Members of the Boy Scouts of America walk the parade route handng out flags to spectators at the 88th Santa Clarita Valley Fourth of July Parade in Newhall Thursday morning. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Where the Santa Clarita Valley gathers to get outside

There is something fundamentally healthy about being outdoors. For children, it can give them the freedom to run, jump and play. And while physical activities like these are good for their health and physical development, it also allows them to explore their natural environment and adventure.

“To this generation, it is imperative that kids be full of the memories of hiking, camping, swimming, storytelling around the campfire, boating, exploring and understanding the grace

of nature and big sky country,” said Al Ewing, County of Los Angeles, recreation services leader, “as opposed to walking through life fixed on a tiny screen and shooting aliens in a 10-by-12 bedroom as a matter of lifestyle.”

There are plenty of ways to get your kids outdoors and do just that here in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

Scouts BSA

Scouts BSA is a year-round program that provides fun, adventure, learning, challenge and responsibility for youth with a plethora of outdoor activities for everyone’s interests, according to Jeff Shrewsbury, district executive for the Western Los Angeles County Council.

Both girls and boys can become Cub Scouts from kindergarten, and will progress into Scouts at 11 years old until they turn 18 or graduate high school.

Each troop varies, but all try to do an outdoor activity once a weekend and at least one big trip every month, Shrewsbury said.

“Every weekend, they try to get together, whether it be a hike at a local park or swimming,” Shrewsbury added. “We have several hundred merit badges that cover every outdoor activity you could think of. We’re super active.” 

Shrewsbury considers Scouting a “staycation,” where not only do they offer almost every sport, but they also offer a variety of other outdoor adventures, including sailing, scuba diving, rock climbing, fishing, white water rafting and camping. 

Nearby, Scouts also have Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, which Shrewsbury said is “one of the best summer camps in the United States.” 

Scouts BSA’s local office is located at 24338 Walnut St. in Newhall. For more information, call 661-284-6330 or visit scouting.org.

Girl Scouts

Like Scouts BSA, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure and success.

Any girl in grades kindergarten through 12th grade can join the Girl Scouts, and will be placed in the appropriate grade level according to what grade they’re in at school. 

Troops can visit various day camps, weekend camps and summer camps, with a variety of activities such as archery, zip-lining, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking and more, as well as weekend adventures.

Through their outdoor offerings, girls face challenges and adventures in an all-girl supportive environment, which allows them to find courage, confidence and character, according to Anne Marie Hand, director of program and community engagement.

“Our mission is to provide girls opportunities of being outdoors, unplugging from technology and reaping the benefits of nature,” Hand said. “Learning how to preserve the environment and become environmental stewards while connecting with each other and with nature is important for these girls.”

As of last month, Girl Scouts has rolled out 12 new outdoor-adventure badges, sponsored by NorthFace, such as rock climbing and backpacking, Hand added.

Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has also just launched a campaign to finish the rebuilding of Camp Lakota, a second overnight camp in the area, which will be open for summer camp season in 2020, according to Melanie Larsen, senior communications manager. 

“It’s been a work in progress for many years, and we’re really, really excited that it’s finally opening next year for resident camp,” Hand added. 

Troops can also utilize various local camps to do outdoor activities, including daytime activities as well as high adventure days and overnight experiences, according to Hand.

“One of the main things we try to do as a council is to try to provide opportunities that girls or troops wouldn’t be able to find on their own, especially in outdoor and STEAM,” Hand added.

Girl Scouts’ local office is located at 18316 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. For more information, call 661-287-1985 or visit girlscoutsla.org.

Coach Jen So, left, demonstrates how to draw and aim the bow for beginners Yuri Gumatay, 13, center, and his father Orlando of Canyon Country during the 2019 Olympic Day held at the Santa Clarita Archery Range in Canyon Country on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

SCV Archery

The archery range is available and open to the public seven days a week, from dusk ‘til dawn, and you can bring your own equipment or sign up for an introduction to archery workshop. 

On select dates and times, SCV Archery hosts free and low-cost introductory classes, including one-on-one coaching and group events. 

The range, which recently opened in May, is currently trying to study what the community needs in order to implement classes and workshops to meet those needs, according to head coach, Rene Paguia. 

Currently, they offer a beginner class every Saturday from 9-11 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for those who want to try archery. 

“We teach them how to shoot and they learn the rules of the range, safety rules, as well as how to command the bow,” Paguia said. 

They also offer a six-week training course on Mondays and Wednesdays for people who want to learn more. 

“They start with learning the basics, and if we see their motor skills are improving, we will then introduce them to more advanced shooting skills,” Paguia said. “The camp can also lead them to becoming competitive if they choose to later on,where they can participate in tournaments.”

Classes are open to anyone age 8 and above, and are taught by USA certified coaches, which means they follow a certain shooting process.

SCV Archery is located at 21450 Copper Hill Drive. For more information, visit scvarchery.com.

Placerita Nature Center

The Placerita Nature Center offers numerous ways the community can interact with nature, all of which are free, according to Ranger Frank Hoffman, head ranger and park supervisor. 

Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, for example, families can go on an easy, hour-long nature walk to explore the natural area’s animals, plants and cultural history.

The center also offers an interactive animal presentation on Saturdays from 1-2 p.m., when guests can see, learn and ask questions about the live, native animals of the Placerita Canyon and surrounding Santa Clarita Valley.

Though the animals vary from season to season, they typically have a number of animals on the premises to showcase, including owls, falcons, hawks, snakes, tarantulas, tortoises, lizards, a skunk and an opossum.

Similarly, the center offers other monthly, hour-long walks, such as bird walks for birders of all levels, twilight hikes to learn about and discuss nocturnal creatures and the seasonal night sky, and blooms of season for those looking to see what is seasonally blooming year-round along the trails, or monthly community nature educational events in partnership with guest speakers related to all things in the natural environment.

The Junior Rangers Program has also returned to the park with Ranger Frank and his friends, covering topics ranging from fire ecology with Smokey Bear, local birds of prey and falconry, wild canines and felines, and much more. Junior Rangers should be at least 6 years old, so they can understand and appreciate the lessons, and parents and siblings are welcome too.

Placerita Nature Tots offers a similar program with explorations into the natural world for younger children, age 3 to 5, accompanied by an adult. 

The Placerita Nature Center is located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall. For more information, call 661-259-7721 or visit placerita.org.

Michelle Chambers, 10, swings on the rings in the kids play area at Bridgeport Park in Valencia on Thursday, October, 04, 2018. (Photo by Dan Watson)

William S. Hart Regional Park

The 256-acre park not only has dedicated space for picnics, barbeques, hiking and group camping, but more than 70 animals in their barnyard, from an African tortoise to alpacas, as well as a herd of American Bison that roam the property, according to Ewing. 

The park also offers various outdoor events, including Movies Under the Stars, which shows a different movie outdoors every couple weeks during the summer months and Music in the Park.

Throughout the year, Hart Park hosts various A Day at the Ranch events, each of which focus on various fun, educational topics, such as their upcoming event scheduled for Nov. 9 that will focus on celebrating one of the most important trees in the history of our state — the mighty oak. 

William S. Hart Regional Park is located at 24151 Newhall Ave., in Newhall. For more information, visit parks.lacounty.gov/william-s-hart-regional-park or call 661-259-0855. 

Castaic Lake Recreation Area

Castaic Lake is the largest state water project reservoir in Southern California, with more than 11,000 acres of parkland and open space habitat.

Park gates are open from sunrise to sunset, and it’s open every day of the year except Dec. 25. 

The lakes are open to various water activities, including boating, fishing, wakeboarding, jet-skiing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and more.

The park has more than seven miles of trails for all levels, beginner to experience, to explore, all of which are open to mountain bikes, equestrians and hikers.

The park also offers camping and picnicking locations throughout. 

Castaic Lake is located at 32132 Castaic Lake Drive in Castaic. For more information, call 661-257-4050 or visit castaiclake.com.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park

Vasquez Rocks in a 932-acre park that offers hiking and camping among its unique rock formations. 

The Interpretive Center showcases various exhibits and interactive displays with information on the movie filming done on site, reptile exhibits, geological information and more.

The park also offers star parties, organized by The Local Group, which gives visitors an opportunity to see the constellations, planets and distant galaxies.

On Saturday evenings once every few months, the local astronomy club will have telescopes set up in Vasquez Rocks Park free of charge. The group can also help to get a personal telescope up and running. Their next star party is scheduled for Oct. 26. 

Vasquez Rocks is located at 10700 West Escondido Canyon in Aqua Dulce. For more information, visit parks.lacounty.gov/vasquez-rocks-natural-area-and-nature-center or call 661-268-0840.

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