View from Santa Helena Trail (Photo: J. Free)



  • To main linking trail: .2 mile
  • To interior: 1.23 miles
  • To Santa Inez trailhead: .76 mile
  • To La Orilla trailhead: .68 mile

Listen for the stirrings of California Quail, the mewing of California Gnatcatchers in guarded territories, and other coastal sage scrub birds. This re-vegetated trail runs parallel to underground gas and petroleum pipelines that connect Los Angeles to San Diego (not visible) where white ceanothus, white sage, and bush mallow flourish. In summer, this trail provides access to the Stonebridge trail (not in winter due to periodic flooding).

Get to the very heart of the East Basin where you can view westward over the lagoon from an elevated mesa. Through patches of Coastal Sage Scrub and grasslands, you can hike out to the western extent to find remnant salt-tolerant plants and coast cholla. Bring your binoculars to scan for shorebirds probing the mud and preying raptors from above.

Access the Stonebridge Mesa by walking north across the mudflat on the Santa Helena trail extension. The mesa is only accessible by the public when trails are dry from mid-Spring through early Fall (approximately April-November). 


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
    • Drive to end of Santa Helena, 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)
    • Drive to end of Santa Helena, 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.


  California quail