Guide to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park: Where to Hike, Play
A day trip to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offers visitors the opportunity to experience native environments and ecosystems that many may not know exist in this section of Orange County, CA. This natural attraction is located inland, less than 6 miles from Laguna Beach, providing families a place to unwind and enjoy the only natural lakes in the county. Want to learn more? Check out our guide to the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
Travel Tips to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park opened in 1993 and houses 7,000 acres of coastal canyons, high ridges and coastal sage scrub. The park is open to all guests from 7 a.m. to sunset, and parking is available for $3 per vehicle.
Serving as the park’s headquarters is Nix Nature Center, which features award-winning exhibits and offers guided hikes and educational programs. Visitors may also park at the center all day for $3, and the lot is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What to Bring
Whether planning to spend a couple of hours or a full day at the park, guests should plan accordingly. Due to its wilderness location, families should wear appropriate clothing and shoes, pack plenty of water and snacks, and bring some cash for parking and souvenir shopping. Also, make sure everyone wears sunscreen and sunglasses to avoid excess sun exposure and keep everyone feeling their best. Other items to consider bringing include a backpack, hiking poles or sticks, and a poncho in case of rain.
Hike Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Due to its location in some of the last remaining coastal canyons in southern California, the park is a top spot for hiking in Laguna Beach. Outdoor lovers will find more than 40 miles of trails, open to bicycles, hikers and horses. Pick a trail and start exploring different areas while enjoying Pacific Ocean views.
The Nix Center hosts several guided hikes perfect for all ages and skill levels. Those looking for a more rugged adventure can book a fitness hike, mountain bike rides and birding hikes. Seniors and children may prefer family hikes and tot walks that offer access to easier terrain. In addition, couples will enjoy a romantic night out on a full moon hike, or they can learn about the area’s history on a cultural resource hike.
Popular trails that visitors can explore on their own include the Laurel Canyon Loop and Stagecoach South. Easy hikes include Stagecoach North Trail that leads to the Barbara’s Lake Trail, home to the scenic and last-remaining natural lake in the area. Moderate hikers will find more than a dozen trails leading to scenic overlooks, waterfalls and more natural sites. Thrill-seekers will want to try one of the more difficult hikes, such as the Willow Canyon Road Trail and Laguna Ridge Trail.
In addition to scenic hikes, the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park also offers several opportunities for photo ops. When not capturing the area’s blooming beauty, look for the park’s endangered species that are protected through the Natural Community Conservation Planning program. Visitors may see birds such as the California gnatcatcher and orange-throated whiptail as well as mule deer, weasels, bobcats and red-tail hawks.
Explore Other Areas
The Laguna Coast Wildlife Park is part of the South Coast Wilderness area, which comprises five other protected natural areas. The entire collection measures nearly 20,000 acres of protected land, and each offer their own natural environments and sites. One of the top attractions is Crystal Cove State Park, home to more than 2,400 acres of native wilderness and a historic district showcasing rustic cottages and early coastal development.
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