Great Hikes: Oak Glen Preserve for Fall Colors

Great Hikes: Oak Glen Preserve for Fall Colors

Fall in Southern California falls a little short for this Midwestern transplant. So a recent trip to The Wildlands Conservancy’s Oak Glen Preserve in Oak Glen CA, with its changing foliage of California box elders, sycamores and Kellogg oaks, made for one happy day. The fresh apple pie from Riley’s apple farm next door certainly added to the outing at the end of the day.

The Oak Glen Preserve, open 8am to 4:30 pm (the parking lot closes at 5) every day, offers various trails, which make a wonderful two-mile trek when combined. There’s the tree trail with its impressive grove of redwoods, a chaparral trail and the stream trail.  I’ve hiked the preserve in every season because of it’s always changing. In summer you see the baby waterfowl on the pond, while we saw migrating ducks this visit. Marianne Shuster, outdoor education director, also encourages winter visits when the varied terrain is more visible.

Click here for spring photos.

What makes the preserve special:

  • Great interpretive signs for children and adults. Schuster said they just installed some throughout the trail system and plan more. “We want families to learn something about what they are seeing and to be able to take that knowledge with them to apply elsewhere,” she says.
  • Recreation of all types: In addition to hikes that take you through a variety of California landscapes, there are special events on many weekends, plus a beautiful grove with picnic tables close to a parking area.

Wildlife sightings: In addition to the waterfowl and a variety of foraging birds, flocks of acorn woodpeckers were harvesting the many oak acorns. Shuster said a recent group of visiting schoolchildren saw a mother bear and her two cubs climb up a walnut tree and watched them shake the branches to drop the walnuts. Bobcats, fox, and deer are among the other visitors.

Distance/Trailhead: The preserve is located at the top of Oak Glen Road (39611 Oak Glen Road). Turn into Rileys at Los Rios Ranch and the preserve access and ranger station are off the side parking area. Open 8am to 5 pm.

For more info:

The Oak Glen Preserve website – check out the many activities for children and adults.

The Wildwoods Conservancy  has preserved 11 other areas in California  –all set aside for hiking and other recreation. I’ve visited several and they’re all wonderful.

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. I took my three grandsons up to the Laguna & Cuyamaca mountains over the weekend to see the fall color (ages 4, 6 & 8). It was spectacular this year; the diciduous oaks and sycamores on the hills, with the willows in the creeks. We hiked out to Big Laguna meadow through massive yellow and golden oaks to where the pines were a bright dark green in the sunlight. The kids ‘found’ lots af animal tracks along side the trails in the dust – a lot of wild turkey. We collected leaves and pressed them in volume L of the encyclopaedia to start their leaf collection. We added a few pink-yellow leaves from our apricot at home. It’s a great time of the year to take the impressionable little ones out to the forests for some nurturing and nature.

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