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Riley Wilderness Park in Coto de Caza

Riley Wilderness Park in Coto de Caza

My family and I explored Riley Wilderness Park near the entrance to Coto de Caza at the east end of Oso Parkway.

We didn’t know we’d find such a peaceful spot. The wind whipped through our hair and the dry grass rustled as we hiked the ridge viewing the surrounding mountains.

I liked visiting on a June gloom day. The clouds were breaking up in the afternoon and it was cool enough to be enjoyable. We’ve since visited when the hills were green in March and it’s also a good time to explore.

Directions to Riley Wilderness Park: Exit Interstate 5 at Oso Parkway and head east following the signs to Riley Wilderness Park. Don’t miss the right turn (before the Wagon Wheel entrance sign) to enter the park. It’s a short drive on a dirt road to the parking area on your left. There are signs posted warning the park can be closed for up to three days after a rain – you’ll discover the reason as you drive over a big dip/creekbed. [Address: 30952 Oso Parkway, Coto de Caza] MAP TO RILEY WILDERNESS PARK


The open space at this park provides easy hiking trails for kids.

There is a lovely picnic area right under the oak trees near the parking area.

Beautiful butterfly garden with kid-friendly exhibits (bridges to climb over, an artificial tree stump to climb in, a fountain visited by ravens, bunnies jumping through the underbrush).

Small, but educational visitor center filled with activities for kids. Lots of items for touching and close examination. This nature center is on my list of 17+ Family-Friendly Nature Centers in Orange County.

I’m still amazed at the projects scouts created for the enjoyment of all.

Super nice rangers who sent us on our way with maps and information.

Be Aware:

  • Sometimes the entrance gate will be closed up to 3 days after a rain or some unforeseen reason. You will know because the gates will be locked. And you can always check the website ahead of time.
  • Dogs not allowed.
  • It can be SUPER hot here in the summer (still, there’s a nice shady grove of oaks, shade at the visitor center, and shade along some parts of the trails)
  • Definitely a wildlife setting. Be aware. Talk to the rangers about precautions at the given time and day you visit. When I was there in March, there were rattlesnake signs posted everywhere and a mountain lion warning sign near the parking pay station. These beings are definitely present, but the nice wide trails give you a pretty clear view of what’s ahead.
  • Bring water and basic first aid out on the trails.
  • Do not leave any valuables in the car. Any trailhead is a prime location for items being stolen from your vehicle.


  • Parking in a dirt parking lot. I highly recommend getting an OCParks parking pass (see fees) or pay $3-$5 at the yellow automated pay station.
  • Portable toilets in the parking lot.
  • Drinking fountain in butterfly garden and near parking lot.
  • Shade from sycamores and oaks.
  • Dogs not allowed.
  • Official Riley Wilderness Park website by

Parks nearby Riley Wilderness Park:

Originally published in June 2009.

Family Photography: from Southern California to their new Texas Home | The Pradhan Studios Family Photography

Thursday 21st of August 2014

[…] Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park in Trabuco Canyon. With big, beautiful rolling hills of native grass that glow like a golden sea as the sun sets behind the western side does have the reminiscence of a Texas ranch. Gnarled trees dot the wide landscape, and provide the much needed canopy of shade in a dry creek-bed. […]

Michele-Play Parks

Wednesday 17th of June 2009

My favorites are always ones with ocean views - so you can check the categories on the left and choose from "with ocean view" for a good selection. You are on the right track with Laguna Beach.


Wednesday 17th of June 2009

Looks awesome! Hey Michele - what would be your number one pick for most scenic park in OC? Looking for a fun park to take a family picnic this weekend for Father's Day. I was thinking of Bluebird Park in Laguna? Any others stand out???

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