Pages Navigation Menu

Things to do in Orange County for OC Moms

Categories Navigation Menu

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park (Riley Park) boasts 544 acres of beautiful, natural, open space. While its five miles of trails are popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, and it’s vast natural fields are growing in popularity with photographers, it seems little known to the general public.

IMG_6186 IMG_6246

The amenities at Riley Park include:

  • Amphitheater
  • Bicycling/Bike Trails
  • Equestrian Trails
  • Family Picnic Area
  • Hiking Trails
  • Interpretive Center
  • Interpretive Programs
  • Restrooms (Portable)
  • Scenic Overlook
  • Picnic Tables


The five miles of open trails are a joy for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. But because it remains somewhat of a “secret spot,” it is generally never very crowded.  And even on a “busy” Saturday morning, it’s vast trails provide isolation hard to find in most parts of Orange County.




Amenities for equestrians are available directly adjacent to the parking lot.


The amphitheater would be a beautiful setting for a small, rustic wedding ceremony.


History of Wagon Wheel Canyon in the foreground of a large shaded picnic area.


This bench scattered off the picnic area is perfect for a little break.


Riley Park is located inland of the 5 Freeway where Oso Parkway deadends into the South entrance of Coto de Caza. Because of it’s open space and  location in a relatively undeveloped area in Orange County, Riley is a wildlife sanctuary where a number of native plants and animals make their home.

You will find local varieties such as Western Sycamores, Coast Live Oaks, Coastal Sage Scrub, and more.


Topography includes rolling hills and two seasonally flowing creeks.


Native animals abound in the park. In the early mornings deer can often be seen on the trails.



Mountain Lions and Rattle Snakes are also known to be in the area, so use caution. One thing to note is that dogs are not permitted in the park, presumably due to predatory danger.


One of my family’s favorite parts of Riley Park is the butterfly garden.


The garden is a one acre plot of land situated next to the visitor center that has been planted with special specie of plants that are known to attract not only adult butterflies, but also caterpillars. This makes it the perfect habitat for the complete butterfly lifecycle!


The butterflies in this garden are not netted, but free flying, and able to come in and out of the garden as they please. Some years the butterfly population flourishes, and some years it is scarce. The butterflies usually make their appearance sometime in Spring. Generally speaking the best time to spot them are warm, still days in the summer months.


Even if your visit does not lead to successful butterfly sightings, the garden is still lovely and educational to peruse.



Lizard lodge is a fun place to take a peak and spot lizards snoozing in the warm sun.


And the native plants used to attract the butterflies are all beautiful, and labeled for your educational pleasure.






Parking at Riley Park is available for approximately 50 cars and horse trailers.  As you can see, it’s rarely a problem to find a spot. The parking fee is $3 daily, and the machine accepts $1 bills and quarters or Visa/Master Card.



Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is located at:
30952 Oso Parkway
Coto De Caza, CA 92679.
(949) 923-2265
[email protected]

Park Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset.


Pick an afternoon for a walk though the butterfly garden, or a Saturday morning for a family hike.  Riley Park will not disappoint.


Mollie is a wife to a wonderful man and stay at home Mama to two beautiful and energetic little girls. She has lived in South Orange County for most of her life and enjoys crafting, running, clean and natural living, party planning, and being involved in her community and church. She believes that being a Mom was and is her highest calling and attempts to give her girls a wide array of different experiences. From soccer cleats to tutus, running races to finding the perfect hair bow, she wants them to grow up knowing that they can be both girly and strong.
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Connect With Us

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *