Once home to California grizzly bears and ranch hands on horseback – not to mention the ghosts of an armed 1831 conflict between fur trappers and Tongva Indians – Orange County's Black Star Canyon will be open for your exploration this weekend.
The Black Star Canyon area, in the Santa Ana Mountains southeast of Irvine Lake, features rare coastal sage scrub habitat, coastal live oaks and towering red-rock cliffs.
On Saturday, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy will welcome hikers, bikers and equestrians to the remote canyon, which is normally closed to the public because of the sensitive nature of the landscape.
The Oct. 20 Wilderness Access Day is the first of planned bimonthly events that will bring the public to the canyon for self-guided and docent-led tours.
And the fact that some consider Black Star Canyon haunted even makes Saturday's event Halloween-appropriate.
The land is part of 20,000 acres of open space that were given to OC Parks by the Irvine Co. in 2010. It's part of the enormous 40,000-acre Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, which were designated a Natural Landmark by both the state of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Overall, some 40,000 acres stretching from the coast to the mountains have been given to the county, which contracts the nonprofit Irvine Ranch Conservancy to manage the property.
Saturday's event will highlight a recently renovated trail system in Black Star Canyon that offers a family-friendly 1/2-mile hike, a 3-mile loop through the property and a steep, more strenuous climb up a new trail to Baker Canyon.
The access day lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the last trail entry allowed at 2 p.m. Volunteers will be stationed along trails to provide information and assistance.
Roadside parking is limited, so carpooling is recommended. And the conservancy asks that you pre-register for the free event at the conservancy's website.