Monday, December 3, 2012

Irvine Regional Park

Surrounded by the rolling foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains lies Irvine Regional Park. Irvine Regional Park is the most visited park in the OC Parks system and is a fun kid friendly hiking location in Orange County. This past weekend, Ashley and I had a chance to go visit Irvine Regional Park and hike on the hiking trails in this Orange County Park. We also got a chance to visit the Orange County Zoo, which is also located in Irvine Regional Park and is worth visiting when you go to Irvine Regional Park. For more pictures from our recent visit to Irvine Regional Park make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to Irvine Regional Park, coming from the 5 freeway, exit at Jamboree going toward the mountains (away from Irvine). Jamboree dead ends at Irvine Regional Park, several miles from the 5 freeway. Irvine Regional Park’s address is 1 Irvine Park Road Orange, CA 92869. A map of where Irvine Regional Park is located can be found Here. We parked in parking lot 21 located on the Irvine Regional Park map. You could also park at lot 4 or 19, which also provide easy access to the hiking trails at Irvine Regional Park.

Description of Hike: Irvine Regional Park is in a great location for hiking and offers great scenery to those who visit the park. Furthermore, Irvine Regional Park has many attractions and is a great place to bring the entire family for a weekend getaway. Irvine Regional Park's hours are as follows: Fall - Winter: 6:00am to 6:00pm, Spring - Summer: 6:00am to 9:00pm. A park brochure can be found Here and map of the hiking trails at Irvine Regional Park can be found Here. Ashley and I did part of the Horseshoe Loop Trail. The trail was in great shape when we went and the park was well maintained. When you go hike at Irvine Regional Park there is a high probability that you will see others while out on the trail. There are only a limited amount of hiking trails in this park, which is one negative that we saw, however this park is still worth visiting due to the amazing scenery. Irvine Regional Park is 477 acres in size and connects to a vast wilderness area that is connected to the Cleveland National Forest. It costs 5 dollars per vehicle to enter the park on the weekends and 3 dollars per vehicle during the week.

We also had a chance to visit the Orange County Zoo at Irvine Regional Park. The Orange County Zoo, even though not very big when compared to the San Diego Zoo, is definitely worth visiting. It is only 2 dollars to enter, which is a great price. The Orange County Zoo provides a home for native wildlife that has been injured or is not releasable into the wild. They have black bears, a mountain lion, bobcats, bald eagles, golden eagles, coyotes, mule deer and much more at the Zoo. The Orange County Zoo is open 10am - 3:30pm on week days and is open from 10am - 4:30pm on weekends. Irvine Regional Park also has horse rentals and many other recreation opportunities, such as the train at Irvine Regional Park.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike. We wanted to go Irvine Regional Park for a short fun hike and for the chance to see the new mountain lion cubs at the Orange County Zoo. This was our second time visiting Irvine Regional Park, which is well maintained by the people at OC Parks. This is the most visited park run by Orange County Parks and you will see a wide variety of people visiting here.

We did part of the Horseshoe Loop Hiking Trail when we visited Irvine Regional Park which was very fun and rewarding. We only did about half of the loop, so for those interested in having a longer hike, they can do the full loop of the park. The full loop will probably run about 4 - 5 miles roundtrip. Several of the hiking trails at Irvine Regional Park will also connect you to the Santiago Oaks Regional Park. If you are interested you can also hike from one park to the next. One of the neat things we got a chance to see while visiting the Irvine Regional Park was all the wild peacocks as well as a number of wild parrots that inhabit Irvine Regional Park.

Here is some history on Irvine Regional Park. The land that comprises Irvine Regional Park today was part of Rancho Lomas de Santiago, a Mexican land grant of the 1840s. In the 1860s, the property was sold to Orange County ranchers. An oak grove on the property became a mecca as the “Picnic Grounds” for residents of the growing nearby communities. In 1876, the grove and the surrounding ranch became the sole property of James Irvine. In 1897, Irvine’s son, James Jr., decided to give the County its first park. Franklin Nickey, then Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, accepted what was described as the “Gift Munificent,” 160 acres of land that included the “Picnic Grounds.” Named “Orange County Park,” it became the first County Park in the State of California. Through the early part of the 20th century, improvements were made to the park, including the excavation of the lake in 1913. A boat house was built the following year; it is now the oldest building in the park and is still used to house rental boats. Following the park’s renaming as “Irvine Park” in 1928, a dance pavilion and an exhibition hall were added. The park was closed during World War II, when it served as an Army base, “Camp Rathke.” A significant expansion of the park occurred in the late 1960s, with almost 300 acres added to the west. Over the years, Irvine Park was a popular location for movies, including “Topper” and “Lassie Come Home.” It was also a location for housing animals. In the 1960s, Park superintendent William A. Kinsley built up a compound of birds and animals as the “Irvine Park Zoo.” The current zoo, with its children’s barnyard area and native animal exhibits, was established during the park’s major redevelopment in 1982-83. In 1996, the Irvine Park Railroad opened for business.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 100 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1 hour.

MORE WRITE-UPS ON IRVINE REGIONAL PARK

Orange County Zoo

February 14, 2010

December 3, 2012 (This Post)


View Irvine Regional Park Trail Map in a larger map

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.