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By Danny Ritz

There is never a shortage of things to do and areas to explore in Southern Orange County, especially during the summer time. This week, we are highlighting a free outdoor offering by the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center.

The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center’s guided headlands hike highlights the native fauna in the area. Photo: Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center

What: Headlands Nature Hike

When: First Saturday of every month at 9 a.m.

Where: Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center (34558 Scenic Dr.)

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Length of Hike: 1 1/2 to 2 hours

The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center serves as the visitor center as well as base of educational and management operations for the entire Dana Point Conservation Area. Opening its doors in 2010, the DPCA is now managed by over 20 docents, responsible for interacting with and educating the public concerning the natural, historical and biological significance of the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area, which consists of South Strands Park, Hilltop Park, Harbor Point and the Center for Natural Lands Management.

At 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month, the Nature Interpretive Center offers a free guided tour of the Headlands. This hike, which is open to the public, is centered on showcasing the native fauna and the diverse wildlife that lives within it.

Offering a fun and accessible opportunity to explore an often-overlooked region of the Dana Point Peninsula, some hike viewing highlights include the abundant coastal sagebrush, the pocket mouse (thought to be extinct until it’s discovery on the Headlands in 1993) and the coastal California gnatcatcher.

“Our nature walk provides the opportunity to engage with all the life that’s buzzing about on the Dana Point Headlands,” said Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center coordinator Bernice Villanueva. “It’s a great way to explore outside, foster a greater appreciation for our open spaces and understand our conservation efforts to protect the area.”

The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, excluding federal holidays. The trails through the Conservancy are open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset. Attendees are reminded that dogs or pets are not allowed in the parks. No smoking, no bicycles or drones. Binoculars are available for rental.

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