The Wildlands Conservancy Oak Glen Preserve
By Megan McClain
Oak Glen isn’t just famous for apples. It's nature and beauty shines throughout the year, with hiking opportunities and temperatures that typically run a few degrees cooler than those elsewhere in the Inland Empire.
The Wildlands Consevancy's Oak Glen Preserve holds more than 2,000 acres, including two mountain peaks that preserve the bighorn sheep habitat. It is one of six preserves in the San Bernardino Mountains and holds the headquarters of The Wildlands Conservancy, which has preserves up and down California.
The Southern California Montane Botanic Garden and Children's Outdoor Discovery Center is part of the Oak Glen Conservancy. It's an easy and accessible way to introduce kids to nature and hiking, as well as a way of taking advantage of spectacular weather and beautiful fall foliage.
At the entrance of the garden is a kiosk full of brochures and fliers. Grab a park map and take a look at the local wildlife coming around the preserve.
We grabbed children's versions of the map and let the kids help choose their own adventure, so to speak. That included some drama over whether or not a map was upside down, whether we were going the right way, and a 3-year-old proclaiming it was the right way because the trees in front of us, he determined, were the same as the hand-drawn ones on the map.
The kids set our path. We saw birds and rabbits, made poetry out of rocks on Hummingbird Hill, and roamed under giant sequoias. The whole area honors nature and pioneering history -- the boys loved hearing the quotes under the shaded trees.
One of the lakes has a floating dock with pictures of the wildlife. We took a moment to figure out what kind of ducks were bugging us for a snack, and then watched a fish swim under and around us. Don't worry -- there was a life preserver nearby.
Several people have taken holiday card pictures in this area over the years, taking advantage of all of the incredible scenery and beauty. Make sure you bring a camera to snap some pictures too.
The preserve's two hiking trails and the botanic center open at 8 a.m. Check the website for closing hours -– usually 4:30 p.m. or later. Walk down to the parking lot and you'll find a building with some stuffed animals and the entrance to the Children's Forest trail through some trees (planted in honor of children). Be aware of the hikes you take, because there are more than two miles of trail entertwined througout the preserve trails.
Parking is free next to Los Rios Rancho. Wear hiking-appropriate clothing, including closed-toe shoes, and bring a water bottle.
Check out the website for event information.
The Wildlands Conservancy's Oak Glen Preserve is located at 39611 Oak Glen Road, Building 12, in Oak Glen. Visit the Facebook page or call (909) 797-8507 to keep up on events at the Preserve, include volunteer projects.