The El Cariso Nature Trail in El Cariso, California is not just a nature trail; it is a video game too. Yes, you and your kids can play the Agents of Discovery nature mobile game on your phone or another electronic device on your hike, which will help you and your children plug into nature while learning about your surroundings. The El Cariso Nature Trail is just over one mile long, and you start where you park at the El Cariso Visitor Center.
You will need to get a National Forest Service Adventure Pass before heading out on your hike. It is $5 for one day or $30 for a year. You can buy it online or at the visitor center. This short and easy hike in the Santa Ana Mountains starts by climbing some stairs that take you on a mini-adventure through the Cleveland National Forest where you will be engulfed by scrub oak, manzanita, buckwheat, and Coulter pines, which are essential to the bee population in the area.
There are signs to provide you with information all throughout the trail. At the top of the stairs, the path levels out, and you will pass the old mine shaft carved into the mountain that was abandoned long ago. Next, you will cross the Main Divide Road and descend to Killen Trail with an option to veer off onto another section. If you'd like to extend your hike about a half mile, you can head to the right to follow the signs to the memorial for the Wildland firefighters on the hilltop.
At the top of the El Cariso Nature Trail, there is a pawtastic ridge called the Vista Overlook, where there's a bench to rest and get some pictures of the Santa Ana and Los Pinos Peak Mountains. There will also be many photo ops of the giant boulders and other views of the Southern California Mountains. On the way back to the main trail, you will pass many different varieties of flora such as sage, sugar bush, chamise, nightshade, blue-eyed grass, and monkeyflowers. You and Fido will probably want to come back several more times to see how the vegetation and views change with the seasons.