How you and your kids can take outdoor adventures through OC’s wild, open spaces.
With so much wild, open space in 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 kids to the outdoors and allowing them to experience nature is the best way to grow the next generation of nature enthusiasts, while making lifelong family memories. Besides, spending time on the trail with your family is a great way to get out of the house for a fun adventure this summer.
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 wonders of the outdoors 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 of.
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 and safety whistle. 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.
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. 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 look for wildflowers along the trails.
Be prepared for anything by dressing accordingly and bringing sun protection. 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. Always be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat when spending time outdoors, even if the sun is not shining. In addition to your general hiking essentials and first aid kits, do not forget to pack kid-friendly supplies like tissues and wet wipes.
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Irvine Ranch Conservancy and its partners, OC Parks, city of Irvine and the city of Newport Beach, offer free activities for all ages, including interpretive activities that are designed to focus on helping visitors enjoy their time outdoors, while also learning about nature.
Families interested in exploring Orange County’s wild lands can do so by signing up for an activity through letsgooutside.org. Each Let’s Go Outside activity is led by an experienced volunteer trained to lead nature lovers of all ages and skill levels on an informational exploration of local wild lands.
Orange County also has a variety of seven-day access trails in the city of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon, the city of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully Reserve, OC Parks’ Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and Crystal Cove State Park. These trails give explorers a chance to choose their own adventure and experience the diverse habitats of local native wild lands.
When exploring the outdoors, it’s important to remember that local habitats are sensitive to human activity and should be treated with respect. While you’re out on the land, be sure to always stay on designated paths. Each trail is carefully designed to provide visitors with a full experience of Orange County’s natural habitat through safe and easily identifiable routes, and going off trail can cause erosion, damage restoration sites and wildlife habitats, as well as enable illegal trespassing and increase the risk of getting lost or injured.
To learn more about trails and free outdoor activities in Orange County, visit letsgooutside.org. For more information about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and Orange County native wild lands, visit irconservancy.org or follow the Landmarks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Scott Graves is the communications manager for Irvine Ranch Conservancy. Born and raised in Orange County, Graves now resides in Brea with his wife and two young children. He is passionate about the outdoors and is proud to work for an organization that connects the community with nature.