Visiting the nature preserve at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA is a fun outdoor experience for the whole family. With hiking, kayaking and interactive programs at the center, visitors should play on spending a whole day full of adventures that will stay with them for a lifetime!

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The history of the land that makes up the nature preserve stretches back over 9,000 years, but it was not until the 1960s that preservation efforts really started in earnest. After a decade of lawsuits to help conservation on the over 750 acres that made up the area then, although the preserve is now only considered 135 acres.

Permanent Attractions

Hiking trails - There are a variety of trails at the preserve to accommodate any experience level. Check out Back Bay, which is a road that is also accessible to cars on one side, which allows hikers to be close to the shore and have a great view of the many waterfowl present on the preserve. There is also Big Canyon trail, another gentle pedestrian trail, as well as several trails that travel along the top of the bluff and overlook the Bay.

Horse trails - There are several horse trails at the preserve, but there are no horse rentals so visitors wanting to ride will have to bring their own horse.

Bike trails - There is a 10-mile bike trail loop around the Bay, which is nicely labeled with signage so that bike riders can make sure to stay on the appropriate trail. There is another, longer (22 mile) option as well, which runs through Weir Canyon.

Kayaking - Obviously, as this nature preserve features a bay, getting out on the water is one of the most exciting parts of visiting Upper Newport. There are guided kayak tours that run every Saturday and Sunday morning, and visitors can also choose to rent a kayak and head out on their own. If guests bring their own kayaks, they are asked to depart from Northstar Beach. Also, keep in mind that no powered watercraft are able to be used with a permit.

Muth Interpretive Center - The facility, roughly 10,000 square feet in size, is actually built right into a bluff on the northern side of the bay. It is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesdays through Sundays, and closed on Mondays. The center offers a variety of exhibits and other interactive displays meant to both engage and educate visitors about the history of the preserve as well as the many conservation efforts going on there. Check out the live reptiles and amphibians, or watch the film in the theater before heading off on a hike or guided tour. There also are free family events one Sunday a month, featuring science activities and activities. Check the website for exact dates.

Educational Opportunities

There are many field trips options at the nature preserve, each designed for specific age levels. Every option is made to fit in with California educational guidelines and are offered the same hours that the center is open (Tuesdays through Sundays from 10am to 4pm). Reservations are recommended and, although admission to the center is free, there may be a fee for certain programs.

The grade level of the student determines the program that is offered. For instance, kindergarteners will work through the Exploration program, learning how plants grow and about a few of the animals that can be found on the preserve, followed up by a small hike, a scavenger hunt, and story time. Third graders will work through the Avian Adaptations program, which is all about how birds adapt to their environment and why they migrate. Students will be able to use binoculars to do their own bird watching as well!

Special Events

There are frequent events at the nature preserve, which are frequently updated on the preserve’s website. There are service related events, like the Second Sunday restoration event where visitors are asked to come and help participate in helping to maintain the preserve by removing nonnative plants, picking up trash, and helping to maintain the gardens. No experience is necessary. There are also fun and educational activities - like Family Science Sundays - where families are invited to come and participate in a hands-on learning experience. Other events are added, so make sure to check the website before traveling.

For families with smaller children, there are events like Wild Tales, which involve small children in the preserve through storytelling, crafts, and exciting nature walks with a guide. There is a small fee for this event and registration is required prior to coming. This is meant for children from two to five years old.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA, 92660,Phone: 949-923-2290

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