The only thing I wanted to do in Oak Glen, besides picking apples, was check out The Wildlands Conservancy. It turned out that our apple picking destination actually shares a parking lot with the Conservancy. You can read about the Rancho and our apple picking experience HERE. This is all about the Children’s Nature Trail which was THE highlight of our trip.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” – Shakespeare
I love taking new trails. I like turning the corner and not knowing what I’m going to see. So I’m going to try NOT to show you ALL the cool stuff. I want you and your family to discover it for yourself.
Start out at the entrance to the Montane Botanic Garden and Children’s Outdoor Discovery Center. We used to start out at the Ranger Station which is also an interpretive center. But now there are maps and usually someone staffing the desk at the entrance to the garden which leads to the trail.
There are many options for how to do this hike. It seemed like a long 2 miles to me – because we stopped a lot and it was quite hilly. Start the hike at the Hawk Totem (have the kids try to find this landmark when you arrive!). Follow the trail past the Double Red Delicious apple grove. There is a restroom here perfect for a stop and to fill up your water bottles at the drinking fountains. Make sure you meander through the California Tree Trail and read all the inspiring quotes engraved on the boulders. Next you’ll come to the Reflection Pond.
A beautiful spot! You’ll feel a surprise when you step on the dock. We stared in the water which appears black, but is actually incredibly clear. We saw bubbles and then all of the sudden . . . what should appear?
Just past the Reflection Pond, you’ll have an option to go to the Upper Pond. We didn’t make it there. We headed down into the Oak Grove instead. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination and only say you can make this a short loop by taking the Boardwalk. It will lead you back to the Reflection Pond and you can double-back to the parking lot.
If you continue on through the Oak Grove and down the hill, there are many more sights and sounds to greet you. We:
- saw a paper wasp nest,
- followed the stream,
- did the Limbo under a tree branch,
- listened to the water,
- felt the mist and heard the hush of the clouds blowing through the trees,
- smelled berries,
- spotted ancient apple trees,
- learned about wildfire,
- and had a special opportunity to help trees grow.
Trip Planning Essentials
The Oak Glen Preserve shares a parking lot with the popular Los Rios Rancho. Click here for The Wildlands Conservancy map.
- Plan to go on a weekend
- ARRIVE EARLY during apple picking season – this place gets busy as the day progresses. The earlier you arrive, the easier time you’ll have with parking.
- If I were to go again, I’d plan to get to the parking lot between 8 and 8:30am during apple picking. The ranger told us it’s much quieter along the trails during the off-season — so you wouldn’t be so constrained about arriving early. The trail is only open on weekends.
- Watch for weather. The Rancho is above 5000 feet and it can snow.
- LOTS of hills and some steps if you do the full loop. Be prepared for uneven ground. Babies would do best in backpacks or baby slings. Jogger strollers would work for the short loop. Be prepared for a tight squeeze and some switchbacks on the longer loop and navigating some log stairs.
- Three nice restrooms: 1) near the BBQ/Store and parking lot, 2) at the start of the Nature Trail before the California Tree Trail, and 3) at the end of the Nature Trail in Oak Knoll Park.
- Bring a big picnic lunch to enjoy down in Oak Knoll Park at the end of your hike.
More posts on Oak Glen:
- Apple Pie and Fall Colors in Oak Glen
- Montane Botanic Garden and Children’s Outdoor Discovery Center
- Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho Apple Farm Trip: Celebrating Fall with Family
Originally posted in October 2010.