By Tomoya Shimura for the Irvine Standard

Vantage points offer magnificent views of the 55-acre Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir, with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

My wife and I recently took our 4-year-old son, Ren, to Peters Canyon Regional Park for a weekend excursion.

Wow. First off, it’s huge – 340 acres with trails crisscrossing coastal sage scrub, freshwater marsh and grassland, with panoramic views of Irvine. And second, there’s so much to see, from cactus wrens to rabbits to mule deer.

“It’s got something for everybody,” Steve Jax, a supervisor park ranger for OC Parks, told me.

As soon as we started out, two red-tailed hawks soared above, keeping an eye on all who entered their territory.

There are several trails. You can stroll along a wandering creek with your pup or take the 5.7-mile East Ridge Loop that circles the park and has the best vantage points.

We chose a trail around the 55-acre Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir, which is lined by black willows, sycamores and cottonwoods and is home to both resident and migrating waterfowl.

Take off your headphones or you’ll miss the sounds of wildlife — birds chirping, frogs croaking and woodpeckers hammering as they busily go about their lives around you.

Trails run through lush groves of willows, sycamores and rare black cottonwoods, which provide a habitat for many kinds of birds.

Along the way, we decided to climb to the highest point on East Ridge View Trail. Its steep ascent looks intimidating at first glance, but what awaits is worth the effort.

With each step up, I could see farther out. The view of rolling hills accented by trails reminded me of L.A.’s Griffith Park, but much less crowded and much closer to home.

When we reached the peak, we were rewarded with a panoramic vista of the snow-capped mountains, the lake, the city skyline and the Pacific Ocean.

I couldn’t help but feel lucky to live in a place where such experiences are so close.

Enjoy some of OC’s best views at Peters Canyon. Photo: Daniel Hill

For more information, visit: ocparks.com/parks/peters.