Mediterranean Diet

Visiting Niguel Botanical Preserve in Orange County

Visiting Niguel Botanical Preserve in Orange County

Plant species: 2,000. Miles of hiking trails: 34. Acres of land: 18. Days open per week: 7. Entry Fee: $0. Experiencing a secret garden of tranquility in the middle of Orange County: priceless.

Niguel Botanical Preserve in Laguna Nigel is indeed a delightful find—full of beauty, as well as inspiration for any home gardener. It’s a “Mediterranean climate demonstration garden,” meaning everything you see can theoretically be grown at home. Not that the preserve is limited to natives. It also features vegetation from the similar climates of Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Baja California.

Start at the Children’s Garden to the southwest of the beautiful new amphitheater. You’ll find a majestic, acacia-shaded butterfly bench next to a butterfly statue in the center of a manicured hedge display. There’s a rose garden here too, flanked by the dense Australian Forest full of fascinating flora such as grevillea, also known as the spider flower or toothbrush plant due to its orange-bristled buds. Here too is the firewheel tree with its alien-like red ornamental umbel flowers. Continue up the steep path to the highest point of the preserve (about a mile’s walk), where there’s a formal garden and plenty of benches surrounding a beautifully designed labyrinth. A “meditative tool for reflection and growth,” the sign says. It also doubles as an epic panoramic viewpoint that includes a head-on vista of Saddleback Mountain, the apex of Orange County.

From there, it’s up to you to explore the countless tangling trails. You’ll pass by aloe, agave, and bougainvillea and stroll beneath oaks, palms, and eucalyptus. You can’t actually get lost, but it’s fun to lose yourself in the maze of paths. Eventually they all go down-canyon toward the preserve entrance, and the end of a priceless day.

Take the I-5 to the Crown Valley Parkway exit and head west. After 3 miles, you’ll see the Laguna Niguel Parks and Recreation Center, which includes the preserve, on your right. Park and pick up a map at the Crown Valley Park entrance. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. From Town to Falls

    Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. Do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

    View
  2. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike.

    View
  3. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park waterfall hike in Sonoma Valley

    Sweet as Sugarloaf

    Right in the heart of wine country there’s plenty more than wine flowing right now, with an oft unheralded waterfall that surges to an exuberant spectacle from all the recent rain.

    View
  4. Sponsored

    Sonoma Valley's 100 Days of Winter Wellness Guide

    This winter wellness plan goes to 100! Nurture yourself in 2024 with Sonoma Valley’s 100 Days of Winter Wellness guide. It’s a perfectly curated array of inspiration and ideas.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. A woman stands at Dante's View in Death Valley, looking out to Telescope Peak and Manly Lake, Badwater Basin below.

    Sunset Hike (and Manly Lake Vista!) at Dante's View

    It’s one of the world’s best places to watch a sunset. Dante’s View is a 5,476-foot vantage of the whole southern basin of Death Valley from the top of the Black Mountains. On clear days you get views of both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous U.S. 

    View
  2. Skull On!

    Temescal Canyon not only has epic views, it's got a waterfall right now, one that only shows after big rains. Head out on this 4.6-mile loop.

    View
  3. Woman hiking on the trail at Trebek Open Space in Los Angeles County

    Trebek Open Space

    While most hikers head over to adjacent Runyon Canyon, instead do the 2-mile hike at Trebek Open Space and pay your respects to the legendary Jeopardy host and philanthropist, Alex Trebek.

    View
  4. Woman on Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park

    Starry Night & Dark Sky Adventures

    You don’t have to stay out all that late to experience eminent stargazing at Death Valley National Park. The park's been given the highest ranking of darkness by the International Dark-Sky Association. Here are a trio of amazing ways to witness the mesmerizing night sky at Death Valley:

    View