With all the technology people have right at their fingertips, it can be easy at times to forget what adventures await outdoors. National Screen-Free Week, May 2-8, is a program by the non-profit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood encouraging people to put their smartphones away and embrace life beyond digital entertainment. Multiple locations within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are close to Orange County residents, so it’s the perfect place to go to grab a breath of fresh air and connect with the outdoors.
- Twilight Trek on the Mesa, Friday, 4/29: The Mesa Loop is one of the newest trails in OC Parks’ Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park, and is full of tall, lush coastal sage scrub habitat. Keep a copy of the Common Plants Field Guide close to help you spot native species – such as California buckwheat, black sage and California sagebrush – along the trails.
- The Birds of Baker Canyon, Saturday, 4/30: Spring is a great time for birders to get outdoors. Learn about a variety of bird species and how to identify them by sight and sound while enjoying a walk through the beautiful oak woodlands of Baker Canyon in Black Star Canyon. Take a copy of the Birds Field Guide for pictures of species commonly seen in the Landmarks.
- Caminata Familiar/Family Hike to the Canyon, Saturday, 5/7: Entice the kids away from the TV with an easy-paced, educational hike presented in English and Spanish. Visitors will travel 2 miles along paved Hicks Haul Road in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, and will learn about historical uses of native plants while watching for local wildlife. See what species from the Wildflowers Field Guide you can spot trailside – sticky monkeyflower, California encelia and black sage are in bloom right now!
- Weir Canyon Habitat Enhancement, Saturday, 5/7: Take a break from technology by giving back to the land. Volunteers are needed to plant small coastal prickly pear cactus pads, which provide shelter and food for local wildlife. OC Parks’ Weir Canyon Nature Preserve is an optimal location to spot a wide range of native animals, from the tiny darkling beetle to the elusive mule deer. Bring along the Common Animals Field Guide for more information on native wildlife in the Landmarks.
There are also areas within the Landmarks open daily from dusk to dawn for self-guided access, meaning visitors can explore designated trails at their own pace, on their own schedule. Consider trying something new, and inviting friends and family to these locations during Screen-Free Week. Click the titles below for maps and more information:
- City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon: Stroll past ancient oak sycamore groves and rough rock outcrops. Adventurous visitors can brave Turtle Ridge Trail, whose vista point offers rewarding views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other.
- City of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully Reserve: Explore this little-known natural coastal canyon while enjoying the sounds of a stream that runs year-round.
- The City of Irvine’s Quail Hill: Travel 2 miles along Quail Hill Loop, the only wilderness trail in the Landmarks that allows dogs (on a leash, of course!).
- Try out a variety of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails at county parks such as OC Parks’ Peters Canyon Regional Park andSantiago Oak Regional Park.
Whatever outdoor adventure you’re seeking during Screen-Free Week, the Landmarks is sure to deliver. All guided programs on the Landmarks are free with pre-registration, which closes 4 p.m. the day prior to each activity. Minors must be accompanied by an adult guardian or parent, and all scheduled events listed above are led by trained Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff or volunteers. For more information on these events or to register, click the titles above. Search for all upcoming programs on the Landmarks at LetsGoOutside.org/activities.