(credit: VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Orange County is famous for sunny coastlines and summer retreats, but its inland climate and terrain allow for a wide variety of flora to take root and put on a fall festival of color. An extensive park system takes advantage of the rolling hills and canyons that make up a large portion of Orange County’s topography, and within these parks, sycamore, maple, willow and oak trees abound, in addition to the various wildflowers that bloom year-round. A well-tended trail system makes it easy to take a leisurely stroll under the red, yellow and orange woodland canopy, or hike up one of the many hills for a panoramic view of Orange County’s flamboyant fall foliage.
Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains is the beautiful and expansive Irvine Regional Park. Paved roads allow for a relaxing bike ride or leisurely stroll under a canopy of brilliant sycamore and oak trees. A network of hiking trails across the Santiago Creek bed provides a more active way to enjoy the natural festival of colors and the challenging Puma Ridge trail overlooks the park and offers a colorful spectacle for those willing to make the climb. A large pond located in the center of the park offers a resplendent lakeside scene as the fiery fall foliage is reflected on the water, and visitors can rent pedal boats for a different view of the dynamic fall colors.
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
29322 Modjeska Canyon
Silverado, CA 92676
Set a little off the beaten path, the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary offers a pristine view of the Modjeska Canyon in all of its natural autumnal glory. This densely wooded canyon is home to a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees, the most colorful of which are the bigleaf maples which put on a fiery display each fall. Three trails offer slightly different aspects of the native flora and fauna, but the Chaparral Trail is the best for capturing panoramic vistas of this secluded picturesque setting. Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visit venue, and a quiet visual treat for photographers, artists and lovers of nature.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Forty miles of trails, including ridgelines that overlook Laguna Canyon, offer vibrant autumn vistas of the willow, sycamore and oak trees that comprise this woodland area. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, or horseback riding, this vast network of trails provides an active way to capture the natural warm palette offered by the change in seasons. Take the Little Sycamore trail for a short, steep climb up to the Serrano Ridge, where photographers and artists can capture a breath-taking bird’s eye view of the Laguna coast on one side, and the wooded canyon on the other. Visitors seeking a spectacle of color will not be disappointed, and with 7,000 acres of woodland to explore, one visit will simply not be enough to take it all in.
William R. Mason Regional Park
18712 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
Perhaps the most inviting feature of Mason Regional Park is the way the emblazoned foliage of the shade trees reflects off the surface of the vast nine-acre lake, creating a vibrant scene reminiscent of classic impressionist paintings. Conveniently located just off of University Drive in Irvine, the park offers an extensive walking trail for a leisurely fall stroll under the arbors, as well as a network of bike trails just east of Culver Drive. In addition to the more traditional park experience, Mason Regional Park offers a wilderness area for a more natural outdoors feeling. For visitors willing to follow the trails to Ridgeline Drive and the Turtle Rock Loop, a gorgeous view overlooking the city of Irvine yields even more beauty for the eyes to behold.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
28373 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Located south of Highway 133 and the 73 Freeway, the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park offers up an eyeful of ardent autumn foliage along its 30 miles of trails. With ridgeline and riparian trails, and a handful of scenic lookouts along the way, visitors to this park can soak in the gorgeous scenery that includes brilliantly colored sycamores, as well as oak an elderberry trees. For a truly magnificent view, hike up to the Top of the World, a must-visit vantage point along the West Ridge. Bring your binoculars and a camera for a remarkable varicolored view to remember.