Three OC Parks You Might Not Want to Miss



Story by Abby Smith

Right in the middle of Old Towne Orange, Chapman University is located in suburbia wonderland. “Sometimes I forget that Orange County is more than a giant parking lot.” said Natalie Haber, senior sychology major. 

Surrounded by shops, massive malls, and a variety of restaurants not many know that Orange County offers more than great shopping and relaxing beaches. 

Less well-known aspects of Orange County are its many and varied green parks. OC Parks, as the county agency is known, includes preserved government land, including parks, nature preserves, and historical sites. The parks are a great escape from Orange County’s urban atmosphere.

Below are three examples of the hidden gems in Orange County.

Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park


Boasting over 4,500 acres of trails, open space, and preserved wilderness areas, Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park is a beautiful escape from the beach neighborhoods of Laguna. 

Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park is a sanctuary for animals such as bobcats, coyotes, and a variety of birds and amphibians. As a part of OC Parks, this wilderness park is well taken care of by rangers and volunteers.

If you’re feeling active and looking for a rewarding day hike Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park is for you. There are over 26 different trails in the park categorized as easy, moderate, and difficult. 

Getting There:

The park is located in Laguna Niguel on Alicia Parkway and is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. During the spring and summer the park may be open as late as 9 p.m. Parking at the park just $3 for an entire day making the trip very affordable.  

Upon arrival you can visit the staging area that has the Park Office. Here you can get a trail map, fill up your water bottles, and even hang out in the picnic area for a quick lunch.

 Insider Tips and Tricks:

Senior psychology major Natalie Haber recommends taking some time to explore the trails beyond the path; “if you’re on the Car Wreck Trail be sure to keep an eye out for the caves. They can be hard to find but worth it; they’re awesome.”

The park trails range from 1-8 miles. It is important to be well prepared for your trip to Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park; this means bringing a snack, some water, and good company to make your day as enjoyable as possible. 

Peters Canyon Regional Park


Peters Canyon is a great park for the less experienced hiker, or those interested in a more leisurely day trip while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.  

The park includes a marsh, multiple trails, and beautiful views of inland Orange County. Peters Canyon also has a unique nature trail that takes visitors through the park to view the different habitats of local plants and wildlife.

 Getting There:

Peters Canyon Regional Park is located in Orange making it very accessible to Chapman students. Much like other OC Parks it is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. 

 There is a lot of parking within the park for $3; however street parking is an option as well. Adjacent to the parking lot are restrooms and trail maps making it easy to plan your hike.

Insider Tips and Tricks

The regional park trails are not marked very clearly so it is important to look at the map prior to starting your hike, however all of the trails are excellent and because of the smaller size of the park the chances of getting lost are slim.

According to senior Strategic and Corporate Communication major Amory Harris the trails are easy but you can make them as challenging as you need. Harris said, “The trails seem simple for just hiking, but I like to come to Peters Canyon to do the Lake View loop as my daily run, it has a massive hill that makes for a great workout.”

The park allows pets ranging from dogs to horses making it a fun place for people watching and a day out with your pet. 

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve 


Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is unique from other parks in Orange County as it is also an Ecological Reserve. The Ecological Reserve fosters the Mary Muth Interpretive Center.

The preserve is one of the largest Southern California costal wetlands and is home to a variety of rare birds, plants, and other animals. Because of the wide variety of birds the preserve is most well known for the amazing bird watching opportunities, however it is also a great day trip for jogging, biking, and hiking.

Getting There:

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is located on the bluffs above Newport Beach on University Drive. The park is open from 7 a.m. to Sunset and the Interpretive Center is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. until 4 p. m.  Both parking and the Interpretive Center are free. 

Insider Tips and Tricks

The opportunity to camp near the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve makes for a great weekend long escape. There is camping at Newport Dunes Resort located close to Upper Newport Bay making a trip to the nature preserve easy and fun. 

Film student Beau Moran stumbled across the preserve by accident but hopes to return soon; “I came to Upper Newport Bay to do some location scouting, it’s a beautiful area and it would be great to go back.” 

It’s easy to get caught up in the busy college lifestyle, but taking the time to explore the local habitats is a great stress reliever as well as an opportunity to have memorable moments with your friends. 

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