Socal - Orange County - Modjeska NickNames: #HardingTruckTrail
Take El Toro road exit off I5. Go east until it turns into S18 (Santiago Cyn Rd.) Or, Take Santiago Cyn Rd. east from the corner of Chapman and Jamboree in Orange. Take S18 to Modjeska Cyn Road. Follow Modjeska Cyn Road east to the end. On your right (south side of Modjeska Cyn) you will see a wildlife sanctuary. Park on the gravel pad on that side.The trailhead is on the north side of Modjeska Cyn up a 50 feet paved drive. The trail starts at the metal truck gate with bike access on the right side. Get ready to climb, because it is an almost continuous ascent up the fire road. Also, dress warmly. puddles near the summit will be frozen in winter months. Thomas Guide page 832
pinkfluxshal a 27 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Turner Flux from Temecula, CA
I parked my truck at the bird sanctuary about quarter to 2 on this
pleasant January Saturday afternoon. My thoughts were to ride up to
Main Divide, traverse over to the top of Joplin, drop down through Old
Camp and work my way out the Truck Trail and back. I've done this
loop before, but the last time I attempted it, last summer, I was denied
- too hot, too little water, too wimpy. I was sent packing by the
mountain - I had no business there that day.
Today, though warm, was nowhere near the heat of the summer. I had
been drinking water all morning and finished up 32 oz on the way to
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary and had 3 bottles with me. I should be OK.
Harding Truck Trail is almost 100% uphill, so I had my helmet strapped
to my fanny pack, along with a spare LS jersey, and of course the
camera.I hopped on the bike and started up the fireroad.
Although I immediately encountered some deep rain erosion ruts, the
road was in pretty good shape overall. In areas there were many baby
head sized rocks strewn about, but in many other stretches it was like
the rain had actually washed the road clean. I tried to make mental
notes of the rutted and rocky areas, as the Plan B ride was just to the
top of the peak and back down.
Early on in my ascent, I was passed by another rider on a hardtail Trek,
a young tattooed twenty-something riding hard past me like he was on
a mission. I yelled out after him inquiring of his course - he was
heading up to Main Divide then down Maple Springs. Then he was gone
around the next corner. I made no attempt to match his pace. At
probably twice his age, my plan was to keep a steady, if somewhat
slower, pace up the hill.
I wasn't 20-25 minutes later when this same rider passed me coming
back down the hill. I recognized the tats and remarked about how he
had changed his mind so quickly. Yep, he said, he decided to give up
his intended course and turn around. He offered no further explanation
as he passed and I found myself, again, concerned for the youth of this
nation. Seeming to lack dedication, they may regret in later years not
having developed the will to see a project through to completion.
Well, this wasn't going to affect my resolve. With the Vision Quest
looming in the too near future (and me woefully unprepared for it in
the conditioning department), I had come to make an epic ride and
there was nothing going to hold me back. Not fear or common sense.
I reached Main Divide at the top of Harding about 4:15. The moon was
rising above the mountains of Big Bear, more to the left was Baldy and
associated peaks rising out of the haze of San Berdoo, long deep
shadows cast in the valleys by the late winter sun. Days getting longer
now (yahoo!) I knew I had about another hour before the sun would
set. Having ridden Joplin down before under moonlight, and
remembering the difficulty of that adventure, I opted for plan B - to the
top of Saddleback.
The Main Divide across the slope of Modjeska and Santiago peaks is
always a bit of a struggle. Steep in sections, loose rocks that spin the
tires and my course constantly being displaced by the rocky surface, I
struggled just to stay upright and keep some forward momentum.
Making my way up the flank of Santiago now, and with the sun down
low on my shoulder and warm, I was getting ever nearer my
destination. A couple of Edison employees were coming down from the
peak, safely ensconced within the cab of their service vehicle, windows
rolled up. As they passed, them coming down in the quickly
disappearing sun, me still going up, the driver looked at me in
disbelief, and on they went. But they would not be the last of my
I was rounding the final corner of the road, just below where you turn
right to get to the summit, under that antenna forest, when the sound
of heavy steps on the rocky surface of the road grabbed my attention.
Something heavy, just out of view, was making its way along the road. I
pulled to the left and peered over the shrubs, not sure what I was
about to see. There, looking back up at me and just as startled was - a
lone hiker just starting down off the summit. We both breathed a sigh
I rode over to introduce myself. You just don't see that many people up
this far above the world of men, and I always feel that anyone I meet
out here is someone with whom I must have a great deal in common.
This guy, as I spent some talking to him, seemed to be an exception to
that rule. He had hiked up from Holy Jim to be here under this
beautifully clear, darkening sky, with the moon overhead and stars
beginning to appear in the wavering light. Whereas I was immersed in
the total joy of being here, this little fellow seemed to be nothing but
angry - angry that he hadn't prepared well enough for the deep creek
crossings at the bottom of Holy Jim, angry that despite all the clothing
he had on (much better dressed for the occasion than I) he was still
cold, blah, blah blah, I finally had to end our conversation lest I be
drawn into his little downward spiral. I wished him luck on his trip
down, and rode the last 100 or so yards to the Summit of Mount
I've been here before under the moon, but always with at least one
other fool to accompany. Here I was alone at the peak as the last
vestige of the setting sun slipped beneath the haze over the waters of
the Pacific Ocean. Calm, peaceful - what an incredible experience. Yet,
the moon was not as high in the sky yet as I had thought it might be,
and the darkening twilight was little more so than I had allowed. I put
on the 2nd jersey I had brought, fixed the light to my helmet, looked at
that tiny NIMH battery wondering about how much of a charge I had
left over from last night, and struck off down the road. What, indeed,
had I gotten myself into?
I took no time to figure out that the low beam on the light wasn't really
any better than no beam at all. The bike was being bounced off of all
kinds of unseen rocks, ruts and roots. Mindful that brighter settings
would burn whatever battery I had left faster, I rationalized that a
brighter setting would get me down now and by the time the battery
gave up, the moon would be high enough in the night sky to properly
illuminate the road ahead. As I rode down in the deep blue twilight, I
clung to this thought like a security blanket.
With the light on middle beam, I was able to see well enough to
negotiate the fireroad at a relatively quick pace. While being bounced
around and occasionally coming up quickly on a front tire swallowing
rut, somehow I settled into a pace that felt, maybe not comfortable,
but at least sustainable.
Beyond the beam of my light lay darkness, the moon not high enough
yet to reach above the ridgeline that shadowed the road. Passing deep
dark shadows to the left and right, the random sound of the wind in
the bushes and trees had my spidey senses on high alert. A couple of
times, hurtling through darkness, intent on discovering whatever
obstacles lay out there in the dark in front of my tire, I felt as though
there was something running alongside of me, pacing me. Spooky.......
Eyes straight ahead, I had to calm my mind and nerves lest I let myself
get swept up in a wave of paranoia that would do me no good at all. I
have always enjoyed an adventure - well here I was in the middle of
When I reached the top of Harding at Main Divide again I had to take a
break. It was more comfortable here - out in the open, moon higher
and brighter now, the familiar lights of So Cal below. I have always
enjoyed this view, found it fulfilling, and tonight was no exception. It
was breathtaking and all mine. I checked the battery level indicator on
the light and found it reassuringly (and ultimately incorrectly) at mid
level. Looking down into the darkness that was Harding Truck Trail, my
path down, I took off again.
There were quite a few deep ruts and washouts over this section and I
had to pick my way carefully through that short downhill sections just
off Main Divide. Where Harding then turns up from there is for the
most part under cover of trees. The moonlight did not reach into these
areas and though my legs were feeling the exertion of the length of the
ride so far, I pushed hard to maintain speed going up the road. I was
certain that I could outrun any of the native creatures that might take
an interest in my passing. Except for my imagination working overtime
in the dark, the short climb on this stretch was uneventful.
Harding Truck Trail turned down again and the moon now was high in
the sky and bright. The night sky itself was inky black and the stars
shone very brightly against that backdrop. It was an incredible view of
the Cosmos that one just can't get with the pollution of light in the
city. It makes me feel at once grand and diminutive in the scheme of
things. Just one lone soul, pushing the limits of his own confidence,
here to bask in the glory that is our Universe. I was almost overcome
emotionally by the majesty of it. I had to ride on.
Amazingly, the battery held until I was about 20 minutes from the
bottom and my truck. The light dimmed for a minute, then blinked out
altogether. The charge indicator wasn't all that accurate, but it didn't
matter. I had made it this far and the moonlight was now plentiful. I
took another little break at the bench that is about a mile or two up
from the bottom of Harding and watched a few bike lights over on
Santiago Truck Trail make their way down there. I was only a few
minutes from my truck now.
As I loaded my bike into the truck, about 20 minutes to 8 PM now, I
was struck at my good fortune. I have always pushed my limits and had
done so again. I have always been a believer of Nietze's adage that
what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger, and I had come away this
night stronger still. I know this to be a temporary condition that will
last only until the next time I go out to test myself against the world at
large. At that time, all bets will be off again. But, for now at least, I had
again found myself in God's good graces. I had made my assault upon
that night and returned in one piece. Another test passed, another
story to tell.......
Ride distance: 26 miles Elevation change: 3000 +/-
Bobrsta a 50 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Specialized SJ from Aliso viejo
Harding has not had any attention in terms of grading the trail in some time and numerous rock slides have turned a fire road into something at least a little more challenging that it used to be. Not singletrack by any means, but at least enough loose rocks and shale to break up the sheer monotony of the climb.
Other than many hikers sharing the trail and one really fast guy on a titanium S-Works, I did not see any other riders until the first summit prior to the radio/cell towers. I guess the clouds scared them off. What was nice is that the usual infestation of gnats during the last 2 miles of the climb seems to have vanished and that is a very good thing.
By the way, I just made it back down and loaded prior to the clouds opening up!
Asphaltcarver a 39 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a 2002 Turner O2 from San Clemente
Just reported your sighting to the Trabuco district ranger's office. If you see him again, call the district office and report when and where you saw him so perhaps they can remove him. They are at 909.736.1811.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 32 miles Elevation change: 3500
Singletrack=30% Dirt Road=60% Paved Path=10%
OPP riding a Spider Bullit
Right away you start up, way up. As you look ahead, you will see the switchback rising above you. You eventually reach a high knoll before heading off in a more easterly direction. If you look off to your right, you will see the STT, right before you drop down to ‘The Luge’. After this, the grade seems MUCH easier, eventually taking you to the Main Divide. Great view point, still snow on the mountains to the east.
The trail is in good condition, it never seems to change. Mostly loose rock over hard pack. There are no technical challenges on this trail, just a big grunt. Also, I would venture to say that Laurel Springs is not in any top-10 tourist destination lists. With that being said, this is a great training ride, and this trail will really test your fitness level. You can really get some good speed on the downhill run, time to carve it up! Only saw one person, a hiker heading down as I was going up. The whole trip took me about two hours at a fair pace.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: ~9 miles Elevation change: ~3150
KujoWabo a 40 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Stumpjumper FSRxc from Laguna Niguel
I took a break at Maple Springs (9.3 miles up), then
started the descent. Within a half mile, I started
getting really cold! I thought the short climb section
would warm me up a bit, but the clouds hung over
with no patches of sun. Fingers and feet were now
frozen. Nothing like riding on stumps that used to
feel like feet. Luckily I was clipped to the bike. My
hands had just enough feeling to pull the brakes,
but it was a drag to have to have chattering teeth on
the fun part of the ride.
Be sure and bring your extra layers this time of
year. You never realize how cold it is until you stop
spinning! Next time Joplin will be the down hill
Ladydirt a Die-hard Enthusiast
a Cross-Country Rider
Harding seems to be a popular route to the top of Saddleback, probably because the Maple Springs Road and the Silverado Canyon area are closed for the Arroyo Toad breeding season. This trail is used by both bikers and hikers, including families with children. Give right of way!
It took me about two hours to the top of Modjeska peak (discounting the frustrating time spent fixing two chain breaks, a loose front derailleur and a bent chainring.) It takes a fraction of that time to descend. Even though it is a truck trail, Harding is still a fun and fast downhill, especially if you try to stay on the smoother “singletrack” worn into the road. It is a great way to test your skills, just watch some of the hairpin turns and the loose gravel!
A good place to park is the Modjeska Country Store on Modjeska Canyon Road. There is safe, ample parking, a latrine for your pre-ride necessities and even picnic grounds for your post-ride snack. The folks at the store seem to appreciate your business. This is also a good place to park if you’re doing one of the big-loops (Next time!)
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 22 miles (prev. posts) Elevation change: 4000 feet (prev. posts)
Whistler a Die-hard Enthusiast riding a GF Hardtail from Laguna Niguel
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 30 miles Elevation change: 2,500+/-
Martin a 48 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a SpecializedFSR/ from Irvine
It is a pretty steep climb, and I don't recommend it for beginners or people who are out of shape.
I continued up to Santiago Peak. Hell of a workout!
Bring tons of water and powergels.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: ~8.5 miles Elevation change: ~2000?
LandShark Racer a 27 year old Racer riding a 1996 Mongoose Iboc-Zero G from Irvine
dt a 31 year old Weekend Warrior riding a thrashed trek 7000
I recently rode down from Santiago Truck Trail down the Joplin Truck Trail and then past the Boys Ranch. Here's the route from above.
After major climb past Luge/Vulture Crags there are two right hand trail exit points. Take the first which is just at the bottom of a rocky descent on the STT and just before a short uphill. (pretty obvious)
The trail has a steady drop and is pretty clean and fast singletrack in good shape. Halfway down the mountain you make a 180 degree switchback and head east toward the Boys Ranch. (riding up would be definitely do-able for most)
After passing a spring, be aware because near the Boys Ranch the TRAIL IS WASHED OUT bad. We're talking double chasm 6+ foot drops. Sheer death and serious injury will result if you don't stop or try something stupid here. To some, it may look unpassable, especially if you are short. But it is. I lowered my bike first and then again to a lower platform about 15' down from original trail elevation. I then scampered around and down to shoulder my bike up the other side of the washout.
Beyond that you soon come to a gate with "Closed area" signs. This is the JBR boundry. The road (paved now) "V's" here. Take the right (downhill) route. It turns to ST and drops past (through) a stream and past from old Italian Cypresses and about 300' later you come to that gate (from the other side) that SS below turned around at. I sneaked through a barb wire hole despite numerous closed signs, and of course even though careful the wire got it's licks in on me. Officially I don't advocate this tresspass thing but I had no choice, it was dark and I lived 7 miles down Trabuco Canyon that I still had to ride.
After the gate it's paved road down Rose Canyon. Please obey speed limits through this area, or someday we will lose access. At the bottom you can arrive at the eastern end of Oneill Park where more riding can be had.
BTW, just before reaching Live Oak Canyon Road you pass Senor Licos a Mexican restaraunt nestles in the oaks on your left. Killer margaritas. Food so so. But a good apres ride spot.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Singletrack=90% Paved Path=10%
John Early a 34 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a GT Zaskar LE from Rancho Santa Margarita