Swimming deer (Photo: L. Adamo)



  • To main interlinking trail: .13 mile
  • To Santa Inez Trailhead: .54 mile
  • To Santa Helena Trailhead: .48 mile
  • To La Orilla Trailhead: .96 mile

Set out on a trail traversing coastal sagebrush with chaparral communities on the hills in the lagoon's south side. Underfoot are broken bits of shells, reminders of the native people who once lived here. You will see the freshwater marsh below, and if lucky, you might glimpse deer which reside in this eastern region of the reserve.

Download Santa Carina Trail Guide






Trails open daily from dawn to dusk
No restroom facilities on this trail

Google Map and Directions

From the North:
  • Take I-5 South
  • Exit Lomas Santa Fe
  • Turn left on Lomas Santa Fe
  • Proceed under I-5
  • Take first left onto Santa Helena
  • Left on Santa Victoria
  • Left on Santa Carina
  • Drive to end of Santa Carina, park curbside

 From the South:

    • Take I-5 North
    • Exit Lomas Santa Fe
    • Proceed directly onto Santa Helena (do not turn on Lomas Santa Fe)
    • Left on Santa Victoria
    • Left on Santa Carina
    • Drive to end of Santa Carina, park curbside

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is owned and managed by: 


  • 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


  • Off-trail access
  • Bicycles, motorcycles, and any vehicles
  • Recreational water use, including SUPs, kayaks, canoes, or swimming
  • Any remotely piloted aircraft 
  • Smoking, fireworks, or camping/campfires
  • Collection of any plant, animal, mineral, or cultural artifacts
  • Feeding wildlife, or release of any animal 
  • Fishing, hunting, or weapons
  • Litter and dog waste can harm wildlife. Please dispose properly in the provided receptacles.

  Black sage