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Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Reserve
What? : The Elkhorn
Slough at Moss landing is one of the top water wildlife viewing destinations in
California. The Slough is a 7-mile-long tidal salt marsh and provides
much-needed habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals. It has been
designated as a protected Ramsar site since 2018.
activities on the slough area hiking and bird watching, kayaking and stand-up
You can find
here sea otters, sea lions, seals, brown pelicans, cormorants, egrets, and many
other birds can be seen in this area.
This blog post
is all about my hiking visit at the east side of the slough in Elkhorn Slough
National Estuarine Research Reserve.
I also have
another blog I wrote on my few Kayaking trips:
Where? : Elkhorn Slough
is located halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey.
From the small harbor
town of Moss Landing on Highway 1 take Dolan Rd east, after driving east for
3.4 miles turn left into Elkhorn Rd, after driving north for 2.1 miles you will
see the entrance on your left.
When? : Year round,
spring is the preferred season for best wildlife viewing.
I saw that the
opening hours are Wed to Sun, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Due note 1: I visit here
only one time during late fall 2022 (November), It was rainy at night and early
morning, and I came here mid-day. During my long hiking I did not see up close
any birds, or marine wildlife.
Due note 2: No fees are
and plenty of parking near the large visitor center.
Due note 3: You can find Restrooms
at the visitor center.
Due note 4: No pets on
trails, in picnic areas, or in the Visitor Center. Fires, camping, boating,
fishing, hunting, and firearms are not permitted.
Due note 5: The trails
are flat and easy to “navigate”. For most of the trails there is no shade.
Bring enough water and use sunscreen on hot summer days.
My thoughts: Although I did
not see birds, or marine wildlife during my visit here (unlike my kayaking
experience) it was a fan day, the trails are good and without climbs and I find
it to be relaxing visit.
approximately 1,700 acres that comprise the reserve where the fresh rivers
water meets the sea, and the tides are getting into the marshes.
of salt see water creates the salt marsh, mud flat, freshwater pond, oak
woodland, and grassland habitats. A stroll on any one of the three loop trails
reveals a variety of both wetland and upland wildlife.
activity in this section of the reserve is hiking and wildlife viewing.
I had time so I
decided to do a 5 miles long loop hike that covers both the north and south sections
of the reserve, but you can do much shorter easy walks.
The trails are
in good condition and overall flat, with many viewing points with explanation
bords, so they are also good for families with kids.
I started at
the visitor center and headed west to the high overlook, from there I went down
and at the first old barn I turned right.
following the pond outline, keep to the right and do not walk into trails
turning left (marked as employee only).
After 1.1 miles
the trail heading straight line west and at 1.25 miles mark you will see a turn
to the right that led to north viewing point.
I hiked all the
way to the end of the trail (1.63 miles from the starting point) and saw the
lake on the north.
From this point
I hiked back and turned right into the direction of Hummingbird Island.
crossing the railroad, this is an active track so be careful here !!!.
the small hill of this island (this is 2.43 miles from the hike starting point).
From here you
can see the main river that creates the Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Reserve.
I was here (Nov. 2022) I did not see any birds up close, maybe because it was
mid-day with high tide…
I kept walking,
hiking back on the same trail, crossing back the train tracks and after a short
walk I took the trail to the right.
From here the
trail crosses over the large pond into the direction of the Big Barn. When I
was there the Boardwalk was under construction and was closed for access.
From the small
barn I did not hike up to the visitor center but rather took the trail to the
right. This trail leads to the south section of the reserve.
I walked up to
the high open meadows and turned right walking all the way to the south end viewing
From here I
turn around and hike back straight to the visitor center.
was 5 miles long hike but as you can see on the map you can make it a lot
shorter if you want.
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