The prominent, rocky crown of Quail Hill rises roughly 200 feet above its grasslands. The outcropping stands as a sentinel of the Irvine Southern Open Space Preserve, a network of protected open space lands significant enough to have earned state and federal designation as a Natural Landmark.

Hikers, cyclists and even leashed dogs are welcome on the 1.8-mile Quail Loop Trail with vista points offering sweeping views of Irvine and the San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains.

Quail Hill’s grasslands, which include native and non-native plants, feature a mosaic of annual grasses and forbs. The grasses turn green after winter rain. Wildflowers, including lupines, owl’s clover, milkweed and poppy, add hues of purple and orange.

To the south, Quail Hill adjoins Shady Canyon, which connects with Bommer Canyon and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. To the west, Quail Hill connects with Sand Canyon Wash Trail, which ultimately leads to William Mason Regional Park.

– Jenny Rigby, director of The Acorn Group, a design firm dedicated to interpreting natural history.


BIRDS TO WATCH 

Quail Hill attracts a variety of birds, from raptors looking for prey to the preserve’s namesake and state bird – the California quail.

 
WHITE-TAILED KITE - Nearly all white, a white-tailed kite hovers over the grasslands like a helicopter. Beating its wings while holding its position, it scans the ground before dropping down, talons first, to snag a meal.
RED-TAILED HAWK - Watch for the rust red tail and white breast of this large raptor. A red-tailed hawk often perches in a tree or glides high above the grasslands, filling the air with its piercing scream.
QUAIL - Listen for the chi‐ca‐go call of the California quail. Quail tend to travel in a group, or covey, and walk rather than fly. Watch for its plump body and distinct black plume on its forehead.

 

IN BLOOM

Local photographer Nick Carver is well known for his images of the American Southwest. Here he shares some of Quail Hill’s wildflowers, which tend to reach peak bloom in the spring. Winter rainfall dictates their intensity

COAST GOLDFIELD - A member of the daisy family, coast goldfield occurs on coastal bluffs and grasslands. In the spring, this small annual produces a mound of bright yellow blossoms.
LUPINES - Orange County sports several species of lupine, with blossoms ranging from white or pale lavender to dark purple and even magenta. You’ll find arroyo lupine at Quail Hill.
CALIFORNIA POPPY - Quail Hill is home to our state flower, the California poppy. Each orange blossom stands on a stalk and opens fully on a sunny day (rarely when it’s cloudy) and closes by nightfall.