The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo: A Rich History

The Reserve is located on the historic Ranch Mission Viejo, a former Spanish land grant dating back to 1882. The Reserve is the land of golden grasses, shady oak woodlands and aromatic sagebrush; of lemons and avocado groves; of cattle and cowboys. It is an integral part of Southern California’s history and an even bigger part of the area’s future in environmental stewardship. Located in South Orange County, The Reserve is a hidden treasure long protected and nurtured by the O’Neill & Moiso family.

“The preservation of 75% of Rancho Mission Viejo as open space, known as The Reserve, is a testament to the love of the land that the O’Neill & Moiso family has,” said Laura Coley Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Reserve. “There is an appreciation for nature here that you can’t find anywhere else. That’s why we invite visitors to sign up for our public programs. We want them to experience the beauty that we see on a daily basis.”

The Lighter Side of The Reserve: Daytime Activities

A host of activities awaits the curious. Find out what’s in store.

Natural History

For the inquisitive, these programs allow you to commune with nature on docent-led activities, including butterfly and wildflower walks, mushroom hunts and bird watching tours. Visitors can also watch falconry demonstrations or even take a photography workshop where you’ll be amazed and enchanted by the scenic landscape and wildlife.

Heritage and History

For the history lover, these programs take you back in time to the early days on The Ranch. Participants learn about the evolution of the land, and they leave feeling more informed about the surrounding area and how Ranch Mission Viejo will protect the land for years to come.

Knee-High Naturalists

For the little ones (ages 3-5), these programs offer hands-on activities and invaluable learning through play. The outdoors becomes the laboratory, and children spend their time exploring and discovering.

Healthy By Nature

For the adventurous, these programs center on the connection between well-being and nature. Raise your heart rate with Wellness Walks, Fitness-Cardio Hikes and Outdoor Yoga before attending a healthy living and sustainability workshop.

The Darker Side of The Reserve: After Hours Activities

Just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean The Reserve goes to sleep! Join us to see what happens after dark.

Nocturnal creatures and constellations lead the way along sunset, night and full moon hikes. For an interactive experience, come along for Animal Encounters After Dark and see frogs, toads, tarantulas and bats. Owls too! For some relaxing stargazing, join The Reserve for an Astronomy Night and spend time soaking in the twilight.

“Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.” ~ Marguerite “Daisy” O’Neill

Unlike national or local parks, access to The Reserve is strictly controlled to protect the endangered and sensitive species that make The Reserve their home. Visitors are welcome to sign up for one of our docent-led public programs. With a docent, every trip to The Reserve is full of information, sightseeing and excitement. Most importantly, The Reserve is able to assure that the community is partnering with Rancho Mission Viejo to “take care of the land.”

Be a Part of Something Bigger: Volunteer at The Reserve

There’s a spot for everyone at The Reserve.

A diverse set of volunteer opportunities is always available. With so many unique programs in place, volunteers are an invaluable resource to The Reserve, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences are in store for those who are interested.

Most pressingly at this time of year, The Reserve is in need of volunteers for Firewatch. These volunteers are instrumental in protecting one of the last great California “Ranchos” and the communities that border The Ranch. If you’re interested in protecting the land and community you love, fill out the volunteer form.

For more information on activities and programs at The Reserve, visit

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