THE nation’s only “children’s forest” comprises 3,400 acres of manzanita and pine in the San Bernardino National Forest. An interpretive trail marked by brightly colored hand-made signs points to inventive landmarks -- Pillow Rock (“come and dream while on this rock”) or Chipmunk Condo, a tree trunk where five critters once dwelled -- and warnings about the wildlife-squishing consequences of straying from the trail (see below). At this forest, children staff a visitor center on weekends and design and blaze trails (with an assist from professionals). It’s a place where kids come to experience the wilds but also learn how to take care of them. On Saturday, in honor of National Public Lands Day, volunteers lead an afternoon hike along the 4.5-mile Exploration Trail, designed by eight local youths, which was completed in late August. “Some of the kids will be seeing their trail for the first time,” says Lacy Kelly of the Children’s Forest Assn. During the hike, children also will be collecting acorns for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, who grind up what was a staple food for Native Americans. To join the hike, meet at 3 p.m. at the visitor center, 32573 Highway 18. Call (909) 382-2777.
-- Mary Forgione