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Joplin Trail in the Santa Ana Mountains, Orange County

March 2013

Joplin is a jem of a trail located in the heart of the Santa Ana Mountains between Saddleback and Modjeska peaks. I've been wanting to do a write up of this trail for a while. Joplin cuts right through the 'saddle' of Saddleback, beginning at 5,000ft and dropping to Old Camp at just 3,000 ft.

Joplin has a back country feel similar to Coldwater with some steep, loose decents and technical rocky sections thrown in along the way to keep you inline. Cleaning the whole trail top to bottom is a feat worthy enough to warrant a brew of your choice afterwards.

Unless you are an android you will want to descend Joplin. To reach the trailhead you will need to make it to the Main Divide via Harding, Maple, or Holy Jim. We chose Harding because it is a great scenic climb, just as fast as Maple, and much quicker than taking Holy Jim.


The Loop Route: Harding Truck Trail -> Main Divide -> Joplin -> Old Camp -> Santiago Truck Trail -> Modjeska Grade Rd. -> Modjeska Canyon Rd.

Checkout the Geoladders GPS Route for mileage and such as I don't bring a GPS, odometer, or watch when I'm in my backyard. Going by feel this is about a 20 mile, 4 1/2 hour loop.

Harding Truck Trail

Climbing harding

A little over half the way up Harding the road turns to single track and fallen rocks appear. This road has not been graded the last few years: I would guess the last time it saw a bulldozer was after 2008 Santiago wild fire. Evidence of the fire is still abundant.

Looking down from Harding you can see Laurel Springs on the right.

Main Divide a.k.a. "Pain Divide"

The Modjeska towers

Modjeska Peak

Saddleback Peak


Joplin Trailhead

Looking down the Joplin trail

Pristine Singletrack

The infamous Calvin Quest gliding down one of the many loose rocky sections

Due to the narrow lines it is best to stay in the center of the trail and just bounce over any rocks that may be in your way.

Playing it safe and walking this steep section (it could be a long hike out).

Returning via Santiago Truck Trail

Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me for any trail info!

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