You might not know it yet but Irvine, California, or “The Center of Orange County, California”, has a ton of outdoor activities. I mean miles and miles of outdoor fun!
I live right next door and I am just now realizing exactly how many things there are to do in Irvine! Did you know that there are around 70 miles of paved bike paths? Or that there is a Wildlife Sanctuary that includes over 300 acres of wetlands right in the middle of the city? Ever heard of Orange County’s “Grand Canyon”?! Yeah, there’s a ton of really cool things to do outside in Irvine!
It amazes me how many outdoor activities Irvine has to offer, and the fact that the city does such an amazing job at keeping these things informational, safe, and clean. It seems as if Irvine is constantly working to improve and keep things well maintained.
I’ve been discovering these things little by little since I moved here, and recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with Destination Irvine to discover even more things to do. In this post, I want to share some of my absolute favorite outdoor activities in Irvine, California.
7 Unique Outdoor Activities in Irvine, California
1. Limestone Canyon
Although technically in Silverado, Limestone Canyon is a short drive from Irvine and shouldn’t be excluded from your time in Irvine!
Limestone Canyon is where you can find Orange County’s “Grand Canyon”, or also known as “The Sinks”. This spectacular view can only be seen during special events or open access days with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
This natural sandstone formation is absolutely stunning, and you can get an up-close view from one of the viewing decks that are installed on two sides of The Sinks. The park has around 25 miles of trails to explore, but the hike to view The Sinks is around 8 miles round trip and a fairly easy hike or bike ride.
You can take a guided hike or bike ride, or just explore it on your own however you wish (during those open-access days) for free by signing up online.
2. The Great Park Balloon
If you’ve ever driven through Irvine on the I-5 you may have seen this bright orange balloon. This is the Great Park’s iconic attraction, and one of the largest of its kind. It’s also one of the coolest things to do in Orange County if you are on a budget.
Don’t mistake the big orange balloon for a hot air balloon; this is actually a helium balloon that is tethered to the ground and a super cool way to see the city. It can take 25-30 people up to 400 feet in the air for an amazing 360 view over Orange County.
During Halloween, the Orange Balloon transforms into “Jack” as he is decorated as a giant pumpkin. It’s pretty cool to see at night!
Get more information about going up in the Great Park Balloon.
Read more: How to Experience Orange County on a Budget
3. Full Moon Hike
The amazing folks over at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy put on a few guided hikes during the full moon. There are typically a few areas to choose from such as Hicks Haul Road, Bommer Canyon, Orchard Hills, and Black Star.
There is always a leader and a few volunteers to guide the group of up to 20 or so people, and at the best viewing spot, they will stop to allow you to enjoy the view of the full moon and maybe teach you a few fun facts about it.
The full moon hikes are free, but you will need to sign up.
4. Pedego E-Bike Tour
Renting e-bikes is such a fun way to explore the 70 miles or so of paved bike trails throughout the city of Irvine. It was on this tour that I realized just how many awesome trails Irvine has!
The friendly staff will give you an overview of how to use the bike and recommend the best trail loop for you to follow. He might also tell you to remember to stop once in a while and rub your cheeks- because you are going to be smiling the whole time. I am a witness to this truth!
I had a blast riding these bikes around the trails and I am even considering buying one of these to ride back and forth to work! The trails through West Irvine included Bommer Canyon, Shady Canyon, and Turtle Rock, which is what I would recommend you follow. The trails are in immaculate condition and the views are beautiful. A great way to be out exploring nature!
Get more information about the Pedego E-Bike Tour.
5. Tanaka Farms
This 30-acre farm in the heart of Irvine believes in providing the best quality produce and educating the community by providing farm tours. They grow over 60 different types of fruits and veggies!
Throughout the year you can enjoy a bunch of different farm tours like strawberry tours, melon tours, and the U-pick veggie tour. During the Holidays they have a pumpkin patch, Christmas trees, and a seasonal Harvest Festival too. Keep an eye out on their website for the seasonal sunflower fields!
The U-Pick veggie tour is a cool way to see the farm and learn a little bit more about it during the wagon ride. They will make stops in different areas and allow you to get out and pick your own crops. Gotta love fresh fruits and veggies! You only need to pay for the small admission fee to the farm and whatever crops you pick.
Visit the Tanaka Farms website for more information on events and seasonal crops.
6. Mountain Bike Skills Clinic
This is another activity offered by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which is available to the public for free by signing up on their website.
Whether you are a mountain biking beginner or have been biking for years, the skills clinic is a super fun way to practice and learn something new. The basics of mountain biking are covered such as how to properly sit and stand on your bike, the method of leaning your body, and how to use your bike and body weight to maneuver over objects.
There are two different types of mountain bike skills clinics offered, the Terrain Skills and Rider Skills. The Terrain Skills clinic teaches you how to use your bike to navigate over obstacles and the Rider Skills clinic will teach you how to use your body to tell your bike what to do. They even offer a skills clinic for the kiddos!
I recommend trying both, but probably trying the Rider Skills clinic first. The Terrain Skills clinic is super fun because you get to maneuver over logs and wood a-frames, but if you are not confident on your bike it could be challenging. Either way, the leader of the clinic will teach you step by step!
Sign up for these mountain bike skills clinics.
Read more: How to Start Mountain Biking
7. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
This is the place for you if you enjoy bird watching and being out in nature. There are 300 acres of wetlands to explore here, over 200 types of bird species, and a bunch of other animals and inspects right in the middle of Irvine. And guess what? Entrance to the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is free.
There are around 12 miles of trails that intertwine between several ponds that you can freely explore on your own. It is such a peaceful place to explore and great if you love photography. You might see a Great Blue Heron, a Snowy Egret, and probably a bunch of Brown Pelicans diving for their lunch.
Get more information about the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.
If you are an outdoorsy person like me you are probably going to love each and every one of these outdoor activities in Irvine. It’s always awesome to have access to these amazing things so close to home!
I want to thank Destination Irvine for opening my eyes to even more of the amazing things to do in Irvine, California.
How many of these activities are new for you? Do you have any other outdoor things to do in Irvine that you think I should add to my list?