Best Family Day Trip in Orange County: Irvine Park

Where is the best place to take a family for a fun day trip in Orange County?  Try Irvine Park where there is something for everyone.  Fishing Lakes, hiking trails, pony rides, playgrounds, train rides and even a zoo.  Good luck trying to find enough time to do it all in one day. You will find yourself looking forward to your next trip. Bring a picnic or buy lunch at the snack bars. Plan a family reunion with plenty of room for the whole tribe. This hidden gem is the oldest park in all of Orange County with plenty of shade from Sycamore and Oak trees and is a reasonable drive from from anywhere in Orange County, so make your plans to enjoy some family time at Irvine Park.

Irvine Regional Park

1 Irvine Park Road

Orange, CA  92869

714-973-6835/714-973-3173

http://www.irvineparkrailroad.com/plan-your-visit/

$3 entry fee M-F, $5 weekends

    

Fishing

There are two ponds available for fishing.  Being stocked in the winter months with trout and in the summer months with catfish, there is always a chance to catch something. Bass, bluegill and carp are also on the prowl. A valid California fishing license is required but no additional fees for fishing. Your best bet is to use worms fished under a bobber.  Powerbait and catfish dough baits work well too. Light line and small hooks are a must. A 2-4 lb test line and #10 salmon egg hooks are my go to in any park fishing situation. Walk the shore trying different spots or just plop down in a chair and relax as the kids have fun. The park train will come by about every 20 minutes, so make sure to wave to the passengers.

      

The Zoo

Orange County Zoo at Irvine Park is maybe the favorite activity here. This eight acre zoo is nestled among Live Oaks and Sycamore Trees to provide a cool, relaxing environment for both the animals and visitors. The two main draws are the black bear and mountain lion exhibits. You can get up real close to both if you are able to time it right around feeding time. Ask any ranger and they will let you know. The zoo is also home to Bald Eagles, Beaver, Ocelot, Porcupine, Coyotes and Owls. Kids can touch the farm animals at the petting zoo. Be sure to make plans for the zoo.

$2.00 Per Person

Children 2 and younger enter free

Open 7 days a week
Weekday: 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
Weekend: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day

    

Train Rides

Irvine Park Railroad is a 1/3 scale train that takes both children and adults on a ride through the beautiful and historic Irvine Regional Park.  Learn the history of the oldest park in Orange County as your family enjoys a train ride around the park.  Kids love it.

Spring – Summer
Weekday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

$5.00 Per Person
Children and Adults

$60.00 for a book of 15 tickets
($15.00 savings)

Children 12 months and younger ride free

Weekend: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Fall – Winter
Weekday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Weekend: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

       

Pony Rides

Another favorite activity for the little ones are the pony rides. Located next to the train depot. Kids can either have trot or walk around the corral. Closed on Mondays.

Open Tuesday through Sunday
11:00 am – 4:00 pm             

5.00 per child – cash only

Horseback Rentals

Country Trails & Riding School is Orange County’s best choice for guided horseback tours as well as Western and English riding lessons. Additional services offered include: Trail rides, group activities, children’s summer programs, gift certificates, photo shoots, special events, and more.

RIDES ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

Trail rides are available Tuesday – Sunday:

SUMMER  – 9:00 am, 10:30 am, 12:00 pm, 1:30 pm, 3:00 pm, and 4:30 pm
WINTER – 9:00 am, 10:30 am, 12:00 pm, 1:30 pm, 3:00 pm                                                                 

$55 per rider per hour trail ride
$110 per rider per two-hour trail ride

Bike Riding

There are many different bike paths to enjoy throughout the park. Bike rentals, including multi person pedal cars can be rented along with peddle boats for the lake.

Weekday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Weekend: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Hiking

There are many hiking trails located within Irvine Park’s  475 acres. From an easy stroll around the lakes and zoo to the more challenging Lone, 4 mile, Pine Ridge Trail.  Try a different trail each visit to take in all the beauty of the park.

LENGTH: 1.5 miles
SURFACE: Sand
WIDTH: 3-12 feet
RATING: Easy
CONDITION: Good

Roadrunner Trail Loop

This trail begins at the elimination of the Horseshoe Loop Trail in the park’s Villa Park Dam Basin east of the reservoir. The trail follows relatively level terrain as it heads north towards Weir Canyon. The trail borders willow groves, and low land vegetation to its termination and completion of the “loop.” This hiking trail’s proximity to Villa Park Reservoir and Willow Woodland provides a unique experience and interpretive opportunities.

LENGTH: 1.5 miles
SURFACE: Loam
WIDTH: 8-12 feet
RATING: Easy
CONDITION: Good

Santiago Creek trail

This hiking trail is used primarily by equestrians from Peacock Hill Stable as well as equestrians accessing Irvine Regional Park from Santiago Oaks Park and Orange Park Acres community.

LENGTH: 1 mile
SURFACE: Clay, Rock
WIDTH: 1-2 feet
RATING: Moderate to Difficult

Puma Ridge trail

A single-track trail that parallels the Loop Equestrian Trail, along the top of the parks western ridge. This trail appears to be illegally cut but not maintained. Tread has grown with vegetation in some areas. The trail provides great views in all directions with an intimate view of prime coastal sage scrub habitat. Due to habitat sensitivity and thickness of vegetation, which obstructs user’s sight of vision, the trail should be used by experienced hikers only.

LENGTH: 4 mile
SURFACE: Clay
WIDTH: 12 feet
RATING: Moderate
CONDITION: Good

Lone pine Ridge Trail

This trail commences at the paved bicycle/walking trail in the park’s natural area on the east of Santiago Creek. Approximately ¾ mile up the east ridge, the trail is joined by a side trail that provides access to the ‘Lone Pine Vista Point’. The lone pine is perched on the top of a popular park ecological feature of sandstone outcroppings. The vista point provides views to the south, east and west.

LENGTH: 4 mile
SURFACE: Clay
WIDTH: 2-3 feet
RATING: Easy
CONDITION: Fair

Toyon Trail

This hiking trail is between the natural area paved bicycle/walking trail and Equestrian (upper ridge) trail. The trail commences at the pine tree grove near restroom #11 and the bicycle/walking trail. It then follows gentle terrain along the sage covered hill crossing a foot bridge and then joining the proposed Lone Pine Ridge Trail.

LENGTH: 3.25 mile
SURFACE: Clay, Sand
WIDTH: 3-12 feet
RATING: Easy to Difficult
CONDITION: Fair

Horseshoe Loop trail

This trail provides a loop around Irvine Regional Parks Historic Section and panoramic views of the park. A “side trail” provides benches, a shade shelter, drinking fountain, horse trough and hitching post. The views of the park, Santiago Creek and surrounding topography are excellent.

Summary

Well there you have it. More fun than you could possibly have in one day. Make this your best year ever. Get out and enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer. Irvine Regional Park is a great place to start. Make sure to subscribe to our site so you never miss any information-packed ideas that we will be sharing. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram too.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”


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Best Camping and Fishing in Southern California: Convict Lake

Ok, so it’s not in Southern California, but it is only a four and a half hour drive from Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Great fishing and hiking in possibly the most beautiful spot in the Eastern Sierras. Rent a boat at the marina to fish the heavily stocked lake.  Fish the creek as it winds through the campground. Rent a cozy cabin at the lakeside resort. The Convict Lake Resort boasts the finest dining on highway 395. Horseback riding is available as well. The amenities of Mammoth are only a 15 minute drive away. Lake Crowley and Yosemite National Park are both within driving distance making Convict Lake an excellent choice for your next vacation. 

         

History

Convict Lake was known as Mount Diablo until 1871 when 29 convicts escaped the Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Six of them hid out at the lake. When a local posse caught up with them, 2 deputies were killed and the convicts escaped, although they were later captured in nearby Long Valley and subsequently hung. Thereafter it became known as Convict Lake. The towering mountain that frames the lake is now known as Mount Morrison, named for slain deputy Robert Morrison. The resort first opened in 1929 by Bill Garner and was later taken over by the Wenger family in 1962. In 1982 the current family took over operations and turned it into the first class resort it is today. Several old westerns were filmed there as well as the 1998 film Star Trek: Insurrection, as well as ads for Nature Valley Granola bars.

 

Fishing 

Trout fishing remains the number one draw to Convict Lake. Stocked weekly by the DFW and supplemented by the resort with trophy sized trout, fishing remains great throughout the season. The entire lake is fishable from shore as a trail circles the entire lake, but the north shore seems to produce the best. Garlic flavored Powerbait, pink and white Mousetails and inflated nightcrawlers always work. Try casting Thomas Bouyant spoons, Panther Martins and castmasters as well.  Trollers due well using lead core line with daisy chain flashers pulling rainbow colored needlefish or threaded worms. Rent a boat and soak bait near the inlet at the back of the lake. Float tubers score well flyfishing or drifting baits near the marina. There are several fishing derbies held throughout the season which runs form April 29 -November 15th.  Fred Hall Opening Weekend Derby,  Ambush at the Lake and Round-up at The Lake  are both in the fall. Convict Creek which runs from the marina and out through the campground is loaded with trout just waiting for mini-jigs, worms and salmon eggs.

        

Hiking 

Convict Lake Loop is a 3 mile trail that follows the shoreline and can be hiked in either direction. Start at the marina or Convict Creek Bridge. This a relatively flat trail at 7,600 feet in elevation that almost anyone can enjoy.  Convict Lake Overlook Trail is a 4 mile each way SUV trail with a short hike at the end that is accessible in the summer months. There are spectacular views and photo opportunities 700 feet above the lake. Check with the store for maps and information. Convict Lake Backcountry is available for the more adventurous and overnight campers in the amazing John Muir Wilderness. The first 6 miles are strenuous as you climb 2,700 feet to an elevation of well over 10,000 feet. There is good fishing at several of the lakes up there. Books and trail guides are available at the store. Kayaks can be rented at the marina for some water adventure.

Camping

The campsites at the lake can be reserved at   https://www.recreation.gov/camping/convict-lake. Situated among cottonwood and aspen trees along Convict Creek are nice-sized spots. There are flush toilets and hot showers but no hookups. Although not heavily shaded, the trees provide a nice wind break and privacy. The lake is about 100 yards away and supplies can be purchased at the resort store, Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be bought at the cafe as well as fine dining at the Convict Lake Restaurant. Cabins are available for rent at https://convictlake.com/cabins-and-accommodations/,  and the city of Mammoth Lakes is 15 minutes away with numerous restaurants, stores, condos and hotels.

        

Local Activities

Try Lake Crowley for a different place to fish or head up to the June Lake Loop. Tioga Pass, Hwy 120, is the gateway to Yosemite National Park. Stop at the Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining while you are there for the best fish tacos you ever had from the Whoa Nelly Deli or try the pork chop plate, delicious. Get a gourmet dinner at the Historic Mono Inn. Take a side trip back in history at Bodie Ghost Town.  A definite must if you have the time. Check out the Hot Creek trout hatchery or take a soak in one of the numerous natural hot springs. Of course you may just be ready to relax in a chair by the lake soaking in the incredible scenery right in front of you. So bring a good book and some cold beverages.

All in all,  I bet that with all there is to do at Convict Lake you will find yourself planning the next trip because you were not able to experience everything. So make your plans and head up Hwy 395 to Convict Lake.


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Best Adventure Shoe Around: Chaco Outcross 2

If you are planning a hike this summer or fishing the creeks and looking for the perfect footwear then try the Outcross 2 by Chaco. I love mine. These are perfect for hiking the mountains when crossing rivers and streams is required. The comfort of a sandal with the support of a high performance athletic shoe. The closed construction meshed upper keeps pebbles from getting in while also keeping your feet cool. The stretch collar and neoprene lining, combined with a semi-collapsible heel and webbing pull tabs make putting them on a breeze. I have spent 2 dozen hours hiking, fishing and scrambling trails and creeks without a single blister or sore feet Whether I was fishing creeks above 8,000 feet in the Eastern Sierras or hiking a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in the dry hot San Bernardino Mountains, my feet were cool, comfortable and ready for more. Continue reading “Best Adventure Shoe Around: Chaco Outcross 2”

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Where to fish in Southern California: Jenks Lake

 

Want a great place to catch fish near Los Angeles and Orange County? Try Jenks Lake in the San Gorgonio National Forest. Located off Highway 38 just past Angelus Oaks,  Jenks Lake is a quiet little lake that is a consistent producer of fish. Trout are planted from spring through early summer. Loaded with bluegill and small bass, families can catch fish all year-long and enjoy a beautiful day at the lake. There is a fishing pier for everyone to enjoy.  Less than 30 minutes from Big Bear, you can avoid the crowds there and take a short trip to Jenks Lake. Better yet, combine a camping trip to Barton Flats, San Gorgonio or South Fork campgrounds. Continue reading “Where to fish in Southern California: Jenks Lake”

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Where to Fish in Southern California: Santa Ana River Lakes

If you are looking for somewhere close to Los Angeles and Orange County to fish, then Santa Ana River Lakes may be your answer. Located in Anaheim where the 91 and 55 freeways meet, this heavily stocked but not attractive lake awaits. Loaded with tons of catfish in the summer and loads of trout in the winter, the fishing can be quite good. This is not a pretty body of water, more like a muddy pond really, but it is close and is always full of fish. On weekends in the summer they even allow overnight fishing. Maybe you don’t have much time but want to catch one or bring young kids ? Try the Huckleberry pond. They charge by the pound so don’t catch too many. Continue reading “Where to Fish in Southern California: Santa Ana River Lakes”

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Huk Performance Fishing: Gear Review

Our friends at 1800gear.com want to be your gear guide for life. They search out only the best gear whether you are a hunter, fisherman, backpacker or even an adventure racer. They want to provide you with the best information and access to excellent gear choices. One of those is Huk Performance Fishing Apparel.  Make sure to check them out at www.1800gear.com Continue reading “Huk Performance Fishing: Gear Review”

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Where to Fish in Southern California: Bishop, CA

 

The Bishop Creek Canyon is not technically in Southern California but it is one of the best places to go fishing or take a family camping near Southern California. About a 4 hour drive from the Los Angeles area, Bishop Creek boasts numerous public campgrounds, 2 lodges and 1 private RV park. There are 3 drive-to lakes, 2 with marinas and miles of creek loaded with trout. A dozen trail heads lead into the John Muir Wilderness and packtrain (horses) are also available. Plenty of hotels, restaurants and markets are a short 30 minute drive from any of the lakes. Make your summer plans to get up there and experience the Eastern Sierras life for yourself. Continue reading “Where to Fish in Southern California: Bishop, CA”

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Where to Camp in Southern California: Avila Beach

Port San Luis RV campground is a great place to RV camp on the Central Coast. Small, quiet and right on the shore. You can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, excellent restaurants and relaxation in a dog friendly environment. Most of these activities are a short walk from your rig. Miles of biking trails, mineral spas, world-class wineries and shopping are a short drive away. Watch the sea lions, otters and pelicans play or maybe jump on a whale watching trip. Join a half day fishing charter from the pier outside your RV door or buy fresh seafood just taken off the boats. Play a round of golf at one of the beautiful local courses. There is something for everyone at Port San Luis RV campground. Continue reading “Where to Camp in Southern California: Avila Beach”

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How to Surf Fish for Beginners

Fishing from the beach is one of the best family fishing adventures in Southern California. When I am surf fishing, people will always walk up to me and ask, “Do you catch anything here ?” I always point to the over-sized bucket surrounded by kids. Swimming inside are fish ranging from perch to leopard sharks. The adults always gasp as my 6-year-old granddaughter picks up a sand shark out of the bucket to show them. With hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, shore fishing in Southern California is a great way to catch fish. The problem is that most people don’t know how. In this post we will show you the best way to surf fish in So Cal, the gear you will need, and the best baits to use. Continue reading “How to Surf Fish for Beginners”

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