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ORANGE, California – Buckling my dog, Chloe, into her car seat, I took a drive to a regional park on Easter weekend. The weather was cool and overcast, which I thought made for a perfect day to hike with my furry companion. As my GPS led me away from the coastal community and through a neighborhood surrounded by quaint homes and horse trails, I got more excited to explore a different part of Orange County.

We arrived at Santiago Oaks Regional Park and approach a booth to the entrance where I paid $5 to park my car, which is the weekend parking rate. The parking fee on weekdays is $3. Despite being a holiday weekend, there were plenty of parking spaces available.

dog friendly hiking trailChloe and I hopped out of the car excited and leashed together. I ventured along a dirt path with Chloe by my side and marveled at the beauty of nature surrounding us. Birds were singing and chattering. Small parrots flew from one tree to another. Trees lined the path providing shade as we walked beside a grove full of blooming wild flowers.

Parts of the path were blocked due to restoration, and many trees were blackened from a recent fire. Rubble still remained from a house that obviously burned down from the fire.

We began to hike up a hill when I realized how warm it was. The coast may have been cool and overcast, but we were in the city of Orange where the sun was bright overhead.

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Chloe began to pant, so I stopped frequently to let her rest and drink water. The hill we were climbing, provided little shade, as there were no trees – just small bushes.dog friendly hiking trail

I kept the hike short for Chloe’s sake. I do plan to return with her on another day during the morning or later afternoon hours when it may not be as warm. The trails are open 7 a.m. to sunset. Dogs on leash are not only permitted here but also mountain bikes and horses, so keeping to the right and being aware are important.

Speaking of being aware, the OC Parks’ website has a warning about increased snake sightings. With spring comes the season for snakes, including rattlers. Trailblazers should remain on the clearly defined open trails and keep an eye out for these slithery creatures.

dog friendly hiking trailUnfortunately, the trails through the trees and flowers are closed off at this time due to the restoration project. According to the OC Parks’ website, the fires in October 2017 caused 9,000 acres of damage to four Orange County regional parks, including this one. Nonetheless, this park is a great location to hike especially on a cool spring day.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park is located at 2145 N. Windes Drive, Orange, California 92869. For more information on this location, go to ocparks.com/parks/Santiago.