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.
- Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Barbara's Lake
- Insider Tips & Recommendations for the Hike
- Who Is Barbara?
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
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
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.
I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don't have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There's no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It's just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I'm liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
My November 2022 Top Gear Picks
HUUUGE!!! ➤REI Cyberweek Sale Including Big Discounts on Hiking Tech Like inReach / Garmin Watches
Barbara's Lake Trail Maps
Guides to Help You Navigate
- There are three lakes here, collectively called the Laguna Lakes. They are the only naturally occurring lakes in Orange County and are fed by groundwater. The lakes are only 5 feet deep but are still an essential area for migrating birds. Barbara's Lake is usually the only lake that holds water year-round and occasionally goes dry when there is extreme drought.
- When the Laguna Greenbelt first purchased the lakes, they were in a sad state and relatively unknown. Cattle from Irvine Ranch had trampled the banks by using them as a watering hole. The storm-water drainage from a nearby development spilled into Barbara's Lake, filling it with soap, fertilizer, and pesticides. It's only through the work of the local conservation groups that these lakes have become healthy again.
- Why is the other lake called "Bubble Lake?" In 1970 a drive-through animal park called "Lion Country Safari" opened by where the Los Olivios apartments are today. In 1978, a hippo named Bubbles escaped, making its way first to Lake #1 and then settling in the lake now known as "Bubbles Lake." It became a media circus, and Bubbles even made it onto the Tonight Show. After 19 days, Bubbles was shot with a tranquilizer dart and then died. After her death, it was discovered that Bubbles was pregnant and looking for a safe place to give birth.
Barbara's Lake Hike Directions
Turn by Turn Directions
If you want to do the shorter out-and-back hike, just turn around here. Otherwise continue straight.
This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard
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!).
Don't Miss Out
- Monthly(ish) Email Newsletter - A list of new guides and important info for hikers.
- YouTube - Subscribe for new video notifications. The best way to get notified every time a new guide goes up.
- Instagram - I occasionally share pretty pictures from my hikes, broadcast live from the trail, and let you know about new guides.