The new year will bring new opportunities to discover the natural beauty of the local canyons. With monthly self-guided access days in addition to docent-led beginner programs and a new foot bridge, exploring local open space has never been easier.
OC Parks has partnered with Irvine Ranch Conservancy to expand popular monthly Wilderness Access Days to Black Star and Baker Canyons. The Wilderness Access Days were held monthly in Limestone Canyon, and beginning January 5, the Wilderness Access Days will rotate monthly between Black Star and Limestone canyon staging areas. New trails in Baker Canyon were opened in October 2012, and in January a new bridge over Baker Creek will connect the staging area directly to the new SilMod Loop trail.
“The bridge was custom-built for the site, with both aesthetics and visitor experience in mind,” said Michael O’Connell, Executive Director of Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “OC Parks wanted to provide a safe connection between trails without spoiling the natural beauty of the canyon.”
Wilderness Access Days offer self-guided access to the trail systems with the support OC Parks Rangers and Ranger Reserves, along with Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and volunteers. Black Star, Baker and Limestone canyons are part of 40,000 acres permanently-protected open space in the historic Irvine Ranch. The land was designated a National Natural Landmark for both its geological and biological significance to the nation. OC Parks and the Conservancy offer many docent-led programs weekly, and self-guided exploration is offered during these monthly Wilderness Access Days.
These events are perfect for those who are yearning to get out into the local wilderness but don’t know where to start. Staff and volunteers are on hand throughout the trail systems, so even less experienced outdoor enthusiasts can hit the trails with confidence. During each Wilderness Access Day, the Conservancy also leads a beginner-level hike, teaching the basics in topics such as wildlife, plants and trail etiquette. During the January 5 Black Star Canyon Wilderness Access Day, a birding specialist will lead “Bird Walk in Baker Meadow” at 10 a.m., a beginner birding hike.
During winter months, Wilderness Access Days begin at 9 a.m., with trails closing at 3 p.m. The events are free, and pre-registration is strongly encouraged. For more information or to sign up, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.