10 Ways to Escape into the Wild Lands in O.C.

These excursions will thrill, whether you’re new to hiking, searching for new scenery, or looking to learn more about native plants and animals.

BY - September 6, 2016


ocent-led hikes in Orange County’s restricted nature preserves lead to amazing sights—pristine wetlands, historic ranches, infamous landmarks. They’re led by expert naturalists who are full of intriguing tidbits about your surroundings and stories you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else. And they’re the ultimate in convenience: You don’t need a map, a first-aid kit, a whistle, or even a cellphone. The docents take care of it all. Think of these as “just add water” hikes—because that’s all you need to bring. – By Karin Klein

About O.C.’s Preserves
WHOSE LAND IS IT? These wild lands have a wildly diverse group of landowners. Some are public entities that include city, county, and state parks; federal agencies; plus the University of California system. Other owners are private nonprofit organizations and foundations. The National Audubon Society, which formed in the early 20th century with a mission to protect waterfowl, owns and operates the Starr Ranch Sanctuary. Sometimes a third party manages the resources for the landowner, so it can get confusing.

EXAMPLE The Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a land management nonprofit, was created in 2005 to be the conservator of, and oversee public access
to, 30,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, lands that were part of the 93,000‑acre Irvine Ranch. The group manages
public lands that have multiple landowners, primarily OC Parks and the cities of Irvine and Newport Beach.

BOTTOM LINE These are precious resources of scenic, ecological, and biological wonder. It’s a balancing act to protect these natural treasures while making sure the public can enjoy them now and for centuries
to come.—Laura Bleiberg



  1. #1: Workout - Trade the Treadmill for the Trail
  2. #2: Fitness - Do Yoga Under the Sycamores
  3. #3: Conservation - Step Back to Old California at Starr Ranch Sanctuary
  4. #4: Tracking - Scout in the Back Country
  5. #5: Nighttime - Take a Full‑Moon Hike
  6. #6: Educational - Explore Pristine Wetlands
  7. #7: Wildlife - Tip-Toe into Tranquility at San Joaquin Marsh Reserve
  8. #8: Hike to a Notorious Place
  9. #9: Stargazing - Search the Skies
  10. #10: Landmark - Trek to the Mini-Grand Canyon