To reach the Trailhead, to hike at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, from the 405 freeway, exit on MacArthur Blvd and head towards the beach/airport. Make a right onto Campus Drive. Follow Campus drive, which turns into Irvine Avenue, past the 73 freeway/toll road and the Newport Beach Golf Course. Make a left onto University Drive and Make a right turn into the parking lot. One of the great things about hiking at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is that the parking is free. For an address for the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve click Here.
Further Thoughts: Upper Newport Bay is a great place to hike if you only have a little time to get away to a natural setting. Ashley and I have came here multiple times to hike after I got off of work in the evenings. There is ample parking for cars and the best part is parking at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is free. There are a couple of nice picnic tables so that you can enjoy a lunch or dinner overlooking the scenic preserve. The Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center is a great place to go inside, it has many educational things for both kids and adults. If you are looking for a quick day trip with the family this is a great option. Restrooms are also located at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.
The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve totals approximately 140 acres, bordering the greater ecological reserve of Newport Back Bay. The entire Nature Preserve is made up of the bluffs surrounding the Bay. Three sensitive species use the bluffs: The California Gnat-catcher, San Diego Cactus Wren, and the Burrowing Owl. Two important plant communities are found on the bluffs - grasslands and coastal sage scrub. Upper Newport Ecological Reserve totals 752 acres. This coastal wetland, one of the largest in Southern California, is renowned as one of the finest bird watching sites in North America. During winter migration up to 35,000 birds may be using Upper Newport Bay at one time. It is home to six rare or endangered species: Light Footed Clapper Rail, Brown Pelican, Belding's Savannah Sparrow, Black Rail, Peregrine Falcon and California Least Tern. The Upper Newport Bay is home to one endangered plant species - Salt-marsh Bird's Beak. Considered a "critical estuary" habitat - Upper Newport Bay is one of the most pristine remaining estuaries in Orange County and Southern California.
When we have hiked at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, we have seen numerous species of birds, ground squirrels, as well as little stingrays swimming in the back bay. Click Here, for pictures of stingrays we have seen while on our hikes at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. We have seen crabs in the water as well as fish. Additionally, we have even seen a California King snake while on one of our hikes at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Click Here, for pictures of the California King Snake we saw while hiking at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve in Orange County.
The bottom-line is the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is the type of park that you go to to take in the wilderness/natural scenery preserved between the urban interfaces of Orange County. It is a fun short hike that is kid friendly. Addition you have a great chance of seeing local Orange County wildlife so make sure to have your camera ready! There is limited shade while on this hike, so make sure to wear sunscreen or bring a hat if you hike here on a warm day. One minor negative to some people would be the fact that the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve lies in the path of the take-off pattern for John Wayne Airport. However, if you bring kids to hike and explore this park they would probably enjoy seeing the planes take off.
Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Easy).
Time to Complete Hike: 30 - 45 Minutes.
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