout Point (16 mi)
If you continue past the highest point and down the slightly difficult trail which should only be attempted in 4x4's with moderate articulation, is this great lookout point. The area is large enough where you can easily fit 10+ vehicles in that spot. Many people use this area to enjoy a meal and have an unobstructed view of the ocean or sunset. From this spot you can see all the way to LA and Southern Orange County

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Silverado Canyon, CA

The Orange County side: The trail begins at the top of Saddle Back Mountain and heads South. The shortest route there is to take Maple Springs to 3S04 - Main Divide Mid to the top of the hill. . From the southern end: Take Ortega Highway (74) to where it peaks in the pass. From Hells Kitchen, take 74 east 3/4 of a mile. Turn North on El Cariso Road. Immediately stay to the left then right onto Main David Road 3S04. (This is not a dirt road). Take this road roughly 4 miles to where Main Divide Road splits off the road and heads north.


The trail does not have any popular dispersed camping areas along it. If you are looking to dispersed camp, I would recommend heading up to Saddleback and camping near the radio towers. The areas are small and only support a couple vehicles. All three Ranger Districts offer remote camping, also known as “dispersed camping”, where camping outside of developed campgrounds is an option. Please note: wood or charcoal fires are never allowed outside of developed campgrounds or picnic sites in the Cleveland National Forest, but portable stoves or lanterns that use gas, kerosene, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted unless elevated fire conditions prohibit their use in identified locations. Descanso - permit required for areas outside of the Laguna Recreation Area. (619-445-6235) or click here Descanso Ranger District Palomar - no permit required, contact District Office for desirable locations. (760-788-0250) or click here Palomar Ranger District Trabuco - allowable only in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, permit required. (951-736-1811) or click here Trabuco Ranger District
Camping: 3S04 - Main Divide South - Santiago Peak (aka Saddleback Mountain)

Land Use Issues

Please check with Cleveland National Forest for trail conditions. This trail closes for many reasons throughout the year. Recently it was the Holy Fire. Click Here For Current Trail Closures Trabuco Ranger District - (951) 736-1811

Trail Reviews (20)

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Need to air down? I have a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.
–Frank Marino (08/02/2018)
A: You don't have to, but I usually do. By doing so it makes the ride a lot better.
–Josh Noesser (08/02/2018)

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California

Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it. Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you." Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information. If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
For individual use only, not to be shared.