This weekend Ashley and I had a chance to get out and do some hiking in the Turtle Rock area of Irvine. One of the places we stopped to visit was the Turtle Rock Nature Center. The Turtle Rock Nature Center is located at the base of the San Joaquin Hills in Irvine and is close to the South Coast Wilderness. A hike/visit to the Turtle Rock Nature Center is a perfect hike for those who have kids and are looking to hike in a small supervised area. The Nature Center was very educational as well and is well maintained by the city of Irvine.
Directions to Trailhead: The Turtle Rock Nature Center is located at 1 sunnyhill drive Irvine, CA 92603. Directions coming from the 405 going north: Exit on University Drive and make a left onto University. Upon Reaching Culver, make another left. Make a left onto Campus drive, then a right onto Turtle Rock Drive. Proceed On turtle Rock drive for a little while and make a right onto Sunny Hill. The park is there on your right. At this point you should see signs for the park. Parking is Free and there is no cost to enter the Turtle Rock Nature Center. Free is a great price. The operating hours for the Turtle Rock Nature Center are 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday, 9am - 4pm Saturdays, and the center is closed on Sundays.
Description of Hike: The Turtle Rock Nature Center in Irvine is a small nature preserve with several exhibits for visitors and Orange County hikers to see. There is a creek that runs through the Turtle Rock Nature Center as well. The nature center also has a pond which attracts ducks, raccoons, great horned owls and surprisingly even coyotes, although the latter emerge from nearby Bommer Canyon only at night. Additionally, the Turtle Rock Nature Center Staff occasionally rescue/take in small animals that are unable to return to the wild because of injuries and the Nature Center serves as a home for them and they are kept inside the Nature Center for interpretive programs.
The trail winding through the Turtle Rock Nature Center area is paved, but is as natural as possible. The Turtle Rock Nature Center covers approximately 5 acres, which is pretty small, but it makes a hike at the Turtle Rock Nature Center perfect for hikers with children looking to get outdoors. There are several small loops that are fun short hikes for those with kids. The preserve is close to the 20,000 acres South Coast Wilderness (Laguna Coast Wilderness). For those hikers looking to get a work out and more of a wilderness experience this hike is not for you. It is perfect for those who have a little bit of time to explore and for those looking to go hiking and see the outdoors with kids.
Further Thoughts: Ashley and I enjoyed our time at the Turtle Rock Nature Center in Irvine. Even though the park is small, we thought it still had a nice punch to it. The preserve is very nice and there have been a number of Eagle Scout projects at the park as there are lots of signs and informational plaques informing visitors about what vegetation they are looking at and the type of wildlife that frequents the Turtle Rock Nature Center. The paved trail at the Turtle Rock Nature Center displays native Southern Californian habitats, including Riparian, Desert, and Woodlands. Frequent visitors to the Turtle Rock Nature Center hiking trail include local birds who enjoy swimming in the pond, lizards who bask in the sun, and rabbits who disappear into the desert brush.
Another neat feature of the park is the Turtle Rock Nature Center Building itself. They have a lot of information about native Orange County plants and local Orange County wildlife, allowing visitors the chance to learn about our local ecosystem. A hike at the Turtle Rock Nature center is a very easy kid-friendly hike in Orange County. Even though this would be classified as an urban hike and is ideal for those with kids, Ashley and I found this short hike to be a nice outing and we coupled the Turtle Rock Nature Center with a longer hike in Irvine's Turtle Rock area. Our write up on our Turtle Rock Hike can be viewed Here.