In a quest this summer to be more active with the family, we have decided that we are going to go on more hikes and do fun things that don’t involve a lot of cost. It is really my goal this summer break to cut the children’s screen time down. I always have to remind them that life and the world are happening around them and not on a little screen.
Today we ventured out to Oak Canyon Nature Center, located at 6700 E Walnut Canyon Rd, Anaheim, CA 92807. There is a nice shady parking lot, that is free, no permit needed. We have been there a few times, but today we decided to hike a few trails we had not been on before. One of the nice things about OCNC is that a lot of the trails are short. Since the center is nestled in a valley with lots of oak trees it is a very shaded area, so you can go on hot days and not really feel the heat. Plus, there are tons of little streams and sitting areas that make for a really relaxing day. Lots of benches are located along the trails, so bring a lunch and have a picnic. (There is an “official” picnic are next to the parking lot)
To enter the Nature center there is a small path you need to walk from the parking lot. As you pass the small sign, it is almost like entering into another little world. My little guy made a comment “look mommy, we are in a forest!” and it is true. There are so many trees and foliage, it is hard to believe you are standing in the middle of Anaheim Hills.
As you go up the first little path, you are greeted by the Nature Center building. It is a small rustic type of building that contains a wonderful little hands on children’s museum/ exploration room. Inside there is an information desk, in case you have any questions about the trails or upcoming events. The room to the right of the desk has small lizards,turtles and rodents native to the area. There a small library and large tree that the kids can sit down and read, plus hand puppets and other toys to play with. They have a table with different animal hides that the kids are welcome to pick up and feel, along with real, stuffed animals on display to get a closer look at.
Across the path from the center is a great little play area, that has logs, dinosaur shells, snakes and turtle shells to climb in and on. It is small by the kids have a great time wanting there pictures in the shell or being squeeze by the snake.
CAUTION: Go to the play area after you do your hiking. It is so hard to pull the kids away from playing, and then they are in a bad mood while you are hiking…. I may be speaking from experience on this one!!
If you walk up the main trail a short ways, right past their amphitheater area. You will see a sign that says OAK CANYON MINE. Go into it! They have a mining set area set up with some really cool information about the mining that happened during the 1800’s in Silverado Canyon… who knew right??? Perfect for your 4th grader who studying the gold rush. They have an old sluice,mock mine entrance, and camp set out. Make sure to read all the signage!
Another really cool thing about Oak Canyon Nature Center is all the different types of Cactii they have on the trails. It was fun for the kids and adults to check them all out. Since we went in the Spring (end of May) the Cactii were blooming!! The flowers on them were amazing. Most of the Cactii we saw were located on the Heritage Trail.
We then ventured to the Stream Trail. It is a lovely trail, very shady and great for kids. Lots of bridges to go over, and it follows a stream, hence the name, so there is a lot to look at. We saw the most beautiful Egret sitting on a tree branch over a babbling brook… like really… where else in Anaheim can you see that??? it was magical and I know the pictures from our cell phone will not do it justice.
We took few other short trails and then ended our day there. I have to mention, that while we were there a wedding was taking place in there amphitheater area. I have seen two other weddings there as well in the past. It might be something to keep in mind if you are thinking about going towards the evening on a weekend. You are still able to move freely around the center, but we did try to keep the kids while the ceremony was started. It was kinda neat for them to see the bridal party and bride walking down the path. I’m sure that the pictures of their wedding will turn out amazing!!! There were also other families there with photographers having photo shoots, but check with the center, since I believe you have to get a permit to professionally photo shoot there.
There is also a kids summer camp there from 9-12 during the summer. My children have participated in it before, and it was a really cute, well run camp through the city of Anaheim Recreation. The nice thing about it too, was I did not have to worry about them getting sunburned or overheated, since it is such a shady area. I would say, if you wanted to visit during the summer, to wait till after noon to go.
There are many different programs that they offer too, such a Family Nature Nights, Tiny Tots during the school year and Discover Nature Family Programs. In the past they have offered Movie Nights during the summer, but after inquiring about it during our trip, I was told they WILL NOT be offering them this summer 2017. Overall it is a wonderful place to take the family. The kids can run around in nature and get really dirty. A lot of the trails are short and well marked, so the kids can run along ahead and explore. Like I said, if you go pack a lunch and spend the day. it is a hidden treasure here in Orange County.