Las Flores Ranch Park: Loaded With Trails and Ready for Halloween



Fairly new to Orcutt, I decided to explore Las Flores Ranch Park (LFRP). With two dogs, I drove east on Clark, then right to 6271 Dominion Road. We parked and hiked to the Visitors’ Center to sign up and meet the group. The 1,774-acre park, open Thursday through Sunday 8 AM to 6 PM, and shorter hours in winter, has 15 miles of trails. It’s free for Santa Maria residents and now, since COVID, it’s also free for Orcutt residents until possibly 2022 or beyond.


Jim Batterson, Orcutt resident and volunteer for LFRP, led a morning hike introducing people to the park. Jim started the hike showing us The Dinosaur Trail, a short loop great for young kids. There’s a climbing toy that looks like dinosaur bones coming out of the ground with outdoor bathroom facilities and a covered area with picnic table.


Next, we climbed into majestic rolling hills of mature oaks, grassy valleys, flowering bushes and sweeping views of the surrounding area. Luckily the dogs got tired so we had to rest a few times in the shade of large trees. Jim pointed out where pumpkins are busily growing for “The Patch,” an event that will take place Friday - Sunday in October from 10 AM to 6:30 PM. The Patch, established in 2017, provides free agricultural programs to local high school students. Pumpkins are grown and available to buy on these weekends. In addition, there will be succulents, an educational exhibit, a one-acre corn maze and weekly promotions including kid activity zones with jump houses, game area and “a spooky walk through.” More Halloween related fun at LFRP is a night hike, sometime before Oct 31, that will be lit by carved pumpkins.


Other educational and hands on opportunities include a program that plants oak trees grown by student volunteers including the girl scouts. Saplings are started from acorns at the park! Students on field trips will plant the young trees and get to see them grow.


Every few months there are guided twilight hikes, star gazing events with up to 14 telescopes, docent led: nature hikes, river trail walks, full moon hikes and bike rides. Horses are allowed in LFRP, but you must bring your own. It’s not a petting zoo but you can also visit the 2 burros; Solomon and Mojave, a pony, a horse and tree climbing goats.


For geocachers, LFRP is a gold mine with about 40 hidden treasures of various difficulties. Download the app “GEOCACHING” and you will find the treasure maps as long as you have internet access, maybe a bit higher up than the visitor center, or buy Geocaching Premium. “Download the list and coordinates at home if you don’t have the premium app,” says Batterson, an avid geochacher.


One day, after the guided hike, I decided to go by myself. I downloaded the app Outer Spatial, as suggested by the City Of Santa Maria website. I located the LFRP map and found trails listed. One, 轍uick Loop,・3 miles, looked interesting. Thankfully the app kicked in after I started because I didn稚 have internet at the Visitors Center. My terrible sense of direction was corrected many times as I was able to watch the circle on the map (me) to be sure not to get lost. One of the perks at LFRP is that staff are aware of who is there and will come find you if you don稚 sign out. Speaking of volunteers, they are much needed for: docents, trail patrol, field trips. Information on how to volunteer and all events can be found at: .The hike, by the way, was gorgeous. At one point, in the quiet of all that beauty, I looked down to see two women on horseback winding down a path between clusters of oaks set off by distant mountains, blue sky above. I give Los Flores Ranch Park five stars!


Katy Jacobson reporting


 


Foxenwood residents Jose and Yesenia Clemente and kids, after enjoying the Dinosaur Trail at Los Flores Ranch Park