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6 Kid-Friendly Hikes

Go the extra mile with your family time

Sunflowers bloom at Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

In Orange County, most of us are fortunate enough to live close to a gorgeous piece
of nature and can venture outdoors all year round.

The next time your family has a full day to spend together, why not take advantage of the outdoor fun our county provides naturally by taking a hike? After you all work up a sweat and hearty appetite, top the day off with a family meal in the fresh air while you gather around a picnic basket. Now, that’s family bonding.

Whether you are looking for a great workout, a spectacular view, or to just bask in Mother Nature’s beauty, here are some mini adventures that will feed all of your hiking needs – and restaurants you can visit afterward to satiate the hunger you worked up.

Dartmoor Boat Canyon Trail
Laguna Beach
Address: Dartmoor Street, Laguna Beach
Length: 4 miles
Best time: Sunrise
Where to park: Along Dartmoor Street
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Advanced

If your family wants more than a leisurely stroll, Dartmoor Boat Canyon Trail in Laguna Beach is the place to do it, and its coastal view makes this hike all the more appealing. Fair warning: This trek comes with a consistent incline, so it’s not the best option for those who still need piggyback-ride assistance. Once you conquer the main incline, the remainder of the trail shifts from slight hills to flat terrain. Extend your hike if you desire; various trails within the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park cross paths with the Dartmoor Boat Canyon Trail. After you’ve worked your quads, head across the street to Crescent Bay Point Park to relax with a view of the ocean. If you’re up for more excitement, stroll through a few of the many colorful art galleries nearby, try on some beachy ensembles, or grab another snack at one of the shops along the main strip of Coast Highway.

Pack your picnic
Keep your eyes peeled because Koffee Klatch is easy to miss, but it’s a great spot for a cup of Joe, tasty dessert or healthy, homemade meal. Order sandwiches just the way you like them, choosing from a selection of veggies, cheeses and meats or homemade tuna salad. Sides such as potato salad, pasta salad, chicken salad and chips are begging to be included in a picnic basket, and don’t forget to grab a slice or two of the delicious cakes.

Koffee Klatch
1440 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach

Be prepared
Make sure everyone is wearing appropriate shoes for hiking. Bring Band-Aids for blisters, sunglasses, water, sunscreen and hats that provide some shade, especially if you go later in the day.

Inspiration Point
Newport Beach
Address: Ocean Boulevard and Orchid
Avenue, Newport Beach
Length: 2 miles
Best time: Sunset
Where to park: On Ocean Boulevard or
surrounding streets
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Beginner

Do you want to catch a Southern California sunset that’s been made famous in countless movies throughout the decades? Look no farther than Inspiration Point in Newport Beach. Nestled atop rolling hills, Inspiration Point looks out over the deep blue water below.

By nightfall, the colors that paint the sky make this view magical.

Because of its short duration and a lack of major hills, Inspiration Point is a great spot to get active with the little ones and the pups – at the same time.

Also, places to break for a meal are many, including a quick walk down to the sand for a picnic on the beach complete with sand castles and seashells.

However, grabbing a seat at the actual  viewpoint won’t disappoint; there’s a grass area for family fun, as well as that inspiring view.

After the outdoor adventure is over, Fashion Island is just a hop, skip and a jump away if you want to catch a movie, grab some gelato or even take a peek at the koi pond.

Pack your picnic
If you’re looking for a mobile meal that packs a flavorful punch, Panini Cafe is a nice place to visit. Offering a variety of fresh salads, wraps, appetizers and desserts, the café makes your most difficult decision how many things you can order and physically fit in your basket. The Hummus Trio is a fun dish that offers multiple flavors; it’s also a house specialty. And the restaurant has a kids’ menu that includes cheese pizza and linguine with butter.

Panini Cafe
2333 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach
949.675.810 :: mypaninicafe.com

Be prepared
Bring extra water, sunscreen, beach toys and snacks in case you head to the sand. If you plan to go to Fashion Island, an extra change of clothes is a good idea.

Back Bay Loop Trail
Newport Beach
Address: 2301 University Drive,
Newport Beach
Length: 10.5 miles
Best time: Early afternoon
Where to park: Along University Drive
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Intermediate

Get your heart rate pumping, then take short breaks for various activities along the Back Bay Loop Trail in Newport. A 10.5-mile trail may sound intimidating, but this hike offers multiple entry points, scenic stops and educational facilities such as the Back Bay Science Center on Shellmaker Island, the Environmental Nature Center and many more options for squeezing in a little hands-on learning.

If you’re still cringing at the distance, you can easily break up the trail into a walk more suitable for you and your crew of hikers. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve has a trail roughly 2 scenic miles long. Although not a prime beach view on this hike, you get the beautiful Back Bay and all of the untouched nature that resides there including gorgeous birds, jumping fish and an abundance of foliage. If you want to add a little more adventure, the Newport Aquatic Center offers kayak rentals and tours.

Pack your picnic
Irvine Ranch Market is steps away from the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve trailhead. Choose from a selection of farm-fresh produce, sandwiches from the flavorful deli and healthy snacks, or grab some premade lunches. The place is a local favorite for healthy meals.

Irvine Ranch Market
2651 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa
949.631.4404 :: irvineranchmarketoc.com

Be prepared
Have bathing suits on hand in case you decide to grab a paddle or take the short drive to the beach. Bring sunscreen and water and pack a lunch; you’ll work up an appetite if you spend the day here.

La Tour
Laguna Beach
Address: 2713 Victoria Drive,
Laguna Beach
Length: .3 miles
Best time: Early afternoon
Where to park: Along the street
on Coast Highway
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Beginner

This is more of a stroll than a hike, but it packs a lot of adventure in its bite-sized distance. La Tour has something no other hike can duplicate: a mysterious seaside tower. Trek down the stairs to Victoria Beach and journey across the rugged rocks to see the 60-foot, castlelike tower. Constructed in 1926, the tower stands hauntingly undisturbed, as if lost in time.
Afterward, head to Laguna’s Main Beach and check out the tide pools. When the tide is out during midafternoon, you can see various crabs, small fish, sea anemone, and maybe even some starfish.

Pack your picnic
Zinc Cafe & Market offers many single items and platters for a tasty picnic. The menu ranges from egg salad sandwiches to upscale artisanal cheddar ficelle sandwiches and vegetarian niçoise salads.

Zinc Cafe & Market
350 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach
949.494.6302 :: zinccafe.com

Be prepared
Take this stroll with closed-toe shoes because the rocks are unleveled and sharp, bring a backpack for electronics and wear clothing that dries easily in case you get wet.

Salt Creek Trail
Dana Point
Address: 33333 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point
Length: 6.5 miles (one way)
Best time: Late morning/early afternoon
Where to park: The parking lot at Salt Creek Beach or Chapparosa Park
Cost: $1 per hour or free, respectively
Difficulty: Intermediate

Are you looking for distance without arduous inclines? Then the beautiful Salt Creek Trail in Dana Point is the place to go. With 6.5 miles of slight inclines, the trail offers sweeping views of the ocean, San Juan Canyon and the St. Regis Monarch Beach Golf Links.

Choose to begin your adventure at either Chapparosa Park or Salt Creek Beach. A $55 annual pass from OC Parks is available for those who just can’t get enough of this beach.
If you and your group plan to either barbecue, play some basketball, have a picnic or head down to the beach, creating a home base at Salt Creek and paying a couple of bucks is a good option. After all, 6.5 miles one way is a long journey, and there’s no shame in turning back for some beachside fun if the road becomes a bit much. Just make sure you remember how many hours you paid for or you might be hiking your way back to a parking ticket. That is definitely not the way you want to end your day.

Pack your picnic
A short distance off the Salt Creek Trail you’ll find the Monarch Cafe at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Golf Links. Welcoming both golfers and hungry adventure-seekers from the trail, the Monarch Cafe is a good place to grab anything from deli sandwiches to hot dogs and ice-cold beverages. The cafe also serves breakfast in case you get your sweat on early.

Monarch Cafe
50 Monarch Beach Resort Drive N.,
Dana Point, 949.542.4836

Be prepared
Make sure you have your phone. Set your alarm to go off half an hour before your parking time expires. This will give you ample time to refill your meter or to pack up.
Don’t forget your wallet (cash and credit cards are accepted for parking), shoes for walking, sandals if you head to the beach, sunscreen, water and a basketball to shoot some hoops.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park
Address: 2145 N. Windes Drive, Orange
Length: Depends on the trail you choose
Best time: Late morning
Where to park: The designated parking lot
Cost: $3 per vehicle Monday-Friday; $5 per vehicle Saturday and Sunday
Difficulty: Intermediate/advanced

Want to get lost? At Santiago Oaks Regional Park in Orange, it’s easy to simply wander on the 1,269-acre paradise of peaceful hiking, biking and equestrian trails tucked away miles from any major roads. After passing through the visitor gates, you’re welcomed by orange groves, dirt roads and wooden fences that send you back to the untouched Orange County of yesteryear. Don’t forget the map you were given upon entry, because it’s easy to wind up on a different path than expected pretty quickly.

A few noteworthy trails are the scenic and popular Robber’s Peak Loop Trail, which won’t be on your map but begins at the end of Windes Drive; the leisurely Santiago Creek Trail, which will take you to the Villa Park Dam; and the steep and challenging Sage Ridge Trail, which will give you a panoramic view for many miles in every direction.

No matter which dog-friendly path you take, it will surely lead you and your family to some fresh-aired bliss and most likely one of the many picnic areas scattered throughout the park. However, if you want to journey out of the woods for grub, The Market Place in Tustin is nearby.

Pack your picnic
If you brought your furry friends along, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar will happily accommodate your four-legged companions when it comes to your picnic basket. Order a bunch of tasty appetizers to share, healthy salads and loaded pizzas, and get a meaty meal consisting of either a hamburger patty or a chicken breast with brown rice for your canine hikers.

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
13290 Jamboree Road, Irvine
714.731.9700 :: lazydogrestaurants.com

Be prepared
If it has rained recently, make sure to check if the park is open, as it can close for up to two to three days after a heavy rainfall. Also, if your family likes a good bike ride, bring your cycles along, because these trails welcome wheels as well.

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