One of the many amazing things about living in Southern California has to be the weather. The summers are long, warm, arid, and clear and the winters are short, cool, and partly cloudy. It is this mild, welcoming, and lovely weather that makes Orange County a great place for a stroll.
But where to stroll is the question. A regional park perhaps? A sandy beach? Maybe around a local zoo or nature center? Perhaps a cute little downtown street? Here is my complete list of places to take an easy walk in Orange County!
OC Parks manages and maintains 23 regional park areas plus a handful of trails not officially associated with a park. That is a lot of open space to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite:
- Irvine Regional Park: This park is a massive wonderland for all ages. It has six playgrounds, equestrian trails, four softball fields, two horseshoe pits and a train! The area has a paved walking and biking trail throughout the park that winds under the shade of Sycamore Trees. Irvine Regional Park also has multiple picnic areas with BBQ pits for gatherings. Fall – Winter Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Spring – Summer Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Peters Canyon Regional Park: Located in Orange, CA, this park is a wonderful blend of nature, wildlife, and man’s impact with a reservoir weaved in. The park is over 340 acres and has a mix of graded roads and trails to explore. Check out the Lake View Trail to see the 55-acre Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. Park Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset. Trails may be closed for up to three days following rain.
- Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve: Although it is not the largest park with only 1,000 acres of open space – it is a beautiful park surrounding an ecological reserve. The preserve is made up of bluffs surrounding the bay with easy walking trails for all ages. When there, make sure to check out the Upper Newport Bay’s Muth Interpretive Center to learn more about the plant life and endangered bird species such as the Brown Pelicans that call this park home. The park is open Every day from 7 a.m. to Sunset. The Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed Monday and major holidays
Zoos, Nature Centers & Arboretums
- OC Zoo: The Orange County Zoo is nestled right in the heart of another walkable location I mentioned prior; Irvine Regional Park. There is a separate entrance with a fee to this shaded and quaint 477 acre wilderness park. Here you can stroll around the education focused zoo while peeking for island foxes and black bears. The OC Zoo also has a little petting zoo to get hands-on fun with domesticated goats and pot belly pigs. A great new way to explore the zoo is the easy to access audio tour. Simply dial (714) 481-0355 on your cell phone and learn all about the creatures who call the zoo home while you walk.
- Arden Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens: This beautifully preserved 1888 home sits tucked away in Modjeska Canyon on 14 acres of land. It is the only surviving home of Helena Modjeska, a Shakespearean actress and Polish patriot who designed the Victorian home as a retreat when she was not performing. Now it is a state protected historic site where visitors can take a walk back in time as they explore the grounds. When open, docent led tours are available at 10am on Wednesdays and Saturdays and require reservations. However anyone can do a self guided stroll around the park on Saturdays from 11am to 2pm. It is a wonderful place for a walk – after all; ‘Oh, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes!’
- Fullerton Arboretum: In 1970 Dr. David Walkington and Dr. Eugene Jones led a discussion at California State Fullerton for the development of an arboretum on the school site. The vision was “An urban oasis that is a botanical collection serving as a resource for research, education and the region’s agricultural heritage that draws the community, including students and faculty, to become inspired to support its mission.” October 21, 1979 the 26-acre Fullerton Arboretum had its official opening ceremony welcoming the public to explore, to learn, and to enjoy the well crafted lands. Today you can take a stroll around the multiple natural habitats and plant collections in the gardens. No dogs are allowed but the easy walking paths make this location very family friendly – and if you’ve got a Pokémon Go player, this is a good spot to catch ’em all.
What is more Southern California than a stroll on a beach boardwalk? With miles of sandy shoreline there are so many great beaches to explore. Here are some of the easiest walking access beaches, piers, and boardwalks to check out.
- San Clemente Pier: San Clemente Pier Beach is the main city beach of San Clemente, California and home to the 1296-foot-long wooden pier. San Clemente Beach itself is a popular fishing and surfing area and the pier is also home to The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar. When visiting you can park your vehicle at the grassy Parque del Mar City Park as you enjoy exploring the downtown area known as the Pier Bowl. The Pier Bowl is full of local shops and eats to complete your beach pier experience. Extend your stroll to the San Clemente Beach Trail, a 2.3-mile path that runs along the coast parallel to the railroad tracks with ocean views.
- Dana Point Harbor: This small harbor is packed full of the ultimate adventure experiences. From whale watching to parasailing, diving to stand up paddle boarding, adventure junkies will love this playground just for them. But if you are simply looking for a stroll Dana Point Harbor will not disappoint. The Harbor has a quaint shopping district full of one of a kind gifts, award-winning wine cellars, and chocolate shops. Also available are delish eateries with epic views of the ocean. Dana Point Harbor kind of has it all.
- Seal Beach Pier: Seal Beach hugs the very edge of Los Angeles County and Orange County making it a Southern California sort-of hidden gem. The wooden pier itself has been through the flames – in the most literal way. It was rebuilt after storms damaged the pier in the 1930s and again again in the 1980s. More recently in 2016 there was a major fire in the closed Ruby’s Diner Restaurant at the end of the pier; although the pier itself opened soon after to the public, there is no longer a restaurant at the end of it. This small beach community is a super tight-knit family-focused town with an easy walkable downtown area everyone will enjoy exploring.
So no matter if you are in the mood for sand between your toes or a window shopping affair, I hope you check out one of these lovely places to go for a walk.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus