If you’re looking for Orange County hiking trails for families, Joe Anzenberger of OC Explorer is the one to ask. Joe covered Nature Preserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries, as well as Nature and Interpretive Centers for us last year. Here are some trails to help you “Get Outside and Explore Nature More.”
If you want to take a hike with your kids in a relatively safe place, many cities maintain their own off-pavement trails that traverse open spaces, wildlife corridors or undeveloped areas. These trails may be in the middle of a city, but they have a back country feel. They’re typically only a few miles long, but they are still worth a visit.
I do a lot of trail running and am familiar with just about every trail in the county. I do not recommend taking children on any of the “wilderness” trails in the county, including those maintained by Orange County Parks or the Cleveland National Forest. These would be the trails that are truly back country types. A false sense of security can easily be felt because the trails can look so inviting and so well-maintained. However, take my word for it that there are just too many ways for a child to get hurt out there and it is not worth the risk until they are old enough to understand the dangers.
With that said, there are still plenty of other safe trails that you can have a lot of fun hiking on and interacting with children on the scenery and environment. Here are a few examples:
Aliso Summit Trail in Laguna Niguel – With views of Saddleback Valley on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, this dirt-packed trail has picnic benches scattered throughout so you can really have a nice day out.
Yukon Riley Botanica Trail in Ladera Ranch – Another dirt-packed trail that runs through the center of town, complete with picnic benches, observation area and plenty of places to find extra water.
Jeffrey Open Space Trail in Irvine – A beautiful, wide trail and park setting with interesting historical markers that describe Irvine’s orange growing heritage.
Juanita Cooke Greenbelt and Trail in Fullerton – An easy, wide 3 mile trail near downtown.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful and that it will encourage you to take your children out to explore the back country of Orange County at places that are safe and fun. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to share your experiences. Thanks, and have fun!
Joe Anzenberger dedicates himself to sharing stories and advice about exploring the “back country” of Orange County on his OC Explorer website. His site presents all the off-pavement trails in Orange County, spotlighting beautiful locations where entertainment lies in the sounds and sights of a million year old natural environment.