One of the most iconic locations within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, Limestone Canyon never ceases to amaze. Located between the rugged Santa Ana Mountains and central Orange County, Limestone Canyon is home to a variety of plants, animals, and unique geological features. Its oak filled valleys and year-round springs made it a popular place for Native Americans and early European settlers to hunt and forage for supplies. Later, it became an important grazing area for ranchers in the region. Today, Limestone Canyon remains one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the county and houses a number of habitat restoration projects to further ensure it biological viability. Over 20 miles of trails crisscross Limestone Canyon, providing hiking, riding, and equestrian opportunities for all levels and interests. You can sign up to participate in a number of activities in Limestone Canyon on LetsGoOutside.org, including Wilderness Access Days. Be sure to check out all this area has to offer on your next adventure, including:
Irvine Ranch Conservancy has your summer guide to outdoor adventures
It’s starting to feel like summer all across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks! Summer vacation is the perfect time of year to get outdoors, soak up the sun and enjoy the natural beauty of Orange County. Gather your family and friends and don’t miss out on these summer destinations!
The Sinks in Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve are a must-see destination for your summer vacation. This picturesque natural geological formation, composed of dramatically exposed and layered sandstone cliffs, is often called a “mini Grand Canyon” and has become a popular destination among the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Limestone Canyon also stuns visitors with its lush natural habitat, from thick oak woodlands to the rich diversity of plants and animals, all of which can be experienced on a hike or bike ride.
Get out and explore The Sinks during your next outdoor adventure
One of the seven wonders of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, “The Sinks” in the Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, is a hidden gem in Orange County. A geological formation consisting of layered sandstone cliffs, The Sinks are often referred to as Orange County’s Mini Grand Canyon and have become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers.
The red sandstone cliffs that form The Sinks are eroded in the Sespe Formation, a geological formation of southern California which is between 20-40 million years old. Visitors to The Sinks will experience the beautiful reddish-brown sandstone that drops off sharply into the canyon forming a natural bowl.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy invites the community to discover the seven wonders of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks that span The Sinks, Loma Ridge, Red Rocks, Three Sisters Rock, The Native Seed Farm, Buck Gully Reserve, and the Back Bay. The seven wonders are found in OC Parks, the City of Irvine, and the City of Newport Beach, and nature lovers have a chance to win a canvas of their favorite wonder by participating in a social media contest.
“We’re thrilled to be celebrating the seven wonders of the Landmarks,” commented Dave Raetz, Deputy Director of Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “We’re encouraging nature lovers to explore the wonders by registering for a program on the open spaces, and to follow the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks on social media for a chance to win a beautiful canvas of their favorite wonder.”
Give those who matter most to you the gift of quality time together outdoors this Valentine’s Day.
Wildflowers are starting to bloom; the sun is out a bit longer each night; and if you look up in the sky, you just might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of raptors courting – all sure signs Valentine’s Day is nearing in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Rather than book a reservation at a crowded, overpriced restaurant to celebrate, surprise your loved one this year with an outdoor adventure.
Whether it’s a romantic night hike, an adventurous outing, or an excursion for the whole family, show the people who matter most to you one of the most special sights in Orange County by exploring the Landmarks together this Valentine’s Day. Read more below to see which activity is right for you.
Activities held Saturday and Sunday will teach skills you can use forever.
If you’ve visited the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, you know that there is always something new to discover. Learn a new way to look at the land this weekend, through hikes, walks, rides and workouts that will introduce you to skills such as wildlife tracking, cactus planting, mountain biking and even Zumba.
Two very exciting Saturday activities will help visitors learn about the easiest way to “see” wildlife on the trails: animal tracking. By learning which prints are which and “whose scat is that,” you can tell what type of critter was on the trail before you. In Round Canyon, the City of Irvine presents Beginner Animal Tracking, which covers the basics of spotting and identifying animal tracks over a short, 1.5-mile walk. OC Parks is presenting Watching Wildlife in Fremont Canyon, a program that also covers tracking, and will include information about raptors flying overhead near Irvine Lake. This program includes a 4 mile hike with some hills and spectacular views. Both programs are for visitors age 12 and up, and are led by Irvine Ranch Conservancy naturalists.
In Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, there is a scenic 1,200-acre canyon called Agua Chinon. This unique area starts in an oak riparian habitat and travels up through coastal sage scrub to The Sinks, providing visitors with a great hike or ride as well as a peek into active habitat restoration. The diverse opportunities for recreation and volunteering along this one stretch of canyon makes Agua Chinon a popular destination for visitors of varied interests.
OC Parks hosts regular hikes and rides along the Agua Chinon trail, led by Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and docents. You can also join Conservancy staff to participate in habitat restoration work on this beautiful bit of OC Parks open space. Many hikers walking by the restoration areas on their way to The Sinks are able to see the restoration as it progresses, and this personal connection leads them to become more actively involved in the project.
A picturesque, natural sandstone formation in Limestone Canyon has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In the southern portion of OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve sits “The Sinks,” a striking geological formation consisting of dramatically exposed and layered sandstone cliffs. The raised viewing platform that overlooks an impressive view of The Sinks has become a popular destination for explorers of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. While the beauty of The Sinks is instantly understood by all who visit, the history of the formation is millions of years in the making
June 7 event features self-guided nature walks and activities for all ages.
Families and outdoors enthusiasts are invited to enjoy self-guided access in the magnificent Limestone Canyon at the fourth annual OC Parks Wilderness Celebration on June 7 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Designated trails will be open for self-guided hiking, biking and equestrian use.
The Wilderness Celebration will offer self-guided access to trail routes of varying distance and level of difficulty within this open space preserve. “The Sinks” – an Orange County landmark formed over millions of years – will be accessible via a 9-mile round trip hike over moderate terrain. The 5-mile long Shoestring Trail Loop will also be accessible, with many other options for visitors of all ages to choose their own route.
Equestrians are invited to enjoy the cooler temperatures and fall colors on a guided trail ride through beautiful Limestone Canyon. OC Park’s Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve is a spectacular and lush canyon with a rich diversity of plants and animals. It is a true favorite among hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and naturalists of all types -- especially The Sinks, a limestone canyon known as the “mini Grand Canyon.”
During the “Ride the Fall Colors of Limestone Canyon” event, equestrians will have the chance to see hawks, deer and other critters while enjoying spectacular scenery. Not only are the sycamore leaves turning a warm yellow, but the route itself climbs to Loma Ridge, offering vistas of Irvine Lake, Orange County and beyond.
Celebrate the outdoors with events throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
Celebrate National Trails Day in a National Natural Landmark, right here in Orange County. On Saturday, June 1, the 21st annual celebration will include local activities throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
The largest local event will be at Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, where OC Parks and Irvine Ranch Conservancy will host a Wilderness Access Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can enjoy self-guided hiking, biking and horseback riding through majestic Limestone Canyon. The preserve is home to The Sinks, an expansive geological formation, and Conservancy volunteers will be on hand throughout the trail system to help guide visitors.
Alex Gurrola wins 2013 OC Parks annual pass with photo of Limestone Canyon.
Photographers from all walks of life traversed tens of thousands of acres of open space to capture just the right shot. After public votes and a judges panel final decision, a panoramic shot of a group of hikers in Limestone Canyon has captured the grand prize in the inaugural Love the Landmarks Photo Contest.
The public contest asked for photos that reflect the locations within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, and the connections people have to them. Anaheim resident Alex Gurrola’s winning shot depicts hikers on a docent-led trek to The Sinks, known as OC’s mini-Grand Canyon. The stunning image combines the beauty of The Sinks rock formation with the action of people enjoying natural surroundings. Gurrola will receive a 2013 OC Parks Combination Pass for his winning entry.
Welcome to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy "News from the Field" blog. These articles are written by Conservancy staff about activities and projects in and near the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.