Resting in the shade (Photo: A. Bearden-Kuhns)

Trails are open dawn to dusk.

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is located in north San Diego County, between the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach, extending inland to Rancho Santa Fe.

Explore a 1,000-acre reserve, home to hundreds of species of unique plants and animals. Seven miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, running, bird watching, photography, and the thrill of discovery that comes with visiting natural places.

Hiking time is generally 1.5 hours on any of the eight trails. Many trails have interpretive signage and trail guides that highlight life in the reserve.

San Elijo Lagoon is one of few remaining coastal wetlands in Southern California. 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 

In 2009, the Conservancy hosted its first Bioblitz, a 24-hour inventory of all living organisms in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Dozens of scientists confirmed more than 735 species of fishes, spiders, insects, reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, plants, algae, and fungi. Wildlife flourishes in this region, and its continued protection is critical to ensure that our future generations will enjoy this wetland's incredible biodiversity.

Northern Pintail (Photo: C. Taylor)


San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is jointly managed by: 

  • State of California as a state ecological reserve
  • County of San Diego Parks & Recreation
    Rangers at the Nature Center: (760) 634-3026
  • and San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
    Office: (760) 436-3944

All wildlife and resources are fully protected.

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve Brochure (PDF)
San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center

Guided Walks
Animal Guide
Plant Guide
History of the Reserve