Skip to Content

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is a 544-acre wilderness park located in Coto De Caza, California. It is a wildlife sanctuary with abundant plant and animal life, seasonal creeks, old groves of Coast Live Oaks and Western Sycamores, and rolling hills and canyons.

Riley has multi-use trails for people and equestrians. There are also many Ranger led programs for both adult and youth visitors, and serves as an outdoor classroom for students and youth groups to explore the wildlife and habitat here.

Riley Wilderness Park

Other amenities available include picnic tables, portable restrooms, drinking fountains and handicap access to the visitor center. Parking accommodates up to 50 vehicles with space for horse trailers.

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park Details 

Address: 30952 Oso Parkway, Coto De Caza, CA 92679
Phone: 949-923-2265
Email: [email protected]
Website: https://www.ocparks.com/riley
Park Hours: Sun – Sat: 7:00 AM – Sunset
Parking: $3 daily. Machine accepts $1 bills and quarters or Visa/Master Card

Dogs are not permitted at Riley Wilderness Park

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park Map

What’s At Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park

Trails

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park has five miles of multi-use and single-track trails. All trails are open for hiking, biking, trail running and horseback riding.

There are two scenic overlooks for views of surrounding Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains. Skink Vista Point can be accessed by hiking to the end of the Vista Ridge Trail. This trail is rated moderate and has a pretty good climb to get the the vista point.

Horned Toad Vista Point can be accessed by taking the Oak Canyon Trail to the Horned Toad Trail. Oak Canyon is an easy trail, but Horned Toad has a moderate climb to the lookout.

The Wagon Wheel Canyon Trail is an easy 2 mile hike along the border of the park from north to south.

For an easy 2+ mile hike through the Wilderness Park, take the Mule Deer Trail to the Oak Canyon Trail. Branch off to the Sycamore Loop trail to enjoy a stroll beneath the sycamores, then reconnect to the Oak Canyon Trail.

Ranger Station & Butterfly Garden

The Ranger Station located within the park boundaries is a hands-on classroom for all ages. There are a variety of interpretive displays that showcase the park’s wildlife inhabitants and local history, a large deck for picnicking and enjoying the views, and informational bulletin boards. 

Outside of the station building is a one-acre native plant butterfly garden. The garden is in full bloom in April and May, and the butterflies follow soon after. Other pollinators like bees and hummingbirds are also attracted to the colorful flowers here.

Rangers also offer a variety of educational programs and self-guided hikes. These programs provide opportunities to learn about the importance of this sanctuary and the need to preserve the wildlife. The outdoor classroom can cater to students of all ages, local scouts programs and other youth-oriented organizations.

Equestrians 

The park is very friendly for both people and horse visitors. In the parking lot there is ample trailer parking. Also for equestrians, there are 4 pipe corrals and a watering fountain. 

Riley Wilderness Park Information

All amenities:

  • Biking and hiking trails
  • Equestrian trails
  • Equestrian corral
  • Interpretive center with programs
  • Portable Restrooms
  • Family picnic area
  • Small amphitheater/outdoor classroom area

Motorized vehicles including e-bikes and motorized scooters are not allowed in the park, and minors must be with an adult at all times. Wildlife is present in the park including mountain lions and rattlesnakes.

Riley Wilderness Park welcomes volunteers! Fill out a volunteer application to participate by helping with garden work, completing small projects, staffing booths at events, patrolling the trails, and more.

Riley Wilderness Park History

Riley Wilderness Park is part of Wagon Wheel Canyon and was included in the 1845 land grant of over 47,000 acres from Gov. Pio Pico to John Forster. Forster sold the land to James Flood and Richard O’Neill Sr., who turned it into one of the areas largest ranchos of its time.

Orange County acquired the property in 1983, and the wilderness park officially opened in 1994.


Related Articles

Orange County Wilderness PreservesBlack Star Canyon Wilderness Park
Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness ParkLimestone Canyon Wilderness Park
Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness ParkWhiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus