Wildlife in the Park

As you stroll or ride through the park you are almost guaranteed seeing deer these days.  They have come back in force and have been seen in groups as large as 9 (my personal record)!  Of course the best place to encounter the deer is further back in the park away from the main entrances, but they have been spotted along Borrego trail too.  And the deer are less bothered by the presence of people and even noisy mountain bikes!  Our family likes to hike and bike Whiting, and I am still amazed at how little the deer pay attention to me as I rattle past them on my bike - sometimes passing within 25 feet and the deer hardly even takes notice of me.

The deer seem to be very willing to go about their business as people gather to watch and take pictures.  Be sure to pack a camera so that you don't miss out on these photo opportunities!  Camera phones do ok, but the deer are almost always in shaded areas, and they blend in quite well with their surroundings so better cameras yield better pics.  In fact, you can easily pass by several deer and not even notice them.  Se be on the lookout - especially where trees and shade are abundant!

Deer - see how easy you can miss them?

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Welcome To Whiting Ranch

Whiting Ranch
Wouldn't You Rather Be Here Today?

This is a community supported website, if you are looking for the official county website, this is it: www.ocparks.com/whitingranch/

Park Location & Directions

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is located in Southeast Orange County within the foothills of the Cleveland National Forest. The park lies west of Santiago Canyon Road between Modjeska Canyon Road and Live Oak Road, and east of Portola Parkway. Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills are the bordering communities.

To reach the park from Interstate 5, take the Bake Parkway exit east (towards Saddleback Mountain) and proceed to Portola Parkway (approx 5 miles). Turn left on Portola Parkway and continue 1/2 mile to Market, then make a right - the parking lot entrance is to your immediate left.

To reach the Glenn Ranch Road entrance, turn right onto Portola Pkwy from Bake, then left on Glenn Ranch Road, then another left into the parking lot (located across the stree from Oakley).

The park is open 7 days a week from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. The park may be closed up to 3 days after rain. For trail conditions call the ranger station at (949)923-2245.

The following LAT and LON coordinates are approximate!

Click here for map to Main Entrance (lat 33.681265, lon -117.664733)

Click here for map to Glenn Ranch Entrance (lat 33.674153, lon -117.641966)

Click here for Google Satellite Hybrid map of Main Entrance

History of Whiting Ranch

In 1842, Jose Serrano was granted 10,668 acres of land known as Rancho Canada de Los Alisos. Serrano and his sons raised crops to sell such as: corn, beans, and watermelons. However, their principle industry was cattle, from which hides and tallow were sold. Unfortunately the drought of 1863 and 1864 caused the death of Serrano's herds, forcing foreclosure of the rancho to Los Angeles banker J.S. Slauson and Associates. Slauson divided the ranch into ten parcels, the largest being more than 10,000 acres. The property was then sold to Dwight Whiting in 1885. Whiting encouraged the development of El Toro by subdividing level land, bringing the railroad through, and by planting olive trees, grape vineyards and some 400 acres of eucalyptus trees; many of these still stand throughout the current city of Lake Forest.

Recreational Opportunities

More than 26 miles of fire roads and single-track trails crisscross the park providing excellent opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. The Red Rock Canyon and Billy Goat Trails are reserved for hikers only.

The Historic McFadden Ranch House features the park office and small nature center, a trail rest stop for the Aliso Creek Regional Bikeway, cultural and natural history exhibits and park information.

Nature walks for school and community groups are available with advanced reservations. Group size and tour days are restricted by staff availability. Minimum size: 10 people.

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What is Whiting Ranch?

Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park encompasses over 4,300 acres of Riparian and Oak Woodland canyons, rolling grassland hills and steep slopes of Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral. The park is highlighted by scenic rock formations, including the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. There are five intermittent streams: Borrego, Serrano, Aliso Creek, Santiago Creek and Aqua Chivera meandering through the park, each hosting an abundance of wildlife. Remnants of the former cattle ranching days can be seen throughout the park.

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There's a Ranger Station?

Yes, in fact there is a Ranger Station in Whiting Ranch! But finding it may be bit of a challenge because it's hidden away. And even if you find it you may find it locked up as the rangers might be out on the trail. Even still, if you find yourself in the neighborhood it’s worth the extra side trip to check it out. The ranger station is really an old converted ranch house, the Historic McFadden Ranch House to be exact. This ranger station also houses a Nature Center, complete with historical artifacts, taxidermy animals native to the area and more. But like I mentioned earlier, the ranger station is not always open, so it’s best to call first (949.923.2245) to arrange a time to visit either the rangers or the Nature Center. If you do stop by and find yourself locked out – you might still be in luck (depending on the season) by picking yourself some fresh oranges from the small grove out front. The oranges are free for the picking, but please take only what you want to sit and eat right then.  Leave the rest for other visitors.   

Park Entrances & Parking

There are several entrances into the park, some of which have designated parking. The "main" entrance is on Portola Pkwy at Market. You will find limited parking here, and can be given a citation for parking in undesignated parking lots. Another entrance with parking is located along Glenn Ranch Road. This parking lot is all dirt so hold off on getting your car washed until after your hike/ride...

Both of these parking lots require a small fee of $3.00.

Another entrance, although many consider this to be the exit, is at the corner of Portola Pkwy and Glenn Ranch Road. There isn't any official parking here. Similarly, there is an entrance off of Santiago Canyon Road that takes you into the back of the park near the water tower and Four Corners. This access route is popular for those folks hardy enought to link their Whiting Ranch Ride up with the Santiago Truck Trail.

There are several other trails that lead into the park as well, but we'll cover those at another time.

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No Dogs Allowed?

Dogs are not allowed in any County of Orange owned area or park that is designated as a “Wilderness Area.” The idea of designating an area as a wilderness area is done to protect rare, threatened, or endangered plant or animal species in their own habitats. Dogs leave behind a scent on the trails that can confuse, and possibly put in danger, the wildlife that live in the park. A dog could also get bitten by a rattlesnake, badger, skunk, raccoon, or any other wildlife. Animals that live in the park could be flushed out of nesting sites or burrows by a dog. A dog's quick dig could destroy a wild animal's home in seconds. A dog could also be exposed to ticks, poison oak or other plants that have thorns or burrs. Fox tails are bristly weeds that can easily work their way into a dog's fur, eventually embedding into their skin. For the protection of the dog and the wildlife please adhere to all park rules.

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