May 8, 2014

Taking a walk with babies and toddlers does not mean you're relegated to the neighborhood sidewalk. In Orange County and Southern California, there are beautiful trails that are just perfect for little feet to walk and jogging strollers to traverse.

This is the second article of a series of Hiking with Kids in Orange County. Check out one of these nature trails or wildlife areas with your babies and toddlers in strollers and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Mary'€™s Nature Trail at Nix Nature Center

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach

Mary's Trail Nix Nature Center Orange County

This short trail starts at the Nix Nature Center in Laguna Canyon. Stop in the Nature Center before your hike and enjoy some interactive displays on owls, critters of Laguna Coast, and archeology.

The trail meanders up into the foothills a short way (in a loop), and has interactive signs that kids can use. Take a whiff of the sign that discusses fragrant plants, or find birds based on the bird guide sign. If you are up for a bit longer of a hike from the Nature Center, head downhill and under the road to Barbara'€™s Lake '€“ the largest natural lake in Orange County. There isn'€™t an access point to the water but it is a pretty view.

Trail Details and Tips:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: Mary'€™s Nature Trail '€“ 0.2 mile loop; Barbara'€™s Lake '€“ 1.25 miles, round trip
  • Elevation Gain: Approx. 100 feet
  • Stroller Accessibility: Dirt path with small pebbles; jogging stroller recommended
  • Trail starts directly from Nix Nature Center
  • $3 parking fee" 
  • No dogs or bikes
  • Before your hike, ask for the scavenger hunt photo cards for Mary'€™s Nature Trail at the Nix Nature Center

Oso Creek Trail

Oso Viejo Community Park
Mission Viejo

Oso Creek Trail Park

Little kids will love the trails, bridges, art displays, and open spaces at this urban park '€“ especially with the jackpot prize of playing at a super playground with double-tall slides!

You can start at Oso Viejo Community Park and end there with some playground time, or start anywhere between Jeronimo and La Paz/Marguerite and Arbolitos on the 5.5 miles of trails. From the playground, walk the path down the hill behind the baseball diamonds to the river trail below. To the left is an art walk with pillars decorated with mosaic tiles and raised figures that will interest little kids. Across the bridge and to the right is a path to a maze of planted shrubs that kids love to run in. Paved paths follow the course of the watershed, so pick your distance and then return to the playground for some fun.

Trail Details and Tips:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: Approx. 1 mile round trip (from the playground to the maze and back); 5.5 miles of trails are located in this park
  • Elevation Gain: Approx. 150 feet
  • Stroller Accessibility: Paved paths allow for every type of stroller. Paths near the maze are lined with wood chips. Path along the art walk is dirt lined with stones
  • No parking fee" 
  • Dogs, bikes, and scooters welcome

Oak Canyon Nature Center

6700 E. Walnut Canyon Rd.

Oak Canyon Nature Center Trail

This beautiful and quiet canyon filled with ancient oak trees is surrounded by urban sprawl, yet it feels worlds away. The main trail runs through the heart of the canyon and alongside a stream. Take an offshoot near the interpretive center to see the mining exhibit and to learn the early history of silver mining. Up the hill from the center is the Heritage Trail. This trail is a short loop that showcases native plants. Interspersed along the trail are large structures that kids can interact with, such as a bird'€™s egg, a hollow turtle shell, and a butterfly. These trails are tranquil and filled with a variety of shady oaks and open scrub hills.

Trail Details and Tips:

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: Main Road (trail through the center of the canyon) is approximately 1.5 miles round trip; Heritage Trail '€“ 0.2 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: Approx. 100 feet
  • Stroller Accessibility: Paths have hard-packed dirt that is easily traversed by most strollers; some bridges and a few wooden-tiered steps on smaller side trails
  • No parking fee ($2 donation requested)
  • No dogs, bikes, horses, scooters, or skateboarding" 

Related Posts

Hiking in Orange County with Kids (Part One)