TRAILS ARE OPEN DAWN TO DUSK
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is located in north San Diego County, between Encinitas and Solana Beach, extending inland to Rancho Santa Fe.
Explore a 979-acre reserve, home to hundreds of species of unique plants and animals. Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, running, bird watching, photography, and the thrill of discovery that comes with visiting natural places. Many trails have interpretive signage and trail guides.
San Elijo Lagoon is one of the largest coastal wetlands in San Diego. Trails wind through six plant communities, home to:
- 400 species of plants
- 300 species of birds (of which 65 have been documented to nest in the reserve).
- 23 species of fishes
- 20 species of reptiles and amphibians
- 26 species of mammals
The reserve is accessed by 8 trails. Easy to Moderate. Expect to walk about 1.5 hours on most trails, though you can combine them for longer walks.
SOLANA BEACH TRAILHEADS
RANCHO SANTA FE TRAILHEAD
Click here to download (PDF).
TRAIL GUIDELINES & ETIQUETTE
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is jointly managed by:
- California Department of Fish & Wildlife
- County of San Diego Department of Parks & Recreation
Nature Center / Rangers: (760) 634-3026
- San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
All wildlife and resources are fully protected.
- Walk, jog, or hike on established trails only
- Dogs on a leash no longer than 6 feet
- Equestrians are permitted on trails east of Interstate 5
Rules for Rover
Ensure your dog's safety and protected wildlife
Safety Tips for Sharing Trails with Horses
Remember that horses have right-of-way when sharing a trail with a pedestrian or runner. Learn about horses and trail etiquette.
We assembled some of our favorite natural history guides.
- Bicycles, motorcycles, and any vehicles
- Recreational water use: no SUPs, kayaks, canoes, or swimming
- Smoking, fireworks, or camping/campfires
- Collection of any plant, animal, or mineral
- Feeding wildlife, or release of any animal
- Fishing, hunting, or weapons
- Litter and dog waste can harm wildlife. Please dispose properly in the provided trash bins.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve Brochure (PDF)
San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center
History of the Reserve
Hummingbird (Photo: H. Knufken)