Enjoying the great outdoors in, and around, the SCV

EverWild SCV teachers Valentina and David Knopf work with students during forest school in Santa Clarita. Courtesy

There is something fundamentally healthy about spending time outdoors, and after more than a year quarantining indoors for the most part, it’s time to get outside.

Nature is, in fact, a magical thing, and can actually have strong healing powers, such as improving mood, boosting the immune system and increasing anti-cancer proteins, according to studies.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, it’s getting easier to get back outside and into nature, including right here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Chris Morley peddles her electric bike on the bike paths near the Iron Horse Trailhead in Valencia on Tuesday, 051121. Dan Watson/The Signal

Take a hike (or a bike)

With 12,000 acres of open space and more than 100 miles of trails and paseos that traverse the SCV, you don’t have to go far to find a spot to hike, bike or just walk.

The pandemic created a huge at-home exercise boom across the nation, with biking at its center. Rusty bikes were dusted off in the garage, while sales for new bikes surged.

In fact, one in 10 American adults reported having ridden a bike for the first time in a year (or longer) since the onset of COVID-19, according to research by People for Bikes.

A man walks his dog as bike riders pass by on the bike paths near the Iron Horse Trailhead in Valencia on Tuesday, 051121. Dan Watson/The Signal

Longtime biker and Valencia resident Chris Morley saw the spike firsthand, as she not only had to wait months for her new e-bike and even a bike rack that were on back-order, but she also saw the number of people on her favorite trail increase dramatically. 

“It’s insane,” Morley said. “So many people are out on the trails since COVID.”

And since her new bike’s arrival in July, she’s put nearly 2,000 miles on it, riding the same trail. 

“I’m addicted to this bike,” Morley added. 

Chris Morley puts on her helmet as she prepares to ride her electric bike on the bike paths near the Iron Horse Trailhead in Valencia on Tuesday, 051121. Dan Watson/The Signal

There are also various hiking and mountain biking trails that run through the SCV’s hillsides, along with the newly constructed Trek Bike Park of Santa Clarita, that offer plenty of options for each skill level. 

For more information on biking in Santa Clarita, visit bikesantaclarita.com, or visit hikesantaclarita.com for hiking information.  

SCV trail and paseo safety tips 

  • Stay alert at all times, while walking or biking.  
  • Walkers should always stay out of the bike lane, when possible. 
  • Bike with the flow of traffic and obey traffic laws. 
  • Don’t pass on turns or corners. 
  • Ride single-file or drop in for oncoming traffic.  

Staying ‘EverWild’ in the SCV

For children, getting outside 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.

That’s why the nonprofit EverWild is working to merge nature with education, allowing kids the chance to spend more time outdoors.

“It’s an 100% outdoor-based program for children that is generally child led and mentor supported,” co-founder and executive director Amanda Caloia explained. “The way that children learn is through inquiry-based learning, so generally what that means is our projects and lessons revolve around what is happening in nature.” 

More recently, SCV natives Valentina and David Knopf wanted to bring the program to the area, allowing local children the opportunity to have an outdoor classroom setting where they can learn about the native plants and their own community.

“We’re really lucky, as most towns don’t have open spaces like we do, and we really don’t take advantage of it in this community,” Valentina Knopf said. “Even in the short time that we’ve been here, all the parents are just so grateful to be able to have their children explore the mountainside. … It’s been growing in a really organic way and we’re just so happy to be here.” 

In addition to EverWild’s Nature Immersion program, which serves children preschool through sixth grade, the organization is hosting summer camps split into age groups, where participants are set to travel to nearby adventure destinations. 

EverWild is also raising funds to provide scholarships for families from low-income households in the SCV.

Enrollment for summer camps is now open, with camps scheduled to begin June 7, while school year enrollment is set to open June 1. For more information, call Valentina Knopf at 661-234-7962 or visit everwildla.com. 

Dip your toes at Castaic Lake’s shores

Castaic Lake is the largest state water project reservoir in Southern California, with more than 11,000 acres of parkland and open space habitat, with the park open daily from sunrise to sunset, except on Dec. 25.

The lakes are open to various water activities, including boating, fishing, wakeboarding, jet-skiing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and more, while the park itself has more than seven miles of trails for all skill levels to explore, all of which are open to mountain bikes, equestrians and hikers.

The Friends of Castaic Lake hosts events at the lake, with a number of family-friendly activities coming soon this summer, such as moonlight fishing and float tubing, according to Dan Trippeda, vice president.

If you’re feeling generous, One Piece at a Time hosts monthly lake clean up days, while the Friends of Castaic Lake also host a monthly Pride In The Lake Day.

In addition, the Castaic Area Town Council is sponsoring drive-in movie nights on the second Saturdays of the month, with proceeds going toward the council, as well as local nonprofits. 

The park also offers camping and picnicking locations, with fishing boats available to rent.

Castaic Lake’s swim beach is set to open mid-June and is located at 32132 Castaic Lake Drive. For more information, call 661-257-4050 or visit castaiclake.com 

Take a walk on the wild side at the Placerita Nature Center

As COVID-19 restrictions are eased, the Placerita Nature Center has been able to resume some of its most popular free programs, giving the visiting public various ways to interact with nature, 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 bird walks at 8 a.m. on the first and second Saturday of every month for birders of all levels.

Take a walk around the park on the fourth Saturday of every month at 9;30 a.m. in search of the blooms of season to see the native plants that are seasonally blooming year-round along the trails.

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

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