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Hikes In and Around Orange County

Barbara's Lake Hike (Laguna Beach)

  • 2.9 miles - Easy Effort
  • Or: 2.4 to Lake and Back
  • 1-2 Hours (Total)
  • 370 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 610 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

This easy hike to Barbara's Lake, one of Orange County's only naturally occurring lakes, is well worth a go. While close to suburbia, the lake lies within the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve, an island of natural beauty where the land looks as it did hundreds of years ago. This guide will show you a pleasant loop that takes you to the lake, up a small climb, and then back along a ridge offering expansive views. You can also hike to Barbara's Lake and turn around for a shorter experience.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Barbara's Lake
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations for the Hike
  • Who Is Barbara?

Where is Barbara's Lake?

The parking lot for the Barbara's Lake hike can be found here, between Laguna Beach and I-405:
James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve, 350 Artisan Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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The parking lot is for the Dilley Greenbelt, part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
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There's a medium-sized parking lot here.
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You can pay for parking at the kiosk with a credit card.

This hike is best done in the winter and spring when the landscape is green. In the summer and fall it can get dry and brown.

Gear For the Hike

This is a very easy hike and you can do it in fitness or even casual clothing. It is exposed and can get hot in the warmer months. Bring 1L of water and some sun protection.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated June 2024)

Barbara's Lake Trail Maps

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The trails are well marked with these trail signs.
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There are also interpretive displays that you can view with your phone scattered along the route.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

3D Map

Barbaras Lake Hike Laguna Beach 3d Map
The route follows a clockwise loop to the lake, and then up a small climb, and then back on the Mariposa Trail along the ridge.

Hike Brief

Barbara Stuart
Who is Barbara? This is Barbara, or more specifically, Barbara Stuart Rabinowitsh. Barbara was a classically trained ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet who once performed at Radio City Music Hall. Later in life, she settled in Laguna Beach and became a force, along with James Dilley, to protect the wilderness around Laguna Beach, called the Greenbelt. When she passed, she left $500,000 to preserve that wilderness. The lake (formerly "Lake #3") was named after her. You can read more about this conservation effort in my "Best of Laguna Coast Wilderness" hike guide.

Barbara's Lake Hike Directions

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The trailhead is at the end of the parking lot.
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Occasionally you'll see volunteers here at the start of the hike.
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Once past the volunteer shelter, look for a quick left onto the Lake Trail.
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The sign will confirm that you are on the Lake Trail.
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And now start hiking up the flat and pleasant Lake Trail.
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Keep straight at the junction with the Mariposa Trail. If you do the loop, we'll be coming back on that trail.
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Keep straight on the main trail.
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Now you have about 0.6 miles of gentle walking through the scenic landscape.
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When you get to the junction with the Gravel Trail, go straight through.
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And then Barbara's Lake will be on your left.
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Keep going straight for some open viewpoints of the lake.
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There's also a nice fan palm across the lake, which is native to Southern California.

If you want to do the shorter out-and-back hike, just turn around here. Otherwise continue straight.

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At the end of the lake the trail turns right and starts to climb.
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Keep going up along the power lines.
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Go straight when you see reach the intersecting utility road.
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To your right are great views of Orange County's high point, Santiago Peak.
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At the top, you'll follow the ridge away from the power lines and back into the more natural area of the park.
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To your right are spectacular views into Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. If you want to explore more, try my hike that covers the area you see here.
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At the junction, make the left.
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And then a quick right.
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Hike up the trail to the top of the Jack J. Rimel Reservoir.
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From the top of the reservoir you get nice views of Barbara's Lake.
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There are nice views from the top of the reservoir. The trail continues to the right.
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Start the Mariposa Trail, which we'll be taking back to the start.
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The views from the Mariposa Trail are incredible.
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When you get to the junction with the Sunflower Trail, stay left on the Mariposa Trail.
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And soon you'll start descending and see the parking area in the distance.
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At the end of the Mariposa Trail, rejoin the Lake Trail for a second and you're back at the start!

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.