Before you take another trip to the gym or the same old walking route around your neighborhood, consider a change of scene for your fitness routine. At the north end of Jeffrey Road in Irvine, you can add hawks, deer and fragrant native plants to your exercise regimen, all without leaving a paved, safe surface.
Just past Portola Parkway, Jeffrey Road ends and Hicks Haul Road begins. The former ranch road once helped ranchers carry livestock and supplies up into the canyons, and now the closed road is a secret fitness spot for people who want a rewarding outdoor workout. The hike offers spectacular views of Irvine, but doesn’t require any special gear other than normal running shoes.
"Hawks, brush rabbits, lizards and the occasional deer can be seen along the trail in the morning and afternoon. And as we move into fall and winter, migratory warblers and sparrows are seen in flocks, feasting on insects and native plants," says Evelyn Brown, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Interpretive Specialist. "The road is paved, but the wildlife sightings are comparable to any other trail in the open space."
There are activities on Hicks Haul Road for a variety of interests and fitness level. A new weekly hike beginning August 30 is a "conversational-paced" hike that allows participants ample time to take in the natural surroundings while still getting a workout. The 3-mile hike travels up a steady incline with an overall elevation gain of 800 feet, and then finishes by heading back down the hill, all at a leisurely pace.
Faster fitness hikes are available weekly as well, in the morning and evenings. The hikes range from 3 miles to 8 miles, and Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers spread out with the group to allow participants to go at their own pace. Hicks Haul Road is also home to mountain bike rides and volunteer habitat restoration projects.
All programs on Hicks Haul Road are free, but require advance registration. To join a hike, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org and look for the Hicks Haul Road Staging Area activities.