Although most of the coast in Southern California is developed, there are still some coastal bluffs open for exploration. Dana Point Headlands is one such area. Just up the hill from Dana Point Cove, a series of conservation parks and public open space areas are linked by a 3-mile trail network.
The least developed section of the headlands is the Center for Natural Lands Management's Dana Point Preserve, which can be hiked using a family-friendly trail starting from the Nature Interpretive Center. The center (open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except Mondays) is a great orientation point, offering information about the native flora and fauna. Of particular note is the endangered Pacific pocket mouse. Only about 500 of these mice remain in the wild as of 2014, and it’s on the Federal Endangered Species list. Due to the sensitive ecological habitat, no dogs are allowed in the preserve.
In addition to the Pacific pocket mouse, there are over 150 species of native coastal plants and animals. You’re bound to hear the birdsong of the Coastal California gnatcatcher as it flits through coastal bluff and sage scrubs, maritime succulent scrubs, native grasses, and mixed chaparral.
Expansive ocean views complement the flora and fauna, making a visit here worthwhile no matter the reason.