Beautiful sites, enticing sounds, and a great work out are just a few reasons to explore the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Lacing up your hiking boots and getting out onto the trails can help relieve stress, boost morale, and improve overall health. To ensure the best experience on the Landmarks, it’s important to know how to choose the hike that’s right for you and learn the dos and don’ts of hiking to stay safe in the outdoors.
Before signing up for an activity and getting out on the Landmarks, it’s important to read and understand the activity description and difficulty rating. Distance, pace, elevation gain, and trail surface are key factors considered when determining the difficulty rating. Each activity includes a difficulty rating between 1-5 to ensure participants are mentally and physically prepared for the hike.
- Level 1 activities accommodate most abilities, are family friendly, easily accessible, and cover little to no distance.
- Level 2 activities cover up to 2 miles with little to no elevation gain. These activities are done at a slow pace on mostly flat terrain with numerous stops for resting in shaded areas.
- Level 3 activities cover distances of up to 6 miles with expected elevation gain of up to 1,000 feet. The hikes are moderately paced on natural surface trails or roads and include stops for resting and interpretation.
- Level 4 activities cover about 10 miles with a significant elevation gain. These hikes are lead at a quick walking pace over natural surface trails with only a few stops to rest and regroup.
- Level 5 activities cover over 11 miles and gain well above 2,000 feet of elevation over steep rugged terrain. These activities have few to no stops for resting and are lead at a very quick pace or jog.
Understanding the difficulty ratings, reviewing the activity details beforehand, and arriving well-prepared for a hike are crucial steps to ensure a great and safe experience out on the land.
- Hike with enough water! Hikers need to bring enough water to last them the entire hike - a good rule of thumb to follow is to bring 1 liter of water per hour, per person. Drinking water before becoming thirsty is important to keep hydrated and energized.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Layering is necessary in both the cool winter months and warm summer weather. During warmer weather, wearing a loose, long-sleeved shirt will protect visitors from the sun while keeping them cool. Hikers should also keep in mind the terrain they will be experiencing – hiking boots are great for strenuous hikes along rocky trails and running shoes are recommended for paved trails.
- Bring along the appropriate gear. Moderate hikes on the Landmarks generally do not require special gear, but hikers should still bring the essentials. A light backpack to store water, a snack, ID and other items like sunblock, allergy medications, and a small first aid kit are great to have on hand when hiking.
Knowing your own abilities and limitations and reading activity descriptions prior to a hike will set you up for success. Avoiding the below common mistakes will increase the likelihood of a safe and exciting hike.
- Don’t wander off-trail. Staying on the trail is not only important to the plant and wildlife on the Landmarks, but also for the safety of visitors! Venturing off trail can leave hikers lost and injured so it’s best to keep to the designated trail.
- Don’t hike alone or leave your hiking partner. Hiking with a partner or group is essential to staying safe on the trails. Leaving someone behind should be avoided at all costs, so if the group is tired and can’t continue, head back and hike on another day!
- Don’t push yourself too hard. While it may be thrilling to challenge your limits outdoors, hiking is not a race or a competition. Visitors who feel tired should stop, rest, and enjoy the beauty of nature while recuperating with water and a snack.
Whether heading out for a Level 1 hike along a flat trail or a Level 5 excursion with multiple steep climbs and descents, it’s important to prepare beforehand. Hiking with enough water and appropriate gear will ensure a positive, safe and exciting experience. For more information on the different levels of activities offered by Irvine Ranch Conservancy visit www.LetsGoOutside.org.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers a wide variety of activities for hikers of all skill levels. Here are some upcoming programs to choose from:
- Wilderness Access Day: Black Star Canyon on Saturday, September 2 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. welcomes hikers 12 and over and offers a variety of trails so visitors can choose their own difficulty level and adventure!
- Intro Cardio Fitness: Weir Canyon Rifle Range Loop on September 9 from 7 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. invites visitors to Weir Canyon for a Level 4 hike which will incorporate interpretation and a 5-mile hike with steep climbs and descents.
- Cardio Hike: Limestone Canyon and The Sinks encourages hikers to explore Limestone Canyon for a challenging Level 5 fast-paced cardio hike. This 10-mile hike will take visitors through coastal sage shrub, grasslands, and oak woodlands.