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The Grand Canyon Of Orange County: Limestone Canyon's Sinks

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By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

Something nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Orange County can only be a Disney concoction, right?  Perhaps a new attraction in Frontierland or Adventureland? 
 
Think again.
 
The Sinks, an area of Limestone Canyon Regional Park, surprises its visitors with a view that looks quite similar to the legendary landmark though on a much smaller scale.  To be sure, hikers who make the trip expecting a sight equal in scope to the Arizona park are going to be disappointed, but for those who aren't familiar with the vast open spaces of inland O.C., the Sinks is quite something.
 
At 4,000+ acres in area, Limestone Canyon Regional Park is one of the biggest units of Orange County's park system and is about the same size as L.A.’s Griffith Park. However, Limestone is unusual in that access is granted only through the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which conducts a variety of free programs on their various properties.  Hikers interested in joining need to only sign up online. 
 
The easiest way to hike to the Sinks is to go on a "wilderness access day", usually the first Saturday of each month. On these days, after registering, hikers have complete, independent access to explore the park as they choose, from 7am to 1pm.

The most direct route to the Sinks is a moderate, 7.6-mile round trip hike on the Limestone Canyon Trail. The pleasant and scenic route travels through oak groves, open fields and below rolling hills, also showcasing some of the park's sandstone geology. Hikers can change the route into a loop by returning on a number of different trails. At the Sinks, a viewing platform provides a great vantage point to explore the deep canyon carved in the sandstone bedrock.
 
The Irvine Ranch Conservancy also offers several scheduled hikes throughout each week, along a variety of routes, including the Sinks.  These docent-led hikes can be a good opportunity for hikers not only to explore the land and learn about it, but to meet other outdoor enthusiasts. Limestone Canyon and the other lands managed by the Conservancy are great examples of how vast open spaces can be found only a short drive from urban development.

For more information about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and their activities, visit their page.  For a report on the hiking trip to the Sinks, click here.

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