Barbara's Lake and the Nix Nature Center - the Perfect Family Starter Hike - South OC Moms

Barbara Lake


Located in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Barbara’s Lake is Orange County’s only natural lake. You can enjoy a lovely scenic hike to with your family. This is a fun quick starter trail for you and the kids. Not to mention you can enjoy some fun at Nix Nature Center either before or after your hike. Pack up the stroller, kids, snacks and head on over to Nix Nature Center to take in a beautiful lake right here in the heart of Orange County.


Where is Barbara’s Lake?

Barbara’s Lake is the only natural lake in Orange County. It’s on the south side of Laguna Canyon/SR 133 in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park . There is no parking right next to the lake, so you will need to park and hike to the lake to get a close look.


Where do you park to hike?

There are two places you can park, one will encounter a 3 mile roundtrip hike and one will be only a mile from Nix Nature Center. For a child friendly hike, I suggest the hike from the Nix Nature Center. But I do list both parking locations below. The hike I will show below, will be from Nix Nature Center.

For the little longer hike from Dilley: You will want to park at Dilley Greenbelt Preserve parking area. You can either enter your annual pass or a credit card. You will need to put the ticket back in your car dashboard.

For the shorter hike from Nix: This is where we parked. If you want to visit the Nix Nature Center first, you  sure can but I saved it as a fun reward for my kids after the hike. From this lot you will find a Map and a trail head to head over to Barbara’s lake which is a well marked trail under SR 133.


How long is the hike?

From Nix Nature Center. It’s only about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the lake and 15 to 20 minutes to get back. This would be the starter trail I would recommend for you and your children starting out. This will give you and your kids a good idea of what everyone can handle in terms of length and difficulty. This trail is very flat and has very little elevation. The  trail is wide and has a great lake to look at when you arrive. My kids always like when there is some type of scenic reward at the end of our hikes. They are not huge fans of hike loops and out and back trails that don’t have much to look at. So this is a perfect hike for you and your family to start with.


Follow along the trail with us…


After you park and put your paid parking ticket in your car, head towards the 133 to the Barbara Lake Trail head.

Barbara Lake

Head toward the 133, the trail will actually take you underneath the highway.

Barbara Lake

You will come to your first fork in the road, follow the right hand side of the pathway.

Barbara Lake

You will then hit another fork in the path, this time head towards the left hand side of the pathway.

Barbara Lake

Continue a little further and you will see Barbara Lake on the left hand side of the trail.

Barbara Lake


After the hike be sure to check out Nix Nature Center


Nix Nature Center is a perfect pit stop after your fun family hike. They have all sorts of interactive learning experiences for kids of all ages. You can dig up fossils, you can look at bugs through a microscope and they even have a Junior Range badge program like the National Parks do. Be sure to give yourself a good 30 min her to let your kids look around and try out all the fun exhibits. In addition to the exhibits they also have clean restrooms and water fill up stations.


Barbara Lake


Need to Know When Visiting Barbara’s Lake

These are just questions you might wonder about on your trip to Barbara’s lake.


Who is Barbara’s Lake named after?

Barbara Stuart Rabinowitsch was a Laguna Beach resident and huge champion for the Laguna Greenbelt. She gave $500,000 to the Laguna Canyon Foundation after her death in 1998 for preservation of the Laguna Greenbelt.


Are dogs allowed?

No dogs allowed. We did see one family get all geared up and paid for parking only to discover that their furry companion wasn’t welcome here.


Is it stroller friendly?

Absolutely, the trail is wide and flat and a perfect trail to bring the stroller on.


Can you fish at Barbara’s Lake?

No fishing here and no boats. Here’s a link to all the official rules and regulations.


Can you swim at Barbara’s Lake?

No swimming, wading, or watercraft. It’s just a pretty place to view from the trails and gives you a destination on your hike.


Barbara Lake

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