Monday, January 10, 2011

Ralph B. Clark Regional Park: A Great Place for an Outdoor Playdate in the OC


I love a good outdoor playdate – especially one that introduces me to a new place. Big thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Michele of Fun Orange County Parks, for inviting the big explorer and I out recently for an Orange County park playdate at the dreamy Ralph B. Clark Regional Park.

This is my kind of place. It’s full of natural attractions, yet also features some kid favorites, like three separate play areas. One has some cool faux rock formations and a rock wall with a huge sand area; another feels like a tree house, complete with a buried treasure map posted next to one of the slides.



This 150-acre park used to be home to some 70 plus species of animals, like the ancient mammoth and ring-tailed cat – back some 10,000 years ago, that is. Today the area has been set aside to preserve prehistoric fossil beds.

The wildlife on display during our visit wasn’t quite so impressive, but certainly didn’t disappoint. We saw an osprey, cormorants, mallard ducks, a turtle and coots near the lake alone.



After our playground exploring, we made our way to the Clark Interpretive Center, which houses quite an impressive display of fossils (and is FREE!).

From there, we headed off on a nature walk along the Perimeter Trail. You may be walking right around the park, but you feel like you’ve been transformed into the woods.


In fact, that’s exactly what makes Ralph B. Clark Regional Park so wonderful. You’re just minutes from busy city streets (and the freeway!), but won’t know it while you’re here.

Three Simple Ways for Kids to Connect With Nature at Ralph B. Clark Regional Park 

  • Take a nature walk. The stroller-friendly Perimeter Trail is perfect for a stroll through the trees. The trail up the hill behind Elephant Hill was closed during our visit, but also looked fun. 
  • Roll down a hill. There are plenty of sloped areas here just begging to be rolled down.
  • Go on a fossil hunt. The Clark Interpretive Center includes the Los Coyotes Paleontology Museum, which showcases the unique history of the area, including several fossil exhibits.

Park Amenities 
  • Three separate playground areas 
  • Naturalistic park features include a lake (fishing allowed with a license in designated areas), perimeter walking trail, interpretive center, several picnic spots (some with grills) & loads of grassy hills perfect for rolling down
  • Other park facilities include tennis courts, volleyball courts & baseball fields
  • Call ahead to see if the Clark Interpretive Center will be open (714-973-3170); there is an amazing fossil collection within & entrance is FREE
  • There is a fee for parking ($3 on weekdays, $5 on weekends); several lots are available throughout the park
  • Restrooms are available outside the Clark Interpretive Center
Ralph B. Clark Regional Park is located at:
8800 Rosecrans Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90621


4 comments:

  1. I love finding parks like this. We found one up in Northern California (Woodside I think) with hiking trails and blackberry bushes, what a treat! Wish we lived closer so we could check this out.

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  2. You have really opened up the natural world in LA for me! I had no idea there were so many parks, natural areas and other cool things.

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  3. This looks amazing and I believe I left you a comment last week about Big Bend National Park in Texas. There is a small college in Alpine, Tx. which has dinosaur fossils recovered in the Big Bend area. If you plan a vacation there you will not want to go in the summer as to the 100 to 120 degree temp. any other time of the year is great. Thanks for sharing and stop by and visit us at waddleeahchaa.com. :) joyce

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  4. @Bridget: I imagine you have a few amazing parks near home, too!

    @Mel: As long as you're willing to drive a bit, Los Angeles offers plenty of natural areas worth checking out.

    @Joyce: The fossil connection to Big Bend sounds fascinating. Thanks for stopping by to share!

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