What You Can Find on a Hike in Irvine
Across all of the cities in the United States, Irvine consistently ranks as one of the safest, most prosperous and most green. With one third of all the land in Irvine reserved for trails, parks and open space, it’s four times greener than even the city of Seattle! Not only is Irvine home to 268 parks and counting, but it also features some of the best hikes in all of Orange County. While Irvine residents can’t deny the beauty of the rolling hills that surround them, chances are they can’t identify all of the wildlife they come across while hiking through them. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of native plants and animals to look for on your next hike.
Irvine Hiking Trail Landmarks
Get off the beaten path, and explore all the wide open spaces in Irvine waiting to be hiked through. With all these natural landmarks, it’s difficult to run out of places where you can get out there and see some nature, right in Irvine’s backyard.
Native Plants and Wildlife in Irvine
Irvine plays home to a whole host of native wildlife that you can experience right in the heart of the city. The Irvine Ranch Conservancy monitors a network of cameras placed throughout the open spaces that detects wildlife. The cameras are triggered by heat and motion, and provide a wealth of information about the native Irvine Wildlife.
As you traverse through the hiking trails, it won’t take long to spot a deer or two. During the springtime, you might see baby fawns roaming the hills with their parents. If you get lucky, you can try to find a gray fox, although these nocturnal animals are more likely to try to stay hidden. Chances are you’ll spy a skunk, raccoon, or opossum before you see a gray fox.
Mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats also call the open spaces of Irvine their home. But don’t worry: the chances of running into a mountain lion or a bobcat are slim to none. These solitary creatures love living in Irvine, but they don’t love spending time with its residents.
Many rare birds also soar through the Irvine skies. It’s not difficult to see a hawk, a hummingbird, or even an owl zooming by. The elusive golden eagle has also been spotted throughout Orange County near Modjeska Canyon, and a fortunate hiker might hone in on one on occasion.
You’ll find native plants growing abundantly throughout the city. As you walk along most hiking trails, you can feast your eyes on the taco plant. It’s actually named the laurel sumac, but because its leaves fold inward to avoid sun exposure, it resembles a taco.
In the summer, open spaces are splashed with the vibrant red of the lemonade berry. Packed tight into beautiful bright clusters, it might also make you hungry for Lemonade, one of Irvine’s favorite restaurants.
If you smell the air and get a waft of an earthy, minty scent, you’ve happened upon white sage. Purple needlegrass, wild lilies, the orange monkeyflower - there’s a whole bouquet of flowers out there, and you’ll just have to head to the trails to see them all.
Trails to Explore in Irvine
If you need some help getting started on places to hike in Irvine, let these suggestions help kick off your trek. Once you get a taste of these parks and trails, you’ll want to hit up every spot in Irvine you can find. Warning: it will keep you very busy.
Where to Go: Quail Hill Park and Trail
What You’ll Find: Directly off the 405, access to a hiking trail doesn’t get easier than this. You can take an audio tour of the 2.8 acre trail while making your way through the cacti and sage scrub vegetation.
At the top of the more technical hiking trails, you’ll find yourself overlooking the city, far away from houses. Wildlife you’re guaranteed to see? Dogs are allowed on leashes on this trail, so be prepared to meet some new friends.
Where to Go: The Jeffrey Open Space Trail
What You’ll Find: When you step into the Jeffrey Open Space Trail, you’ll be able to see the result of years of master planning. This hidden gem boasts long winding sidewalks and lush landscaping. If you’re a beginner at hiking, these flats trails are for you as you start to build endurance.
You’ll find historical landmarks and placards that reflect on Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, a Spanish land grant that comprises much of Irvine Ranch. It’s the perfect place for walkers, joggers, dogs, or even a nice picnic on the many grass areas.
Where to Go: Orchard Hills Park
What You’ll Find: The Orchard Hills Park is open to people living in Irvine. They can take a guided trail with docents who will point out the wildlife, such as owls, coyotes, and small amphibians.
The trail passes through a privately owned avocado orchard, then the moderately steep hill leads you up to a spectacular view that stretches as far as Los Angeles and San Pedro. Twilight hikes are offered, allowing the opportunity to see the sparkling lights of the city below.
Where to Go: Bommer Canyon
What You’ll Find: Bommer Canyon is full of history, part of Irvine Ranch’s Cattle Camp. You can still find some of the old structures, such as barns and cattle corrals.
Bommer Canyon is a wildlife preserve for endangered species, and you can choose easy hikes all the way up to 7-mile trails. You’ll see black mustard flowers in bloom and unique cacti growing. It’s a gorgeous view at sunset.
It’s not hard to blaze some trails when you’re living in Irvine. At any given moment, you’re steps away from parks and trails designed for the best hikes that nature can offer. Learn more about Irvine living by visiting villagesofirvine.com.