The James and Rosemary Nix Nature Center is the headquarters for the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The center is the gateway for recreational users to explore the vast network of trails throughout the 20,000-acre South Coast Regional Wilderness.
The nature center features interactive displays, interpretive panels, fossil-embedded rock work, audio recordings, projected images, art, and artifacts.
The nature center’s picture windows frame four main views into the surrounding park lands. Visitors can hike up Little Sycamore Canyon and enjoy the view or take the trail underneath Laguna Canyon road to Barbara’s Lake. The lake is the only natural occurring lake in Orange County.
Hiking through the scenic canyons it is hard to believe that just over the next hills is urban development. Arrive early in the summer time the afternoon heat can be intense. Bring plenty of water and some good hiking shoes. They are plenty of shady areas for a picnic after a hike.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s 7,000 acres are part of the South Coast Wilderness area, comprised of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, The City of Irvine Open Space, and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
Trails from the Nix Nature center connect to the Laguna Coast and Aliso, Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks, and Crystal Cove State Park. many of the trails are quite steep and not suited for a family hike.
Weekend Activities Guide
Barbara’s Lake Trail
The trek to Barbara’s lake is fairly level and an easy hike.
Barbara’s Lake is one of the “Laguna Lakes” the only natural freshwater lakes in Orange County. The hike to the lake from the Nix Nature Center is about two miles.
For a shorter hike to Barbara’s Lake park in the James Dilley Preserve parking lot off Laguna Canyon Road just north of the 73. A word of caution rattlesnakes can found in this area
The Laguna Canyon Foundation offers fitness hikes, geology hikes, family bike rides and California native plants hikes during the year, many of them depart from the Nix Nature Center.
Laguna Canyon Road
Situated along Laguna Canyon road there are several other parking lots that have trails into the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
Parking areas are located at Willow Canyon on Laguna Canyon Road, just south of El Toro Road, James Dilley Preserve on Laguna Canyon Road, just north of the 73 toll road.
You can also reach the wilderness park from Laguna Heights, Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park at Top of the World neighborhood and Ridge Park in Newport Coast.
Big Bend on Laguna Canyon Road, south of Willow Canyon has a staging area for equestrians and a parking lot.
Where is the Nix Nature Center
The Nix Nature Center is located at 18751 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s Little Sycamore Canyon staging area, 3.5 miles south of the I-405 and Route 133 interchange.
On weekends, the parking lot will fill up so arrive early. The Nix Nature Center is on the small side, but there are some very interesting exhibits plus clean restrooms.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including holidays, with free admission. The parking lot is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.