Spring Time Camping in the OC ~ O'Neill Regional Park

On our most recent trip to Southern California, we decided to add a little Orange County (OC) camping to my husband's business trip.  Thankfully, through my blogging connections, I have met many wonderful #OutdoorFamilies like Traci of Walk Simply, whose outdoor playground is The OC!  She recommended that we camp at O'Neill Regional Park as her family did!

We were not planning on a full blown camping trip, since we traveled by plane but we love to find any excuse to camp.  It was our first time ever camping at a regional park, aka a LOCAL park!  We've camped in National Forests, National Parks, State Parks but never a regional park (county-run), not even in my regional parks in the San Francisco East Bay!  So this was the first time ever camping in a regional park, OC Parks.

Location: Trabuco Canyon, California - 7 Miles East of Lake Forrest
Reservations: Orange County Parks (ReserveAmerica.com), Year-Round
Daily Price: $20/night - (Date Camped March 2014) - 79 campsites
Facilities: Drinking Water, Restrooms, FREE showers (hot water), Playground, Campsite Tables, Fire pit w/grill

We stayed at Arroyo Campground Loop, Site 66, which was very spacious and had trees nearby large enough to support our hammock.  Trabuco Creek (seasonal creek) runs along the backside of half of the campgrounds.  As you can see, the creek was completely dry but that allows for dry creek-bed explorations for little ones!

Close to Everything

Normally when we camp we like to "get away" from it all, but it's a little difficult when we are hybrid traveling (business/pleasure), since we flew down to Southern California and did not have all our regular camping gear.  We were close to everything but still far enough that I could feel the outdoor fresh air.  My main concern was food, since we did not have a means of refrigerating our food.  That was one of the reasons we picked O'Neill Regional Park because everything was a 10 minute drive to Lake Forest and Rancho Santa Margarita:

  • Supermarkets 
  • Drugstores
  • Banks
  • Shopping Centers
  • Restaurants
  • Churches
  • Playgrounds (in the park)
Playground: We've never been camping at a park with an actual playground.  I'm normally not too fond of playgrounds, but in this particular case I really loved having a playground, we could burn off our kids energy since we were not hiking at this campground.  It was a small plain EMPTY park.

Food/Restaurants: I love eating out and on this particular trip, I was in the mood for Peruvian food and lo and behold, there was Inka Mama's Peruvian Cuisine down the hill from O'Neill Regional Park in Foothill Ranch.  The food there was delicious, if you are ever in this area I highly recommend eating there. There is every kind of restaurant that you can think of 10 minutes away from O'Neill Regional Park, so you can find anything, even for picky eaters.

Wildlife at O'Neill

Even though O'Neill Regional Park is very close to the city, there is wildlife.  As we were eating breakfast at our campsite we heard a VERY loud squawking from the trees.  I told my husband that those noises sounded like the tropical birds we heard in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.  So of course, I had to investigate the empty campsite across from us and I found bright two bright green red-headed birds or a Red-Crowned Parrots (popping out from the center tree hole).  I even tweeted it out to the Audubon California to try to figure out what these birds were.

O'Neill, like many other California parks, has larger wildlife like mountain lions, bobcats, rattlesnakes and mule deer.  Of course we didn't see any of those animals, only the Red-Crowned Parrots and angry red ants!!

O'Neill at a Glance....

We used O'Neill as a "base camp" for other OC outdoor adventures to the beach and hiking.  It was very well maintained campgrounds and facilities.  By Friday, the campground was completely full but everyone one there respected the "camping rules" and we enjoyed our family time at O'Neill.  Camping might be a little more difficult than staying at a hotel because there is setup involved, but over all I feel more relaxed camping than staying at hotels.  Plus it creates beautiful family memories with our little ones.  

Sometimes as outdoor enthusiasts we look over our local regional parks and we might be missing out on some great locations to enjoy the outdoors.  I love National Parks, National Forests, State Parks but they are a little far from us, so I'm really learning to find great outdoors in regional parks even when we are traveling!

Have you camped at a local regional park? Give a little shout out to your regional parks!

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