I love living in South Orange County. I can drive 15 minutes in one direction, be at the beach and then drive 15 minutes in the other direction and be in the wilderness. Even though so much of our county has been filled with homes, business, and freeways, there are still many wonderful and wild places left to explore. Recently, my family and I spent the day at Caspers Wilderness Park. Located on Ortega Highway, just 7 miles from Interstate 5, Caspers is a wonderful place to hike, camp, and explore.
We began our exploration at the Nature Center. There were plenty of great exhibits about the plants and animals native to the area. The kids were able to see what a mountain lion looked and sounded like without having to have a close encounter in the wild. There was also a nice viewing platform at the top of the building which gave a nice perspective on the surrounding landscape.
From there, we grabbed a map and selected one of the parks many trails so we could explore the park on foot. We parked by the historic windmill and walked over to the Bell Canyon Trailhead. Bell Canyon is a beautiful canyon filled with sycamore and oak trees. There is a seasonal stream running through the canyon and I imagine in the winter and spring, the area must be even more scenic. This trail is popular with horseback riders which was extremely exciting for Mari and Ben. We must have seen about fifteen horses during our hike and the kids just as excited about the last horse as they were the first.
We cut over at the Sunrise Trail and began the 400 foot climb up to the top of the East Ridge. On the way up we were lucky enough to see a horned lizard. These lizards are a rare and threatened species. The view from the top was awesome and the cool breezes were refreshing. We followed the East Ridge Trail along the top of the mountain until we reached the Quail Run Trail. It was hard to miss the coyote scat in the middle of the trail. Obviously the coyotes enjoy the view as much as we did.
We followed that trail back down the mountainside and towards the parking area. On our way back we saw some deer running across the trail. It was fantastic to see so many signs of wildlife in such a short period of time. All in all, the loop was about 3.5 miles. It was a great family hike in a place that felt so much further from home than it really was.
If you would like more information on Caspers Wilderness Park, click here.
PS- Sorry for the picture quality. My camera is in the shop so all these pictures were taken with Paul’s phone. Hopefully I will get my precious baby back soon. I feel so naked without my camera!!!