Orange County's only National Natural Landmark is in the heart of Orange County, conveniently located for the more than 3 million county residents. Yet for some city dwellers, the issue is not distance -- it's the perception that wilderness may be a little too “wild.”
For folks who are yearning to take a walk on the wild side but don't know where to start, there are Wilderness Access Days. The nearly 40,000 acres across the center of Orange County known as Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are mostly protected spaces, so not all of the properties have daily, self-guided access. Many docent-led programs are offered by OC Parks, City of Irvine and City of Newport Beach, but for those who want to learn how to explore on their own, Wilderness Access Days offer the ability to step into nature with a safety net.
Exploring on your own without really having to be on your own is what makes Wilderness Access Days the perfect "beginner" wilderness option. Wilderness Access Days also include guided activities aimed at teaching the basics of the outdoors. Typical topics include hiking basics, trail etiquette, family hiking, and information on native plants and wildlife. Both the Wilderness Access Days and the docent-led beginner hikes are free, but advance registration is required in most cases. Registration is available online at www.LetsGoOutside.org.