Hike the Buck Gully Reserve (Newport Beach)
Sometimes we opt for sticking closer to home and trying out the local hiking trails. Typically, this means green and brown trails, within a close drive of home, and most are somewhat hilly. Due to a wet winter, southern California presented with a beautiful wildflower display this year, so we were hoping to find some wildflowers, close to home. The Buck Gully Reserve, in Newport Beach, provided a perfect hike for a warm spring day, and gave us quite a prize at the end of the trail.
We started this hike by parking at Canyon Watch Park, which has a small parking area just off of San Joaquin Hills Road. We grabbed our backpacks (full of water) and started off. The first section of this hike is just walking along the side of the road on the paved sidewalk. This connects with the Bobcat Trail, which will take you down into the canyon to join Buck Gully Trail.
Bobcat Trail is a wide dirt track, and likely serves as service access and a fire road. It's a bit steep in places, but mostly fairly easy, and winds down into the canyon fairly swiftly. Along the way, the side of the road displayed so many different wildflowers and beautiful plants. On the other side, there were wide views of the canyon below, and the ocean out in the distance. Many homes are seen from this high part of the trail, but as you get further along, the homes up above seem to disappear. This short little hike takes you into a wilderness wonderland, right in the middle of town.
After 0.7 miles on Bobcat, we joined the Buck Gully Trail and followed it through fields and meadows. At this junction, there is a nice bridge to cross that went over a flowing stream on our visit. The grass was tall and blowing in the wind, and at times, the trail became very narrow. I walked with my arms up in the air because I hate ticks and don't want to give them an arm to stick to. This trail provides some canopied sections, where butterflies and birds flutter all around in the trees overhead. Most of the trail is open, with little coverage, and the shade of those canopies is welcomed!
Along Buck Gully, there are two more bridges that take you over a stream. The stream seems to be the secret of this little trail. Where all of that water is flowing, green trees and colorful flowers were bursting all over the place. The real surprise was just before we reached the end of the trail - a grassy hillside started to show signs of orange poppies. I got so excited to be seeing poppies (one of my favorite flowers) along this coastal trail. Just a few strides ahead, the few little plants that I was seeing turned into a hillside covered in poppies and wildflowers. This is the most beautiful thing I've encountered on a local Orange County hike...
Once I was able to tear myself away from the flowers, we continued on and fairly quickly reached the end of the trail. The trail leads to a paved section, that takes you right up to Poppy Avenue, in a little neighborhood. Some hikers choose to park on that end, and take Buck Gully from end to end - we'll have to try that next time so we can hit the other side of Buck Gully Trail. For us, the end was just a turning point. There is a sandy area off on the right side of the trail, and we were able to get right up close to the water and see what was running down to the ocean. We paused for a snack, and then turned back.
The hike back was quicker than the hike out, which seems to always be the case. Trekking up the hills, out of the canyons, to get back to the parking area, was the most tiring stretch of the trail. We were a little breathless, a lot sweaty, and so happy to have seen the beautiful flowers on our hike. Be sure to pause and listen to the wildlife around you - this little space is bursting with creatures!
Our route was from Canyon Watch Park, along Bobcat Trail, to Buck Gully - which is about 2 miles. Round-trip, we covered 4.1 miles. This is a fairly easy hike and the trail is well marked. We would recommend that you bring the typical hikes necessities (water, sunscreen, etc) but also add long pants to avoid the brush along the narrower portions. Poison oak is known to grow in this area, and along the trails, so if you are allergic, stay covered up.
If you hike this trail, let us know what you think of it! We're sure it changes with the seasons, and will definitely be heading back again!
Here is a trail map showing the options of this Reserve: