A winter walk in an Orange County park offers a much different perspective than other times during the year. Nature is bountiful amid the cooler temperatures. Enthusiasts will tune into the peaceful sounds of creeks and streams, discover migrating species and will be dazzled by the grand sights. It’s important to note that wilderness parks close at sunset and regional parks close at 6 p.m. during the winter months. Get ready to enjoy local nature at any of these five parks in the OC.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
2301 University Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
A brilliant 135 acres of grasslands and coastal plant life await you at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. This ecological wetland reserve is ideal for a winter walk atop the bluffs, offers stunning views, and is one of the best parks for indulging in Orange County habitat. During the winter months, as many as 35,000 birds migrate to this area. Bird watchers will discover endangered species including the California Least Tern, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, Brown Pelican, California Gnatcatcher, Burrowing Owl and the Peregrine Falcon. The Back Bay Loop Trail offers easy access to hikers, bikers and walkers.
Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
28373 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Part of the 19,000-acre Laguna Coast Greenbelt, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park features miles of official trails and several streams. It’s important to note though that the park is closed for three days following any rain the area might have. Visitors will enjoy the park’s mature oaks, sycamores and elderberry trees during the cooler winter months. One of the park’s most popular destinations and historical landmarks is the Dripping Cave, a large sandstone rock shelter once used by Native Americans. Aliso and Wood Canyons was originally tribal land home to the Juaneno or Acajchemem. Today, the Achjchemem (Juaneno Mission) and Tongva (Gabrieleno Mission), two Native American tribes, share the land with endangered plant and animal species.
Yorba Regional Park
7600 E. La Palma
Anaheim, CA 92807
It’s likely you’ll run into neighbors and friends at Yorba Park as it’s a perfect place for a winter walk, where you can indulge in the peaceful sounds of nature. Made up of four lakes with connecting streams, the park features meandering trails for biking and walking, including the Santa Ana River Trail. Visitors are allowed to bring dogs on leashes and horses are welcome too, on approved equestrian trails. Yorba Park also has hundreds of picnic tables and barbecues, and recreational activities such as volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, physical fitness course, playgrounds and two baseball diamonds.
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Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park has rich heritage. Part of a Mexican land grant in the 1840s, the land was a farm and ranch operation until after World War II. Today, it is an established park sitting within the coastal canyons of Southern California. Through the park office, guided hikes are offered that cater to everyone – check out the Elder Trek, Family Hikes, Tot Walks and Fitness Hikes. Nature enthusiasts will see coastal sage scrub, native valley grassland, riparian habitats, and willow, oak and sycamore trees. During the winter months after a rainy day, streams come to life. Be on the lookout for mule deer, long-tailed weasels, bobcats and red-tailed hawks.
Santiago Oaks Regional Park
2145 N. Windes Drive
Orange, CA 92869
Santiago Oaks Regional Park is known for its quiet and serene atmosphere. Situated along the Santiago Creek, park visitors enjoy the mature forest of trees, orange grove, majestic mountain views, the creek and wildlife. Trails lead walkers and hikers throughout interconnecting trails. After the 2007 fire, which burned over 2,000 acres, Santiago Oaks Regional Park received restoration that included 200 new coastal live oaks that were planted. Dogs on leash and horses are welcome. Horses are allowed on the multi-use trails – look for signs.