Moss Landing & Elkhorn Slough


What? : The Elkhorn Slough at Moss landing is one of the top water wildlife viewing destinations in California. When kayaking the waterways, you will see up-close the endangered Sea Otters, Seals, large groups of California Sea Lion and many birds.


Where? : Located on the California cost, 25 miles south of Santa Cruz, at the small town of Moss landing.

The kayak rental location is at the link:

Google Map Link


When: The Elkhorn Slough is full of wildlife all year round but both Seal, Sea Lions and Otter babies can be seen in the Spring season. Summer is preferred because of the warmer weather, although early morning can be foggy.


Due note: We rented Kayak few times at and always found it as a fun experience. Usually after kayaking for few hours at Elkhorn Slough we went to the Moss landing harbor and find a restaurant to eat something.


My thoughts: We really like this place, after renting the kayak it is like you are getting into “another place” for wonderful 3-4 hours. You can also visit Moss Landing state park with its sandy beaches on the ocean side and the calm bay view on the inner slough.

The visit:

Elkhorn Slough, ocean connected waterway, spread over six miles of navigable waterway inland from the Monterey Bay ocean front.

As a unique habitat the Elkhorn slough is the largest tidal salt marsh in California.


The Slough’s habitat is a year-round home for marine mammals’, fish and it is an attraction spot for migratory birds.

This is one of the prime places to see the endangered California Southern Sea Otter, more than 125 individuals of sea otters are populating Elkhorn Slough’s waters.


The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is 1700 acres and located at the east end of the Slough, inland from Moss Landing.

The visitor center is a great stop when planning your visit.

I never visit this location and or hiked the trails available over there so I can’t provide information about the visit, I always went with a kayak, maybe next time ...


There are 3 chapters in the below visit description:

- Kayaking Elkhorn Slough

- Moss Landing State Beach

- Moss Landing Harbor restaurants section



We rented kayak at:

In all visits both the renting process and safety explanation went fast and efficient.

They have on-line reservation as well as phone number.

Important note: make sure to rent at Elkhorn Slough and not at their Santa Cruz location.

I will recommend closed-decked kayaks, especially if you want to take pictures, they are dryer, and it is less cold when the wind is blowing. They also have an option to rent a double kayak.

Renting a kayak gives you the option to choose your own pace and distance, they also have an option for a guided tour (I never attend one, the guide will no-doubt add a lot of interesting information about the marine animals and the surrounding nature).

The Elkhorn Slough is protected calm water, so it is relatively safe even for Kayaker’s beginners and kids.

Both the tide and the wind will influence your paddling on that day, Summer mornings can be foggy and strong afternoon winds or tide can make paddling more difficult.

You will get explanation how the tide and the wind will affect your kayak trip.

2-3 hours are plenty of time to explore the Slough main waterway and see the animals.


Moss Landing State Beach:

The entrance into Moss Landing State Beach is from hwy 1 just north of the bridge and the rental kayaking location.

A short road will take you to the end of the jetty, from there you can view the inner calm bay, the entrance channel to the south and the long stretch of sandy beach on the ocean side.

From here you can see the birds and usually also the Seals resting on the sandy protected beach, you may also spot here Sea Otter although that usually you can see them farther away into the sludge.


Moss Landing Harbor:

Moss Landing most visible elements are the 500-foot twin stacks rising from the nearby power plant, they are no longer in use and the power plant is using newer and cleaner natural gas for electricity generation.

On the opposite side of the power plant, you will find Moss Landing fishing harbor, art galleries, several hotels, and few restaurant options.

During nice weekend noon it is always packed with people.
there are many agricultural fields around Moss landing and i alway try to find interesting things to take picture of.


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