Wildlife Walks

Visitors observe a Northern Harrier

Go Deeper into San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in 2nd-Saturday Guided Tours

Rios Avenue Trail
Blue-eyed grass, lupine and California sunflower begin to splash the hillsides with color in spring. Focus binoculars and cameras for opportunities to see Cormorants on the power poles at the inlet, Osprey, waterfowl, and the rare Ridgway's (Clapper) Rail. This is San Elijo Lagoon's south side, featuring riparian woodlands and coastal sage scrub, with intimate views of the salt marsh.

Santa Helena Trail
Access the 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 west to find remnant salt-tolerant plants and coast cholla. Bring your binoculars to scan for shorebirds probing the mud and raptors preying from above. Shorebirds head north in summer, but wading birds stick around. Trailgoers might see a patient Great Egret uncoil its neck in a quick snap to catch a fish.

Santa Carina Trail
Set out 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 mule deer that reside in this eastern region of the reserve.

Santa Inez Trail
Enjoy one of the quieter trails for passage along Santa Inez, with easy access to the Dike trail and inland to east-west trails. Spring ushers in a wildflower bonanza of brilliance and fragrances, evidenced in the abundance of Blue-eyed grasses, lupines, and wild hyacinth. Ample parking is located at the trailhead. 


Wildlife Walks are led by Elizabeth Venick & Bob Chaddock. Explore trails throughout the year on 2nd Saturdays. The nearly 1,000-acre reserve is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. Many mammals, fishes, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates depend on a range of habitats, extending from salt marsh and coastal sage to streamside areas. 

  • Always 2nd Saturdays: 9-11 am
  • Recommended Ages 9+
  • April 13: Santa Helena Trailhead
  • May 11: Nature Center Trailhead
  • June 8: Santa Carina Trailhead
  • July 13: Rios Avenue Trailhead
  • August 10: Nature Center Trailhead


Elayna Flanders, Education Coordinator
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
elayna [at] sanelijo [dot] org