Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea is home to some of the best playgrounds in Orange County and, surprisingly, a redwood grove. This is the only grove of redwoods in Orange County.
A 4-acre lake sits at the center of this expansive park.
With one of the biggest and best playgrounds around.
You’ll spot birds like coots with their black bodies and white heads, Canadian geese, and turkey vultures. On our visit, we saw TONS of woodpeckers with their telltale chatter and rollercoaster flight pattern — up-down, up-down, up-down. So don’t forget to look up into the sycamores and oaks.
Catch the Redwood Grove Trail
- Turn left as you come in the entrance and park near the playground.
- On our visit, we hit the playgrounds first. Because who can resist?
- Then we stopped at the small restroom near the tennis courts and walked towards the back of the park and the butterfly garden. We took in the view and started down the trail — not really sure that we were going the right way.
- I kept wondering if we were going the right way, because with the dusty trail and dry brush it just didn’t look like it would be possible for there to be redwoods.
- But we kept walking a big outside loop around the lake and beyond. This was an after-school trip in the winter, so we didn’t have much time or daylight. But I heard it was a short hike.
- You’ll pass a turn-off back to the park and then the trail will go past a the Carbon Canyon Dam on your right. You can hike out to that, but we didn’t have time on our visit.
- Instead, we looked up the hill in front of us and saw redwoods!
- And more and more redwoods in a shady grove!
- We returned to our car by way of exiting the trail at the top end of the lake and walking on the grass to the large bank of restrooms by the entrance before heading home.
Easier Trail Alternative
- An easier way to access the trail is to turn RIGHT at the entrance. Skip the playgrounds and drive to the back of the park where it dead-ends into a dirt lot. This would cut the hike by over half and take the playgrounds out of the equation.
- Yet another option is to go on a weekend for a FREE ranger-led walk to the grove after meeting at the small nature center.
- The trail is wide and you can see pretty far ahead, so make sure you look out for snakes and stay on the trail to avoid poison oak.
- This trail is used by mountain bikers, so be really aware of your surroundings and ready to dodge riders. Although, most of the riders were expecting walkers and seemed cautious coming around corners.
- We walked with the kids through the whole grove first — to see who else was there (college students filming a report, a family photo shoot, and other walkers). Then we set some boundaries where they could play a fun game of hide-and-seek.
- You have to pay for parking.
- There is annual maintenance of the dam which could impact trail access. And OC Parks trails are usually closed when they are muddy after it rains.
- I highly recommend an annual pass for OCParks.com. Otherwise, there is a $3 to $5 parking fee (totally worth it!!).
- Dedicated parking near the playground.
- Trail is dirt and jogger stroller-friendly.
- Bring your hiking backpack with first aid, enough water for everyone (it was hot), and snacks.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat.
- Official OCParks.com website for Carbon Canyon Regional Park
- I used this guide at HikeSpeak.com while we were there and I was unsure if we were going the right way.
- I just noticed that Josh from CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com commented on the HikeSpeak.com post — so I looked up his always-awesome reviews with amazing photos.
- Carbon Canyon Regional Park post from my site
All that’s left for you to do is go check it out!
Originally published in January 2014.
Disclosure: In appreciation of my park reporting, OC Parks presented me with an annual pass in the past. However, I would have purchased one myself – and have many times since – if I hadn’t received the gift.