Riley Wilderness Park

Riley Wilderness Park is one of OC Parks gems and offers some of the best hiking in Orange County. Riley Wilderness Park is our favorite local park for hiking. It is truly a gem in Orange County and it is an Orange County hike the whole family can enjoy together. It offers visitors a great opportunity to view local Orange County wildlife as well as the chance to do a fun short hike through a scenic wilderness area. The best time to visit the park is during the evening. For more pictures of 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 HereFor the Riley Wilderness Park brochure, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed our most recent hike in Riley Wilderness Park. We were fortunate enough to see a lot of wildlife while we were hiking in the park. We saw a tarantula, two skunks, and four deer while we were hiking in the park. One of the neat things was the pond at the park still had water in it deep into the summer months. It was exciting to see the water because it shows how much rain we received this past rainy season. When you get close to the waters edge you can see, a ton of animal tracks from the animals visiting the pond to get a drink. The best thing about Riley Wilderness Park is it has the most visible wildlife out of any of the OC Parks wilderness parks we have visited.

Riley Wilderness Park also has a Non-Profit organization that helps educate students and the community on the importance of wilderness open space preserves. They host a number of events throughout the year. Riley Wilderness Park also has a great nature center that is open mostly on the weekend with interactive exhibits as well as an outdoor butterfly garden. The nature center at Riley Wilderness Park is perfect for kids and is a must visit at Riley Wilderness Park. The view points along the trails in Riley Wilderness Park offer spectacular views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the greater Orange County area. Particularly, the view atop skink vista is very nice. Both Ashley and I highly recommend any hike in this Orange County Wilderness Park as it is in our opinion it offers the best day hiking in Orange County.

For more pictures of the Wildlife at Riley Wilderness Park click Here and Here.

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

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours.


August 7, 2011 (This Post)

View Riley Wilderness Park Hike in a larger map


  1. Thank you so much for posting about this place! I visited today, and it was amazing! Probably the best hiking experience I have had in Orange County. It was a great time with my toddler. We saw lots of deer! So peaceful. Thank you for sharing :)

  2. This is a great post. I will definitely take my 2 kids there this Sunday.


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