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Orange County's El Modena Open Space perches like an island above the L. A. Basin sprawl.

The mile-long El Modena Open Space in the city of Orange preserves a steep-sided, miniature mountain range, clothed in a tough mixture of drought-resistant cactus and sage-scrub vegetation. Underfoot, you'll find colorful andesite and pyroclastic rock -- volcanic deposits dating back some 15 million years. This variety of rock, in colors of brick red, pink, white, gray, green and beige, is found in Orange County only here and in a couple of spots just south.

Start at the corner of Cannon Street and Patria Court, 0.4 mile south of Santiago Canyon Road and 1.3 miles north of Chapman Avenue, where curbside parking is available. Follow the path parallel to Cannon Street's right (southbound) side, and quicky veer right on a steeply ascending trail through a natural garden of California sagebrush, encelia, wild hycinth, and wild onion. As you wind upward toward the top of the ridge, dense thickets of prickly pear cactus, plus some coast cholla cactus, appear.

At the ridgeline turn left and follow it to the highest summit, elevation 806 feet. Enjoy a pseudo-aerial view of the flat, expansive Los Angeles Basin, wrapping around more than 180 degrees, and the rim of the mountains to the east and north -- the Santa Anas and the San Gabriels. This vista can be mind-blowing on days of crystalline atmospheric conditions.

From the 806-foot high point, descend south and pass over two more summits in the next mile. A very steep path goes down the west side of the southernmost hill, and meets a service road leading back to the intersection of Cannon Street and Stillwater Avenue. Use the bicycle path or sidewalk along Cannon to complete the one-mile-long return to Patria Court. When done this way, the entire loop measures 2.4 miles.

Two shortcut trails link the ridgeline to Cannon Street, and either one of those can be used to shorten the hike.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any detrimental experience.

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The mile-long El Modena Open Space in the city of Orange preserves a steep-sided, miniature mountain range, clothed in a tough mixture of drought-resistant cactus and sage-scrub vegetation. Underfoot, you'll find colorful andesite and pyroclastic rock -- volcanic deposits dating back some 15 million years. This variety of rock, in colors of brick red, pink, white, gray, green and beige, is found in Orange County only here and in a couple of spots just south.

Start at the corner of Cannon Street and Patria Court, 0.4 mile south of Santiago Canyon Road and 1.3 miles north of Chapman Avenue, where curbside parking is available. Follow the path parallel to Cannon Street's right (southbound) side, and quicky veer right on a steeply ascending trail through a natural garden of California sagebrush, encelia, wild hycinth, and wild onion. As you wind upward toward the top of the ridge, dense thickets of prickly pear cactus, plus some coast cholla cactus, appear.

At the ridgeline turn left and follow it to the highest summit, elevation 806 feet. Enjoy a pseudo-aerial view of the flat, expansive Los Angeles Basin, wrapping around more than 180 degrees, and the rim of the mountains to the east and north -- the Santa Anas and the San Gabriels. This vista can be mind-blowing on days of crystalline atmospheric conditions.

From the 806-foot high point, descend south and pass over two more summits in the next mile. A very steep path goes down the west side of the southernmost hill, and meets a service road leading back to the intersection of Cannon Street and Stillwater Avenue. Use the bicycle path or sidewalk along Cannon to complete the one-mile-long return to Patria Court. When done this way, the entire loop measures 2.4 miles.

Two shortcut trails link the ridgeline to Cannon Street, and either one of those can be used to shorten the hike.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any detrimental experience.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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