San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center Loop

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San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center Loop is a 0.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 0.5 miles Elevation Gain: 3 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly


nature trips


bird watching




Nice small walk. Most of trail was closed due to rain when we went

Tue May 14 2019

I love the simple trail. I’m going to walk it again tomorrow. I saw so much beautiful wildlife and felt wonderful refreshing breezes and experienced so many exotic smells.

Mon Apr 29 2019

Full shade walk in this lush nature preserve. Public lot with visitor center. Dogs allowed on leash. Very easy but excellent way to get in touch with nature.

Fri Apr 05 2019

This is an easy hike with gentle ups and downs. Great for bird-watching. Benches along the trail to take in the views and glorious weather. Sandy in places. Can’t go under the bridge these in progress. A wonderful stroll through a patch of sweet nature surrounded by city life. It’s a quick escape from my hectic days.

Mon Dec 31 2018

I have been doing this trail since I was born, it’s one of my all time favorites, I’ve seen so many beautiful birds and flowers doing this hike. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be close to water, with great scenery. It’s an overall flat and easy hike!

Sun Oct 14 2018

Great birding!

Sun Aug 26 2018

This is our favorite place to go for a walk with our three toddlers. The inner loop is 1/3 mile, with views of the water, birds, and fish jumping out of the water. Several benches make for good spots for a break and a snack. The elevated wooden path is fun for kids to walk along. We did the inner loop only today by taking the first left back to the nature center, bisecting the larger loop, but you can walk the outer path for a little more distance, walk it twice (once taking the inner and once the outer way back), or you can walk it like a figure 8. The nature center is great, with lots of child friendly exhibits and things to see at toddler eye level - and good info for adults too. And Franklin the tortoise and the teepee are always a hit too. One note: there is construction on I-5 and in the lagoon itself. The end result is supposed to be better water flow in the lagoon and more trails for visitors. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful when it’s done (projected for 2020), but at the moment the construction work is visible and part of what you’ll walk by.

Sun Nov 05 2017

Too many non-connected dead ends on the west side

Wed Sep 13 2017

This trail is more of a walk than a hike. The lagoon is beautiful and the path is lined with trees and sometimes flowers. Lots of birds and small wildlife to be seen. This is a great family trip, especially with the opportunity to visit the nature center.

Thu May 04 2017

great spot for birdwatching, very easy walk

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Mon Mar 18 2019

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