Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park consists of 2,500 acres of arid rocky hills in Orange County, occupying what used to be part of a cattle operation started by Jose Serrano in 1842 and later purchased by Dwight Whiting. Convenient access from Portola Parkway makes the 17-mile trail system exceedingly popular with mountain bikers. This guide explores the eastern section along Serrano Creek, but you could extend the trail for another hour or two by exploring the western Red Rock Canyon sections as well.
BLM’s Escure Ranch property offers an extensive trail network that not only surprises with wildlife–we saw deer, snakes, coyotes, pheasants, and hawks–, but also features impressive basalt rock formations that poke like giant squat mushrooms out of the ground. The icing on the cake is Towell Falls, where Rock Creek slides over multiple edges of a rock table. Definitely a must-do hike in spring and fall.
The 530-acre Dishman Hills Natural Area consists of a fir-studded rise dotted with ponds, granite rock formations, and several deep parallel ravines. It is almost entirely surrounded by residential housing and accessible from three sides. There are many loops, ranging from a short quarter-mile stroll to this 7-mile loop encompassing both the inner and outer trails.
McLellan is a 410-acre pine-covered property tucked into an elbow formed by the Spokane River. The slow and wide river is actually called Lake Spokane and abuts the conservation area on three sides. The four-to-five mile loop moves along a bluff overlooking the river, skirts a decaying log cabin, winds through thick stands of pine saplings, and includes a comparatively open spot on the river’s edge. The local white-tailed deer population is almost as dense as the pine saplings.
The Scroggie Loop is a 3-mile track on the eastern bank of Fishtrap Lake, meandering through scrub steppe, deep coulees, thin Ponderosa stands, and windswept rock benches. It’s best hiked in spring and fall to avoid summer heat and rattlesnakes.
The McKenzie Conservation area covers nearly 500 acres along the northwestern shore of Newman Lake. Host to deer, moose, raccoons and a plethora of birds, including eagles, the conservation area features around five miles of trails through cool cedar forest and along the marshy lakeshore.
The Four Mile Cove hike is a short boardwalk loop through a dense mangrove forest on Florida’s gulf coast with two short excursions out onto the Caloosahatchee River.
The Slavin Conservation Area covers 628 acres of Ponderosa forest, rolling meadows, marshes and a lengthy pond much treasured by waterfowl. The site of the pond and wetlands was in fact farmland for most of the past century, drained by early settlers (you won’t find the pond on the older USGS maps), and now restored to provide wildlife habitat. The trail circumnavigates most of the lake, but skips the last quarter due to heavy flooding. Instead, it loops back through fir and pine forest in a figure-eight loop and climbs the bluffs along the eastern shore for a bird’s eye view of the area.
Palisades Park is on the west side of the Spokane River, just south of Riverside State Park. Its 700 acres feature the same basalt rock formations that the state park is known for, as well as extensive views of downtown Spokane. To top it off, Indian Canyon Creek boasts an impressive waterfall, viewable from top and bottom.
Named after French-Canadian voyageur and ferry operator Antoine Plante, the Antoine Peak Conservation Area was established in 2007 and covers more than 1,000 acres. The loop trail ascends the almost 3,400-foot peak, offering sweeping views across the Spokane valley, Liberty Lake, and the distant Selkirk and Coeur d’Alene Mountains.