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Nix Nature Center at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Nix Nature Center at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Our unplanned visit to Nix Nature Center on the westbound side of Laguna Canyon/SR 133 turned out to be a pleasant surprise and an awesome family outing.

The rangers at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park were exceedingly helpful and informative. I wanted to spend all day there.

The Laguna Canyon Foundation is a non-profit “dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the 22,000-acre South Coast Wilderness.”

This nature center sits in beautiful Laguna Canyon and made it onto my list of 17+ Family Friendly Nature Centers in Orange County.

How to Get to Nix Nature Center: If you are traveling from the Interstate 405, take the Laguna Canyon Road/SR 133 exit towards Laguna Beach. Be watching out on the right side for the turn off into the parking lot.  There are deep dips, acting as drainage ditches, as you drive into the dirt parking lot so take it slow.  The 73 Tollroad and Pacific Coast Highway are alternate ways of reaching the Center. MAP to the Nix Nature Center – Headquarters of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park


You’ll immediately feel a connection to the wilderness surrounding you. The biodiversity here always blows me away! Not only do you see wildlife and native plants here, there is just a huge variety!

Talk to the very friendly rangers about getting the scavenger hunt to Mary’s Trail (a short 1/2 mile loop near the Center).

Explore the Nature Center – there’s lots to touch: corn to mash and fossils to dig up.

Personally, I loved the Adirondack chairs on the deck leading to the trails. They invite you to turn your back on the rush of life and sit facing the mountains and chaparral to contemplate your connection to nature.

Lots of wildlife to view — we saw raptors, lizards, rabbits, and insects. We even ran into our first rattlesnake on a short trail through the parking lot. I didn’t stop to take photos, but it was a thrill to see one.

There are events and programs at the nature center ranging from restoration projects to storytimes and bird walks.

We got there too late, but there is also a hike under the roadway to a lake. You can hike to the lake from here or park at the Dilley Preserve lot. Here is a post about the Easy Laguna Beach Hike to Barbara’s Lake from the Dilley lot. I have since hiked to the lake from the nature center and I actually prefer it to Mary’s Trail.

Be Aware

  • It’s a wilderness park. Get out and experience it. Always ask the rangers about trail and park conditions. Then use common sense precautions: stay on the trail, keep ahead of the kids so you can scout out any hazards, and bring plenty of water.
  • Nature Center open 9am-2pm on weekends and 8am-3:30pm on M-F (exit gate closes at 5pm so make sure you are out in time)
  • Fee parking — your OCParks annual pass is good here or pay the $3-$5. Well worth it!
  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dusty
  • No playground – nature is your playground
  • On our first visit during the month of February, we spotted a rattlesnake in the parking lot area – and I have a blogging buddy who had the same experience in March. We were there in May 2024 on our most recent visit and the wildlife sighting board inside the nature center noted a Diamondback Rattlesnake on Mary’s Trail. Not a spot for the kids to run ahead.


Originally published October 2009.


Monday 21st of January 2013

Thanks for the post on this place, we frequent Muth and the ENC but hadn't been to Nix, so I took both kids today (6 and 3). We did the hike to the lake and back, and I only had to carry the younger one here and there. (ranger told us it was about a mile and a half.) They really enjoyed it there, especially since the ranger gave us some cards to look for things on our walk, and told them they'd get a "prize" after if they found them. (They got pedometers, pretty cool.) My son was very disappointed we didn't see any rattlesnakes, like you, but was excited that we did see a lizard! :) We'll definitely go back. (Bringing plenty of water is good tip, we depleted my water bottle and could have used a bit more.)

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