Get outside and enjoy Buck Gully

Story and photos by EMILY SPAIN

Taking a hike in the Buck Gully Reserve, which connects Corona del Mar and Newport Coast, is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the summer weather and escape the hustle and bustle of tourist season in Newport Beach. Buck Gully is a 300-acre, natural habitat right in our backyard where you can hike, run and bike. Ongoing restoration projects spearheaded by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy have made the Buck Gully Reserve a safe and picturesque spot to immerse yourself in nature without having to go to the mountains or desert.

Get outside buck gully welcome sign

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The Buck Gully hiking routes are outlined on signs at all trail entrances 

The 2.6-mile hike is suitable for all levels of hikers as a majority of the trail is flat and gradually increases in elevation. The Fifth and Poppy avenues entrance in Corona del Mar is the best spot to start. After making your way down a small hill you will come across signage that will provide you with hike routes and other information. One of the most unique parts of the experience is the cell phone audio guide service. At several points throughout your hike, small square signs provide you with a cell phone number and code unique to your hiking location. Once you call the number, an automated operator will educate you about Buck Gully’s wildlife and vegetation. 

Get outside bridge

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Several bridges allow hikers to pass over streams with ease

Whether you are trying to break a sweat or find a place to think in peace, Buck Gully is a great spot. The noises from San Joaquin Hills Road and PCH fade out and the sound of birds and running water take their place as you progress on the trail. Sycamore and willow trees provide shade for most of the hike and lemonade berries, California sagebrush and other beautiful plants line the path. If you are lucky, you might even spot a few butterflies, birds and rabbits on the trail, too. 

Get outside waterfall

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Water runs throughout the Buck Gully hike most of the year 

With three different trailheads, Buck Gully is very accessible. The Harbor Watch Park entrance, which is right off San Joaquin Hills Road, allows you to take Bobcat Trail down to the main Buck Gully hiking route. The view of the Pacific Ocean while you are descending down the trail is breathtaking. You can also park at the Newport Coast Community Center and walk to an alternative entrance to the trail. The Poppy and Fifth avenues entrance is also an option. All three trailheads have parking nearby, so you do not have to do a secondary hike to get to Buck Gully. 

get outside harbor watch view

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The breathtaking view from the Harbor Watch Park entrance

So, what are you waiting for? Get outside and enjoy all Buck Gully has to offer.

Editor’s Note: Explore the richness of Buck Gully Reserve by taking a guided evening Buck Gully Upper Loop Hike on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 5-8 p.m. The stream is running and the rich plant and animal life are enjoying the cool, shady canyon making for an evening hike in a natural oasis amid the suburban surroundings. This hike is free, but registration is required. Meet at Newport Coast Community Center, 6401 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Newport Coast. Bring water, a light trail snack, sturdy closed-toe shoes and supplies to keep you safe during the journey. Sunscreen and a hat are highly recommended. Register at