Saturday, October 11, 2008

Riley Wilderness Park

Riley Wilderness Park is one of OC Parks gems and offers some of the best hiking in Orange County. Today was a great day for a hike at Riley Wilderness Park. It was a cool day and was the first day that it felt like fall in Southern California. The high for the day was in the high 60's and there was a good wind. Ashley and I decided to go hiking at Riley Wilderness Park. This was our first visit to Riley Wilderness Park and certainly was not our last one as this park is now one of our favorites! For more pictures from some of our hikes at Riley Wilderness Park make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: A map of the area can be found below with the Google map. To get to Riley Wilderness Park, coming from the 5 freeway, exit at OSO parkway and head toward the Santa Ana Mountains going through Mission Viejo. Take OSO parkway through Ladera Ranch and pass the end of the 241 toll road. Just before you reach the entrance to Coto De Caza, the entrance to Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is on the right hand side. Remember to bring 3 dollars for parking. Also, they have machines that accept credit cards. There is ample parking at this OC Parks parking area.

Description of Hike: Riley Wilderness Park is always in great shape and the trails in the park are well maintained by the people at OC Parks. It is one of the smaller wilderness parks at only 523 acres but it packs a punch. We hiked a loop using the Wagon Wheel Canyon Trail to the Oak Canyon Trail to the Mule Deer Trail to the Pheasant Run Trail back to the Wagon Wheel Canyon trail which is approximately a 3.5 mile loop. The elevation gain is minimal, approximately 300 ft. There are several trails at Riley Wilderness Park which means you can tailor your hike to how easy or difficult you want to make it. Park maps are also available at the trailheads. For a printable map of the hiking trails at Riley Wilderness Park click Here. For the Riley Wilderness Park brochure, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Riley Wilderness Park is one of the smaller OC Parks wilderness parks. It only has 523 acres of space and 5 miles of trails, but it packs a punch. Ashley and I would call it a little gem of Orange County. It is an important wildlife corridor and has areas of opens space around it. The park has a resident herd of deer. Today Ashley and I saw 10 deer during this visit to Riley Wilderness Park. During the day time they like to stay in the shade under the oak trees, is what we were told by the park ranger.

Riley Wilderness Park also has a resident bobcat in the area and it has a nice nature center with a butterfly garden. The best part about this place is it is close to Ashley and I and we did not have to drive far to see a great place like this. The view points along the trails offer spectacular views of the Santa Ana Mountains. As a hiker it just reminded me of the need to preserve areas like this for future generations to enjoy.

In all we hiked a 3.5 mile loop which was a good workout. We observed the deer along the oak canyon trail. Both Ashley and I were surprised that the park was not very busy. We also enjoyed the nature center, which had a lot of educational information about our local Orange County wildlife and their habitat. We also observed two different wood rat nests which were pretty cool. They are little communities, kind of like a condominium complex for wood rats. They have separate living areas, a nursery area for the young, and even a communal area for them to use the bathroom.

Riley Wilderness Park has a non-profit organization that helps educate kid and the community on the importance of preserving the remaining areas of Orange County wilderness. Organizations like these play an important role in educating the future generation of the need of preserving wilderness and open space for future generations.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 300 ft. (Easy), Distance: 3.5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours.


October 11, 2008 (This Post)

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.