Summary: This trail takes you over an ancient route with a view of the ocean on clear days and multitudinous wildflowers in the Spring.
The "vultures" that roosted on the conglomerate cliffs and minarets were California Condors. Like the last wild California Grizzly -- who died five miles away at the mouth of Trabuco Canyon -- the condors who nested here were exterminated by farmers with guns and poisoned carcasses. The ridgeline trail to the crags is unshaded: bring a hat and sunscreen.
Look for fossils in the rocks on the north-facing cuts and on the trail itself. Watch out for mountain lions and oblivious trail bikers.
Trailhead: From Interstate 5, take the El Toro Road exit in Lake Forest. Head North/Northeast up El Toro Road towards the mountains. At Cook's Corner, take the left fork. Proceed to your second paved right which is Modjeska Grade. Park near the bottom of the hill and walk up to the Santiago Truck Trail gate.
Trail Guides for Vulture Crags Santiago Trail, Cleveland NF:
Best Easy Day Hikes Orange County
by Randy Vogel (Falcon Publishing Company)
Afoot & Afield in Orange County
by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press)
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Trabuco Ranger District, Cleveland NF, 909-736-1811
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joel Sax, who has posted 51 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 3 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Bill and Greg on 1/12/2012
Do not know how anyone found this hike. We followed the instructions to the trailhead and got lost. Where do you park at the bottom of the hill? We made the right on Modjeska Grade...but what hill, there are hills all around. Are you supposed to stop right there or continue on Modjeska grade to find the hill? How far? We ended up hiking on some "fire road" near the bird sanctuary, but I think we missed the Vulture Crags trail. The hike we did was fine but nothing special. No shade!
Reviewed by RD on 11/23/2011
So, drove all the way out there but couldn't find any place to park anywhere near the trailhead. No parking, no stopping signs posted all along the road in both directions. Stay away, it's a waste of gas.
Reviewed by JMA on 4/4/2010
Suddenly virtually all of Majeska Grade road has become no parking: this means a 0.7 mile hike up a very steep main road - no fun - just to reach the trailhead. Very tough with Medicare knees. But a wonderful cool weather hike, as always.
Reviewed by DJS on 1/2/2010
The "No stopping" signs have moved around recently. You can now park much closer to the trailhead.
Reviewed by Kyle on 10/15/2009
Hiked Vulture Crags twice in one week, First time was in the 80's felt like 90's which makes this trail harder due to no shade. Bring Water. Second time was with 35 College Rugby players, temp was in 70's which made the hike a lot easier. We put a new flag up and all had a good time. Both days there were lots of mountain bikers, 10 mid-week, 22 on the weekend. I would hike this again, great views of Orange County and if no fog the ocean. Spring and Fall would be when I would recommend this trail. Park on main road at the bottom of the hill for no tickets.
Reviewed by NicAndTed on 7/16/2009
Great views, would love to go around winter time as well. It was VERY hot, even though we started early. Make sure to bring extra water if you are hiking with a four legged friend, our dog needed way more than we did.
Reviewed by Tom on 4/25/2009
Hiked this trail today. Nice views, but LOTS of mountain bikers. I would say we passed 30+. Old glory is still flying at the end. Park along the road near the entrance. No adventure pass needed
Reviewed by Stacy on 4/12/2009
We hiked this trail as a second choice after finding out that the Harding Truck Trail was still closed. It was absolutely beautiful. Lush greenery with lots of wildflowers combined with the awesome rock formations made for great photos The bugs were minimal and the mountain bikes plentiful. You can't beat the views from the high points of this hike. The weather was about perfect. The occasional wind made it a little cold, but all in all a great day for a hike on a great trail.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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