Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Guide: Where to Hike and Play

A day trip to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offers visitors the opportunity to experience native environments and ecosystems many may not know exist in this section of Orange County, California. This natural attraction is located inland, less than 6 miles from Laguna Beach, providing travelers a place to unwind and enjoy the only natural lakes in the county. Want to learn more? Check out this quick guide to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Guide: Travel Tips for Newcomers

laguna coast wilderness park itrip blog

Photo: Tristan Schmurr

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park opened in 1993 and houses 7,000 acres of coastal canyons, high ridges and coastal sage scrub. The park opens 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 spending a couple of hours or a full day at the park, guests should plan accordingly. Due to its wilderness location, visitors should wear appropriate clothing and shoes, pack plenty of water and snacks, and bring 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 include a backpack, hiking poles or sticks, and poncho in case of rain.

laguna coast wilderness park hike

Photo: OCParks_CA

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 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.

Nix Center hosts guided hikes perfect for all ages and skill levels. Those looking for more rugged adventures can schedule 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 enjoy a romantic night during a full moon hike, or they can learn about the area’s history on a cultural resource hike.

Popular trails visitors can explore on their own include Laurel Canyon Loop and Stagecoach South. For an easier journey, Stagecoach North Trail leads to Barbara’s Lake Trail, home to the last-remaining natural lake in the area. Moderate hikers have more than a dozen trails leading to scenic overlooks, waterfalls and more natural sites. Thrill-seekers should try one of the more difficult hikes, such as Willow Canyon Road Trail and Laguna Ridge Trail.

laguna coast wilderness park guide

Photo: OCParks_CA

Find Photo Inspiration

In addition to scenic hikes, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park also offers opportunities for photography. When not capturing the area’s blooming beauty, look for the park’s endangered species that are protected through 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 South Coast Wilderness

Laguna Coast Wildlife Park is part of South Coast Wilderness, which comprises five other protected natural areas. The entire collection measures nearly 20,000 acres of land, and each offer their own natural environments and sites. One top attraction 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.

Planning a Laguna Beach vacation? Find affordable family-friendly rentals in Laguna Beach and Dana Point.

Then check out these other fun things to do in Laguna Beach!