The shorter, cooler days of the winter season make it a perfect time to enjoy the vibrant colors of the canyons and sprawling vistas in the open space preserves of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. While standing on a peak or ridge, visitors might look one way and see the snow-capped peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains, then turn around and clearly see out to one of Southern California’s Channel Islands.
There are several upcoming decent-led activities, as well as self-guided trail routes, that will bring hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers to peaks and ridges that overlook unforgettable panoramic vistas. To take advantage of pleasant weather for active outdoor activities, and to enjoy the unrivaled views available in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks this time of year, consider registering for one of these activities or planning your own adventure.
Take in an Orange County view almost every weekday with regularly-scheduled fitness hikes on Hicks Haul Road in Irvine— held Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Tuesday mornings. This activity offers participants a chance to hike along a paved road to the top of Loma Ridge in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. From there you can look out over much of urban Orange County, and on a clear day, can even get a glimpse of downtown Los Angeles. The next After Work Fitness Hike on Paved Hicks Haul Road will take place on Monday, Jan. 5, and you can click here to see a list of all upcoming Hicks Haul Road activities.
To explore further into Limestone Canyon, join docents for a 10 to 12-mile Mid-Week Hike on Wednesday, Jan. 7. This hike includes several steep climbs and descents, with over 2,100 feet of accumulated elevation gain, but is done at a moderate pace. Towards the end of their journey, participants will be rewarded with a view of a striking limestone formation known as the Sinks. Mountain bikers can also visit the Sinks during the Beginner Mountain Bike Ride in Limestone Canyon on Sunday, Jan. 11.
With snow falling at fairly low elevations this week in Southern California, you may get to see Saddleback capped in white snow during the Cardio Hike: Weir Canyon/Santiago Wilderness Park on Saturday, Jan. 10. During this fast-paced, docent-led hike participants will travel through coastal sage scrub, grasslands and oak woodlands with multiple steep climbs and descents leading to unobstructed views of Saddleback Peak, Modjeska Peak and the Cleveland National Forest.
Equestrians can join docents on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 8 for the Weir Canyon to Two Towers Vista ride. This 5-mile ride in OC Parks’ Weir Canyon Nature Preserve will bring riders along the route of the Butterfield Stage, visiting a monument dedicated to the Mexican ox cart drivers. The trail weaves its way through a beautiful oak woodland on the way to Two Towers vista point—which provides great sprawling views of Orange County and beyond.
A Great way to explore the vistas of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks on your own is by visiting Bommer Canyon in the City of Irvine for a self-guided exploration of the trails and views along the way. After parking at the Bommer Canyon Trailhead, at 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, hike across Bommer Meadow then follow the short Bommer Pass Trail to the West Fork trail. Continue up the Turtle Ridge Trail to the top of the hill for stunning views of the Pacific coast and an unobstructed view of Catalina Island, 22 miles off-shore. Click here for a map of the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve.
Most of the docent-led programs are free and require pre-registration for all participants (children must attend with their parent or guardian). To register and to find more information about the above activities, and others, please visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.