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Volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Limestone Canyon Access Days or many of the other activities within the Irvine Ranch, you’ll understand how many people it takes to offer all of these activities to the public. Most of those people are volunteers with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and they are always looking for new people to volunteer.

Twice a year, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy holds an orientation for new volunteers. One of these is coming up on March 10th and you can still sign up if you’re interested. Volunteering for the IRC can be hugely rewarding. You’ll have the opportunity to help improve the wilderness around Orange County and share your love of the outdoors with others.

There are a number of important requirements that all Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers must meet in order to help. All of the requirements are outlined in the email that’s sent out to all potential volunteers. The one ongoing requirement that IRC asks of all volunteers is that they donate at least a day a month to activities within the parks and open spaces.

If you’re interested in signing up to be a volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and would like to attend the orientation next month, you must register by February 10th.

Continue reading Volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Santiago Oaks Regional Park – Peralta Hills, Bumble Bee, and Mountain Goat Trails





Vital Stats
Trailhead 2145 N. Windes Drive
Orange, CA 92869
Length 3.58 Miles
Elevation 459 Feet
Difficulty Hard

The hike up Peralta Hills Trail is surprisingly difficult. Four-hundred fifty-nine feet of elevation gain over three and a half miles doesn’t seem like too much, but almost all of that climbing happens in less than a mile as Peralta Hills Trail heads towards Anaheim Hills Elementary School. The rest of the hike is comfortable and rolling, with one tricky descent down Mountain Goat Trail.

This full hike can only be done during the dry season, when there isn’t water flowing from the dam. The hike crosses Santiago Creek in two places that are impassible when water is flowing through the creek. However, even during the rainy season it’s still possible to do most of this hike, you’ll simply have to stay on the east side of the creek and head back up to the main creek crossing near the parking lot.

The trail starts out from the parking lot, crosses Santiago Creek and heads to the left along Santiago Creek Trail. The trail only goes for a short time until it curves to the right and meets up with Wilderness Trail. Take a right at Wilderness Trail and head back generally in the direction of the dam at the far end of the park.

Wilderness Trail is a nice, wide trail that’s generally flat and shaded. Enjoy this easy part of the hike, because it’s about to get a lot more difficult. Once you’ve gone about a third of a mile along Wilderness Trail you’ll come to a turnoff for Peralta Hills Trail to the left. From here, be prepared to start heading up.

Peralta Hills Trail runs from its junction with Wilderness Trail all the way up to Robbers Roost above Anaheim Hills elementary. In just about a mile, Peralta Hills Trail gains over 700 feet of elevation at an average grade over 10%. Just before my hike up the trail, it had been regraded and the trail surface was either slick rock or soft sand. This made hiking up the hill all the more difficult, because I slid backwards half a foot for each step forward I took. Of course, once some of the lighter dirt gets blown away and the trail gets re-compacted it will be much easier to hike up. Continue reading Santiago Oaks Regional Park – Peralta Hills, Bumble Bee, and Mountain Goat Trails

Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park – The Sinks





Vital Stats
Trailhead Augustine Staging Area
Silverado, CA 92676
Length 7.60 Miles
Elevation 400 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Once a month, OC Parks and the Irvine Ranch Land Conservancy open Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park up for a Wilderness Access Day. Most of the time, Limestone Canyon is only open for limited guided tours, which anyone can sign up for through the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks Activities page. However, during the Wilderness Access Day, you’ll have free reign around any of the trails in Limestone Canyon.

The main draw of Limestone Canyon is a geological feature called The Sinks. The Sinks is a large canyon carved into the soft limestone hills that has been called The Grand Canyon of Orange County. Unfortunately, people are not allowed to climb down into The Sinks, but are only allowed to look at it from above due to their delicate nature.

The hike out to the sinks starts from the Augustine Staging Area, located just off Santiago Canyon Road north of Silverado Canyon Road on the west side of the road. During Wilderness Access Days, there will be public parking and check-in located at the Augustine Staging Area. There are normally a few hundred people who visit Limestone Canyon on these days, so expect a much larger production that you would normally find at a regional park.

The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking area from which a fire road heads south. The entire length of the trail is actually this fire road that circumnavigates the park. On the one hand, this is nice because it means the trail is wide and easy to navigate but it also feels less intimate with the surrounding nature. Also, the first mile or so of this fire road is covered with gravel which is somewhat uncomfortable to walk on, especially on the way back to the trailhead. Continue reading Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park – The Sinks

Cleveland National Forest – Holy Jim Falls





Vital Stats
Trailhead Trabuco Creek Rd & Holy Jim Canyon Rd
Trabuco, CA 92883
Length 3.42 Miles
Elevation 705 Feet
Difficulty Modrerate

This past Tuesday, after the rains on Saturday and Monday, I headed out to Holy Jim Falls in the Cleveland National Forest. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for a while now, but I’ve been waiting until after some rain to ensure the falls are at their fullest. This hike did not disappoint, it is by far one of the nicest hikes in Orange County.

Driving to the trailhead takes a little bit of work, but it’s a beautiful drive in itself. Live Oak Canyon Road, which is the turnoff from Santiago Canyon Road where Cook’s Corner is located, is a densely shaded road that winds it way through a forest of live oaks.

From Live Oak Canyon Road you turn off onto a dirt road, Trabuco Creek Road. The first couple of miles of Trabuco Creek Road is well maintained until you hit the gate to Cleveland National Forest. The road through Cleveland National Forest is some of the most challenging off road driving I’ve ever done, I would highly suggest a car with sufficient ground clearance, such as a pickup truck or SUV. I made it out there in my Subaru WRX but I did hurt my front bumper coming over a large mogul. Plan to take a half hour or more to drive the 4.7 miles from Live Oak Canyon Road to the trailhead.

There is a small parking lot on the left hand side of the road as you approach the trailhead. To park here, you’ll need an Adventure Pass, which I picked up at the Silverado Canyon Market next to the Silverado Branch Library, or a National Park Service Golden Access Passport. The road continues for another half mile or so towards the actual trailhead, however this portion of the road is for access to a number of cabins that are located on leased forest land and there is no public parking beyond this point.

From the parking lot, continue to follow the road, being careful not to wander up someone’s driveway. After about a half mile, there will be a slight “Y” in the road, to the right is a newer looking cabin and to the left is the actual trailhead. The trailhead is marked by an open gate and a placard provided as an Eagle Scout project. Continue reading Cleveland National Forest – Holy Jim Falls

Carbon Canyon Regional Park – Redwood Grove Lollipop





Vital Stats
Trailhead 4442 Carbon Canyon Road
Brea, CA 92823
Length 2.62 Miles
Elevation 151 Feet
Difficulty Very Easy

Carbon Canyon Regional Park is a true regional park, not a wilderness park in any way. The majority of the park is comprised of a lake for fishing and large grassy open areas. There are also numerous shelters with tables and BBQs, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball fields, and playgrounds. There are also four groves of trees located around the park. Three of the four are easily accessible by car, but the only way to visit the grove of Coastal Redwoods is via the park’s only “nature” trail.

The Carbon Canyon Regional Park nature trail that leads to the redwood grove is the best maintained trail I’ve seen in Orange County. It’s wide, flat and utterly boring. The trail starts at the far eastern edge of the park, through the pinewood grove. Once through the pinewood grove, the trail drops down slightly to cross a dry stream bed and then climbs back up just slightly. Once level again, the trail continues westerly between the foot of the hill and Carbon Canyon Stream.

Currently, Carbon Canyon Stream is being dredged. From the work being done, it looks like they are preparing to line the stream with concrete and generally make it feel less natural. Even without the work being done on the stream, the trail never feels a part of nature. It’s always possible to see the manicured lawns of the park proper or the giant dam that doesn’t seem to hold back any water.

As you continue on the trail it curves around slightly to the left where you’ll see the redwood grove. The dozens of redwoods that make up the grove were planted in the mid-1970s, when the park was first opening. Costal Redwoods are not a native species in Orange County and when you walk through the grove you can tell that they don’t belong. There is no ecosystem around the trees, simply trees in the near dead, hard packed ground of Orange County. The type of magic that’s present in a natural redwood forest is simply missing in this artificial grove. Continue reading Carbon Canyon Regional Park – Redwood Grove Lollipop

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – Willow Canyon and Laurel Canyon





Vital Stats
Trailhead Willow Staging Area
20101 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Length 3.53 Miles
Elevation 557 Feet
Difficulty Moderate

This hike in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park visits some of the more lush areas of Orange County due to its proximity to the ocean. The route is steep in places and goes over some ill-maintained trails but is a pleasant hike non-the-less, especially towards the end.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is sandwiched between Laguna Canyon Road (SR 133) and Crystal Cove State Park. The park gets a lot of damp sea air so the park stays green year round, unlike most of the rest of Orange County. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t get a the nice sea breeze that you might expect being so close to the ocean. Combine the lack of sea breeze with the wide fire road trails and no shade, the trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park can feel much warmer than you might expect.

This route through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park starts at the Willow Staging Area, located along Laguna Canyon Road just south of El Toro Road. There is a dirt parking lot at the Willow Staging Area that can be quite crowded on busy weekends. Also located at the Willow Staging Area is a ranger station and information board. You can pick up a trail map and, on the weekend, park rangers will ask you to sign in so they know how many people are in the park.

There are two trails that lead out from the ranger station, Willow Canyon Road and Laurel Canyon Trail. This route head off on Willow Canyon Road and comes back using Laurel Canyon Trail. Willow Canyon Road is fire road that starts out flat for the first few hundred feet followed by 1.4 miles of up hill. The trail is wide and has little shade along the route. Most of the trail is hard-packed dirt with some places of slick rock. It’s possible to see where they’ve done trail maintenance and clearing with a scraper of some sort. Continue reading Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – Willow Canyon and Laurel Canyon

Whiting Ranch – Borrego Trail to Red Rock Canyon





Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Vital Stats
Trailhead 26711 Portola Parkway
Lake Forest, CA
Length 4.6 Miles
Elevation 446 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Whiting Ranch is a part of the OC Parks Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Whiting Ranch is open to the public like most other Orange County parks, while Limestone Canyon is only open two days a month for open access days and for guided tours. Whiting Ranch is very popular with mountain bikers but is open to hikers and even has a few trails that are only open to those on foot.

Borrego Trail out to Red Rock Canyon starts from the parking lot located on Portola Parkway right at Market Place in Lake Forest. Parking is $3, just as it is at most other OC Parks. The trailhead is marked by a sculpture garden with a large obelisk at its center that’s dedicated to the local wildlife. There is also an information kiosk that has all of the standard warnings and information for the park, and some maps of the park’s trails that you can take with you.

Once on the trail, the first thing you’ll notice is a large sign warning of mountain lions. This isn’t the only mountain lion warning on the trail, and for good reason. Over the years there have been a number of mountain lion attacks in Whiting Ranch, including one fatal one in 2004. However, Whiting Ranch is a very popular park and the odds of being attacked are very low.

The trail heads north through a valley that’s flanked by houses. Despite that, you get the feeling of being in the wilderness quite quickly. Almost immediately you cross a sandy, dry stream bed that’s a bit difficult to walk in and very difficult to ride a bike in. This stream hadn’t been quite so sandy prior to the winter storms of 2007, but that year the rains washed a lot of sand down out of the canyons and deposited it on the lower reaches of the stream. Continue reading Whiting Ranch – Borrego Trail to Red Rock Canyon

Oak Canyon Nature Center – Tranquility Trail, Wren Way, Bluebird Loop





Oak Canyon Nature Center

Vital Stats
Trailhead 6700 Walnut Canyon RdAnaheim, CA 92807
Length 1.89 Miles
Elevation 194 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Oak Canyon Nature Center is a small park nestled in the canyons of Anaheim Hills. The park is ideal for parents and children looking for just a taste of the outdoors. For locals, the Oak Canyon Nature Center is also a great place for short trail runs or hikes when you just want to get out of the house. Unfortunately, Oak Canyon isn’t open to mountain bikes, but honestly it isn’t big enough to really enjoy yourself on a bike anyways.

This route takes you through the south side of Oak Canyon Nature Center, which is wooded with a thick oak forest and back down along the main access road that runs the length of the park. The north side of the park, which this route doesn’t explore, is much more barren. The trail starts just past and behind the interpretive center.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Tranquility Trail heads slightly up hill through an old grove of oak trees. There are a couple of offshoots from the trail that head up into the neighborhoods at the top of the hill. Once the trail makes a meandering horseshoe U-turn to the left the trail levels off and transitions into California chaparral.

Tranquility Trail continues until it runs into Wren Way. You can take Tranquility Trail back down to the main access road or continue strait onto Wren Way. Wren Way is a trail covered with a low canopy of trees that undulates as it heads slightly uphill. Wren Way follows along a drainage channel, over a number of bridges built as Eagle Scout projects over the years. Continue reading Oak Canyon Nature Center – Tranquility Trail, Wren Way, Bluebird Loop

Rain forces trail closures in Orange County

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As anybody who has spent any time outdoors knows, water is the bane of a well maintained trail. Due to yesterday’s rain, there are a number of park and trail closures around Orange County. The parks numberswiki.com

and trails that are currently closed are:

  • Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness Park: Closed
  • Irvine Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Laguna Coast Wilderness Park: Closed
  • O’Neill Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Peters Canyon Regional Park: Closed
  • Santiago Oaks Regional Park: Closed
  • Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park: Closed

Peters Canyon Regional Park – Peters Canyon and Lake View Trails

 




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Vital Stats
Trailhead 8548 E. Canyon View Ave.
Orange, CA 92869
Length 4.06 Miles
Elevation 203 Feet
Difficulty Easy

 

Peters Canyon is a very popular nature park for both hikers and mountain bikers. The park boasts a surprisingly diverse group of habitats and terrains for visitors to enjoy.

[flickr id=”6190508684″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] This route starts from the parking lot at the north end of Peters Canyon, near the Peters Canyon Reservoir. Parking costs $3, or you can get an annual pass for all Orange County parks for $80 that’s good January through December (although the price is normally cut in half after July.)

From the parking lot, the trail heads east towards Jamboree Road, paralleling Canyon View Ave. After a short distance, there is a gate on the right that leads to Willow Trail. Willow Trail is seasonal, and often times the gate will be locked. However, when it’s open, Willow Trail is a splendid little get-away of dense trees and poison oak. If the Willow Trail is closed when you hike through Peters Canyon, a little further on is the turnoff for the Lake View Trail, which will connect with Peters Canyon Trail just like Willow Trail will.

[flickr id=”6189990345″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Once on Peters Canyon Trail, you’ll head south along the Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. Peters Canyon Trail is the main trail that runs north-south through Peters Canyon, as the name would imply. There are numerous offshoots from Peters Canyon Trail that will allow to you experience all that Peters Canyon has to offer. As you head down Peters Canyon Trail, you’ll see East Ridge View Trail raising directly in front of you. Thankfully, this route goes around that large hill.

Instead of heading up East Ridge View Trail, this route continues to follow Peters Canyon Trail south until reaching a grove of eucalyptus trees on the left side of the trail. Directly across from those trees is a little trail called Peters Canyon Creek Trail. If you missed Willow Trail earlier because it was closed, Peters Canyon Creek Trail will make up for that. Continue reading Peters Canyon Regional Park – Peters Canyon and Lake View Trails