Orange County is home to some of the most beautiful protected wilderness areas in the entire country. Come experience and enjoy the natural landscape. Lace up your hiking shoes or saddle up your horse, and sign up for a free hike or equestrian ride today, and see Orange County as it was yesterday, and as it will be tomorrow.

Hosted by Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and made possible by Measure M2. Events are free of charge. Space is limited. Hikers/equestrian riders must be age 12 or over, and equestrian riders must bring their own horse. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All attendees must fill out and sign a liability waiver.

About the Wilderness Areas

Aliso Canyon Preserve (Laguna beach)

The Aliso Canyon Preserve is a 151-acre parcel located in the Southeast portion of the City of Laguna Beach. It is adjacent to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, as well as Moulton Meadows Park. The Preserve serves as the final open space connection between the south end of the Laguna Greenbelt, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, and the sea.

OCTA’s acquisition of Aliso Canyon will allow for the area to be preserved as open space, ensuring the preservation of wildlife mobility as well as various sensitive species in the area. The Preserve features a variety of habitats, including chaparral, grassland, and coastal sage scrub.

Ferber Ranch preserve (Trabuco Canyon)

The Ferber Ranch Preserve is a 399-acre parcel located northwest of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in Trabuco Canyon. It’s bordered by the Cleveland National Forest to the north and Trabuco Creek to the south, while Hickey Creek drains the western side. The Preserve features rolling terrain with elevations ranging from 1,120 to 1,650 feet above mean sea level.

The acquisition of this preserve contributes to the EMP’s goal of joining together adjacent open space areas in the foothills, while at the same time limiting urban encroachment. 

 

O'Neill Oaks preserve (Trabuco Canyon)  

The O’Neill Oaks Preserve is a 118-acre parcel located northwest of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in Trabuco Canyon, and immediately north of O’Neill Regional Park and Trabuco Creek. 

The acquisition of this preserve contributes to the EMP’s goal of joining together adjacent open space areas in the foothills, while at the same time limiting urban encroachment. Major mammals expected to use these corridors include mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and gray foxes. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I park?

Upon registration, you will receive a confirmation email with specific directions to the reserved offsite parking areas. Please note that parking is limited so carpooling is strongly encouraged.


are the EVENTS free?

Yes, there is no charge for the hikes and equestrian rides.  
 

DOES OCTA PROVIDE HORSES FOR THE EQUESTRIAN RIDES?

OCTA does not provide horses. Attendees that wish to bring their own horse via trailer must notify OCTA during registration in order to be properly accommodated.


Are there bathrooms?

Upon registration, you will receive a confirmation email which will include a brief description of the amenities/facilities available at each OCTA Wilderness Preserve. There are no bathrooms at the Ferber Ranch and O’Neill Oaks Preserves, but there are nearby bathrooms at the Aliso Canyon Preserve.  


How should I prepare for the hike?

Hikers are encouraged to wear hats, light-colored pants and hiking/tennis shoes. It is important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun and heat with proper clothing and sunblock.


IS THERE WATER AVAILABLE?

Bottled water and light refreshments will be available by OCTA staff for all Wilderness Preserve hikes.
 

WHAT KIND OF WILDLIFE IS ON THESE PRESERVES?

Various wildlife is on the OCTA Wilderness Preserves and can be unpredictable, so always stay on the trail and be aware of your surroundings. On the Ferber Ranch and O’Neill Oaks Preserves, wildlife include rattlesnakes, bobcats, coyotes, deer, and mountain lions. On the Aliso Canyon Preserve, wildlife include bobcats and rattlesnakes.
 

CAN I BRING A PET – DOG?

Pets are not permitted on any of the OCTA Wilderness Preserves hikes or equestrian rides. 

CAN I BRING A BIKE, STROLLER, WAGON, ETC.?

Bikes, strollers or wagons are not allowed on any of the OCTA Wilderness Preserves hikes or equestrian rides.


ARE CHILDREN ALLOWED?

Each participant must be at least 12 years of age during the OCTA Wilderness Preserves hikes or equestrian rides. All attendees must complete a liability waiver.  


IS THERE SHADE OR SITTING AREAS TO REST?

The tour guides will evaluate the group and set the pace. Please note that at any point you may ask to rest or leave the hike or equestrian ride. There are no sitting areas on the OCTA Wilderness Preserves. There is some shade on the Ferber Ranch and O’Neill Oaks Preserves, but no shade on the Aliso Canyon Preserve.

IS SMOKING PERMITTED?

No smoking will be permitted on any of the OCTA Wilderness Preserves.
 

HOW LONG IS THE HIKE OR EQUESTRIAN RIDE?

Upon registration, you will receive a confirmation email which will include a brief description of the route/distance of each OCTA Wilderness Preserve. The hikes at the Ferber Ranch and O’Neill Oaks Preserves are considered moderate and last approximately one hour and the hike on the Aliso Canyon Preserve is considered moderate to strenuous and lasts about two hours.  
 

Are the hikes and equestrian rides guided?

OCTA staff participates in all Wilderness Preserve hikes and are available for a guided tour. The equestrian rides are docent led.  
 

Do I have to complete a liability waiver?

Yes, all attendees must fill out and sign a liability waiver in order to participate in any OCTA Wilderness Preserve hikes or equestrian rides.


Could a hike or equestrian ride be cancelled?

Yes, dates and times are subject to change at OCTA’s discretion due to high wind advisories, rain, or muddy conditions.  

About Measure M2

The Measure M2 Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program allocates funds to acquire land and fund habitat restoration projects in exchange for streamlined project approvals for the 13 M2 freeway improvement projects. Acquired properties are purchased and permanently preserved as open space. Funded restoration projects restore preserved open space lands to their native habitat and include the removal of invasive plant species.

In November 2010, the Board allocated $42 million to purchase open space in Orange County during the first round of funding. To date, OCTA has acquired more than 1300 acres in Brea, Laguna Beach, Silverado Canyon, and Trabuco Canyon. Approximately $2.3 million remains for additional acquisitions during this first round of funding.

Since 2010, a total of 11 restoration projects have been funded throughout Orange County. Approximately $10 million has been allocated to restore about 400 acres of open space land. Additional funds for acquisitions and restoration will be available subsequent to the completion of the current expenditure. Available funds will be dependent on the sales tax revenue stream in the future.

 

Contact Us

For more information, please feel free to contact us.

Marissa Espino,
Community Relations Officer

Email: mespino@octa.net
Phone: 714.560.5607

Website: Environmental Mitigation on OCTA.net