Modjeska Canyon & Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

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Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 11/18/12

Modjeska is one of only a few trail gateways into the Trabuco District section of Cleveland National Forest in Orange County.  Harding Trail begins just past the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Sensory Garden and has great views of Modjeska Canyon and the Santa Ana Mountains.  Also known as Harding Truck Trail, or Harding Road 5S08 according to the official forest service map.  Mountain Bike Bill's website has a good Harding Trail description with pictures.  You can take Harding Truck Trail about 9 miles up, connect to North Main Divide and continue to Santiago and Modjeska Peaks (also known as Saddleback Mtn or "Old Saddleback) and drop down into Holy Jim Canyon. 

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Warning sign on Harding Truck Trail (click pic to enlarge)

The 2007 Santiago Fire caused heavy damage to the area around Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, a warning sign is still up on Harding Trail (as of Nov 2012).  You may find references to closures due to fire damage on the internet, but the area is in fact open and has been for some time.

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Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 11/18/12

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Fall colors in the Sensory Garden (next to the interpretive center), 11/18/12

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, Sensory Gardens and Science Center are usually opened six days a week, see the official website for more info.  This is a popular bird watching area, I've noticed quail, scrub jays, hummingbirds, junkos, woodpeckers, various finches and others I couldn't identify.  The sanctuary includes a nice science/interpretive center full of displays and hands on activities, great nature education for the kids.   

Another point of interest in Modjeska Canyon is the century old historic former home and gardens of the late 19th century actress Helena Modjeska.  This is also known as Arden or the Modjeska Historic House.  You may be able to tour the house by appointment only.

Harding Truck Trail & Chaparral Trail

Located just behind & above the interpretive center, these trails have great views and lead into the "backcountry" of the Santa Ana Mountains.  Chaparral Trail is a loop off Harding Truck Trail, a short self-guided nature tour of a chaparral California native plant community with plenty of rest stops and benches along the way.  A historical point of interest is found here, officially California Historical Landmark #225 Flores Peak, named for an outlaw who made a daring escape (on Chaparral Trail you will find interpretive signage telling the story).

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View of Modjeska Canyon from Harding Truck Trail, 11/18/12

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Harding Truck Trail just above Modjeska Cyn, 11/18/12

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Harding Truck Trail, passing the last oak tree, Flores Peak on the left. 11/18/12

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Chaparral Trail, 11/18/12

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Chaparral Trail sign (click pic to enlarge)

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Chaparral Trailhead on Harding Truck Trail

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Chaparral Trail, 11/18/12

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Top of Chaparral Trail nearing the "lookout" shelter

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Flores Peak (view from Chaparral Trail "lookout")

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Harding Truck Trail

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Harding Truck Trail

A few older pics below:

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Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/27/11

Trail head, HardingTrail, Modeska Canyon, 3-9-08
Trail head, Harding Trail, Modeska Canyon, 3-9-08

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Desert Garden at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/27/11

 

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Sensory Garden, 2/27/11

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Creek at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 2-27-11

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Wooly Blue Curls, Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/27/11

 

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Modjeska Creek viewed from the bridge to the bird viewing porch at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary 2/27/11

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Scrub Jay, 2/27/11

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 3-9-08
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 3-9-08 (click picture to enlarge)

 

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Directions:
From Santiago Canyon Road turn Modjeska Canyon Road.  Follow the signs to Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary (about 2 miles from Santiago Canyon Road).  Also see directions at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary's site: http://www.tuckerwildlife.org/directions.asp

Forest Map:

Look for 5S08 “Harding Road” near “Modjeska Canyon Nature Preserve”

http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/forestvisitormaps/cleveland/north/06.php
or
http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/landmanagement/gis/?cid=stelprdb5329472

Contacts:
Cleveland National Forest, Trabuco Ranger District
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Places Nearby:
Silverado Canyon/Maple Springs Rd
Black Star Canyon

Links to historical information on Modjeska Canyon
History of Silverado & Modjeska area from the Canyon Land Conservation Fund:  http://www.canyonland.org/canyonhistory.html

History of the Modjeska house: 
http://www.canyonlife.com/STORY8.HTM