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

#7: Wildlife – Tip-Toe into Tranquility at San Joaquin Marsh Reserve

San Joaquin Marsh Reserve is an oasis of wild nature next to suburban crush.

Don’t confuse this reserve with the nearby San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, operated by the Sea and Sage Audubon Society and open to the public. This marsh is owned by the University of California and managed by UC Irvine, largely for research projects and environmental study. But during Celebrate UCI day in April, a couple of two-mile guided hikes are offered by faculty adviser Peter Bowler.

He’s a wonderful hike leader, humorous and full of lore about the traditional and modern use of wild plants (you’ll get to taste some, if you dare). Unlike the wetlands in Seal Beach, this one is lined with willow trees and filled with quiet ponds. In its prettiest areas, where there are no signs of civilization, it seems almost impossible that something this tranquil could exist so near the bustle of Culver Drive.

As a bonus, you also get a tour of the university’s small but intriguing botanical garden. The tour is free, easy, and relatively flat. Go to the Celebrate UCI site in March for the 2017 date. The public also can attend an open house Oct. 22 (for the Master Gardeners of O.C.), though Bowler says because of the drought, the marsh has been drying up by the end of September.

The main UC Irvine campus is a short distance down Campus Drive, so take advantage of Celebrate UCI day to visit the medieval-themed Wayzgoose festival in Aldrich Park, where you’ll find foods from faraway places, such as Sri Lanka, along with games and exhibitions.

Good to Know

➔ Two miles, relatively flat
➔ Free. Young children allowed on the public tour.
➔ Corner of Jamboree Road and Campus Drive, Irvine. Visit celebrate.uci.edu beginning in March for Celebrate UCI day.