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Exploring the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks with Kids

PictureA kid-friendly hike in Bommer Canyon

​Spending time on local trails is a great way to get your family out of the house for a fun adventure. With 40,000 acres of open space, Orange County residents have access to one of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the world, so why not experience it with your children? Introducing little ones to the outdoors and allowing them to experience nature is the best way to grow the next generation of nature enthusiasts, while making life-long family memories.
 
Taking kids out on trails might seem challenging, but if you’re properly prepared, everyone is bound to have a great time! Before you head out to explore the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks with your kids, Irvine Ranch Conservancy has some helpful tips to keep in mind.

​Be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water for any outdoor adventure. Children new to outdoor exploring might have lower stamina than adults, so be prepared to stop often for rests and snack breaks. Energize your little ones with healthy, nutritious snacks and hydrate with lots of water to keep them in high spirits for the adventure ahead. Bring along a small bag to hold any trash until it can be properly disposed.
 
Create a light, small backpack for your little ones to carry with them, but be prepared to carry the backpack yourself in case your child gets tired. Pack snacks and water with your child and other lightweight items such as a compass, small binoculars or a small camera for your child to capture spectacular views. A safety whistle is another item you should always pack with your child. Teach them what to do if they become separated from you – stop, stay put and blow the whistle three times to alert nearby hikers or rangers.
 
Make things interesting and let your little ones make some decisions for the trip! Many kids enjoy the freedom to plan and take charge. You can allow your child to lead the hike at certain points, while you encourage them along the way. You can also plan your hike based on any specific attractions your kids might want to see as well. Bring a fun twist to your snacks and create your own trail mix as a fun pre-hiking activity. There are countless options to create a fun and interesting experience for all children.
 
Always remember to have fun and be flexible! When hiking with children, it’s not always about reaching the destination, but about the journey along the way. Try starting with a short hike close to home and allow plenty of time for exploring. Create fun and easy games that you and your kids can play out on the trails like an exciting nature scavenger hunt. You can have them look for signs of wildlife or you can count wildflower species along the trails.
 
Lastly, be prepared for anything and dress accordingly. Be sure to check the weather forecast before your outdoor trek and dress yourself and your young ones in layers, if necessary. An extra change of clothes for the ride home is also recommended in case your child gets dirty while exploring. In addition to your general hiking essentials and first aid kits, do not forget to pack kid-friendly supplies like tissues and wet wipes.
 
Explore the red rock cliffs and diverse wildlife with your little ones on Saturday, September 7 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Wilderness Access Day at Black Star Canyon. Wilderness Access Day grants families and nature lovers a chance to experience the local plant communities and beautiful scenery that Black Star Canyon has to offer. Whether you prefer to take a self-guided hike or bike ride through the pleasant trails, all ages are welcome to enjoy the Natural Landmarks during this family-friendly adventure!
 
Bring your kids outdoors for an exciting evening experience on Friday, September 13 with Beneficial Bats to learn everything there is to know about these nocturnal creatures! Join OC Park Ranger Annelise and Park Ranger Jenn at the Mason Regional Park Amphitheater for a special presentation uncovering the mysteries and myths of the mighty bat. Guests are encouraged to arrive early to check out cool artifacts like bat skulls and more!
 
Through LetsGoOutside.org, families can find a variety of activities geared toward all ages and abilities, along with difficulty ratings to know which activity is right for your family. To learn more about activities offered on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities. Most activities are free and open to the public with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event.