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How To Enjoy the Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center, Even When It’s Closed

How To Enjoy the Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center, Even When It’s Closed

The Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center is a great bonus trip after you visit the playground. The Nature Center sits atop a hill overlooking the park and features a lookout tower to take in the beautiful views. Caspers is part of Orange County’s regional park system. Look for more information on the OFFICIAL website.

Directions to Caspers Nature Center: From Interstate 5, take Ortega Highway toward the foothills (east). Your drive will wind around and then a sign will warn you of the  park entrance coming up on your left. Be ready for it.  Once you stop at the gate, you will drive into the park past the campground on your right, across the road over the creek, to park to the stop sign past the day use area. Turn left up the hill and park at the Nature Center. Or better yet, park at the playground and walk up the road to the Nature Center – just watch for cars.  MAP to Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano


  • “Open on weekends” is what you’ll see on the signs and hear from the rangers. However, the best nature centers don’t need to be open to be worth a visit.
  • Caspers is no exception with its lookout platform, bird and squirrel feeder, plus the short nature trail outside the center.
  • The lookout platform above the nature center is certainly its best feature. The nature center volunteers told me it’s accessible even when the center is closed. Climb the white staircase to the second floor office level, then climb another staircase to get the best views. There’s a sign at the top telling you about the view.
  • I sat outside at the bird feeder for quite a while watching all the action. I got to see a California quail share a snack with squirrel. Plus I saw lots of jays and finches, as well.
  • We did get a chance to go inside (on our weekend visit) and talk with the very knowledgeable volunteers inside.  There are buttons to press for animal sounds, tracks to make with stamps in a sand pit, and a hut to climb in. It’s small, but educational. I learned what to call broken off sycamore trees: snags. And what they are good for: animal houses.
  • Outside, plants are marked. We saw wildflowers, a hummingbird, a lizard, a grasshopper and listened to the breeze as we walked the short interpretive trail loop that starts near the ore cart in the parking lot.

Be Aware:

  • The Nature Center tends to only be open on weekends. Dependent on volunteer staffing.
  • This is a wilderness area. Be aware of your surroundings.


Originally published in April 2010.


Monday 20th of September 2010

We camped their last June. My wife and four children had a great time hiking on the trails, I was afraid some of the trails would be too rugged but that was not the case. The showers were open twenty four hours (no quarters required), and the campgrounds were kept fairly clean. We cooked steaks for dinner, then caught the nature program at 8 pm. My family loved Ranger "Super Joe's" stories and songs about the animals that made you want to both laugh and cry. In general we had a great time, and plan on going back again.


Tuesday 27th of April 2010

My kiddos love nature centers, too, because they're such a great introduction to wherever you happen to be visiting. But I agree that the best part is heading outside to explore the surroundings.

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