Great views, waterfall at the historic dam, wildflowers, playground, and a nice short hike all in one place. Perfect! We looked hard for a good short hike in this unpredictable weather, and found this wonderful park. We only had a few hours, so we wanted something short, but it was a pretty packed few hours with lots to see and do.
Santiago Oaks Regional Park is located at 2145 N. Windes Dr., Orange, CA or here. We were here last year and with the drought, there wasn’t much water at the dam. This time, I heard the water before I saw it. And the sound was music to my ears. There wasn’t a ton of water, and it wasn’t a huge waterfall, but any water in Southern California is just plain exciting, especially since I remembered there was just a big pool of stagnant, stinky, and murky water before. We enjoyed just sitting around the dam and listening to the water for awhile. I climbed up and down the steps to see the dam from above and then below. Either way, a great view!
We also made sure to let the kids hop through the circular steps across the water. What a difference rain makes! Before, there wasn’t much water so there was no need to stay on the circular stone path. This time, it was actually fun to cross the little stream!
We explored a bit along the Santiago Creek Trail until the outskirts of the park. The climb was steep and fun and the views were great. But we headed back down and into the park to see the nature center. Unfortunately, though it was closed. Luckily the playground nearby was definitely good enough for my kids and they played happily as my hubby watched them.
The Windes Nature trail was close by so I decided to explore it a bit. It was numbered with little signs about nearby plants, and even though I had trouble reading some of the words that were faded, it was still very informative. I enjoyed an invigorating uphill climb. The bench at the top of the hill gave me a very impressive panoramic view of the park. I sat up there for a good 5 minutes just breathing in the fresh air, dangling my legs, and enjoying the view. I could see people walking on the trails to the right of me and people going towards the historic dam too. The one lane trail in some areas were a bit steep and rocky, but so much fun! There was so much green to take in, and so much wildlife too. We saw footprints of a bobcat (we think), and lots of birds. Tons of California sagebrush (love the scent too), and green everywhere. But I saw a poster on the wildflowers in the area, and while I saw plenty of yellow ones, I wanted to find a blue one. So off I went. And I found one! It was tiny but pretty just the same. And along the rocks about eye level, were dudleyas! I love dudleyas…they don’t survive well in my garden but I always find them in the wild flourishing under trees or tucked in rocks. Always a wonderful treat to find a dudleya! As I traveled back down, I saw two holes (mini caves) in rocks that reminded me of eye sockets on a skull, and I was tempted to climb in for one second, but thought better of it.
The kids were still playing happily at the playground when I got down. I told my hubby that it was probably a good idea they stayed down below because there was no railing up above and some of the trail was pretty narrow and steep for the kids. I would’ve worried about their safety. Plus they were so content playing, it was perfect. We actually had to bribe the kids with food to get them to go but they were tired. Another perfect afternoon…and just in time as it got colder as we left. Another possible rainstorm overnight was in the forecast. So I’m grateful we got to enjoy the fresh air, sun, and wildlife today.
Thanks for following us on another adventure!