Coachella Valley Preserve (McCallum Nature Trail)

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McCallum Nature Trail, Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms, CA

View of the desert on the McCallum Nature Trail

Cottonwood Tree, McCallum Nature Trail

Cottonwood Tree, McCallum Nature Trail

Coachella Valley Preserve (McCallum Nature Trail)

  • Location: East of Palm Springs, Coachella Valley.  From I-10, take the Bob Hope Drive exit.  Turn right and go 0.2 miles to Ramon Road.  Turn left and go 4.8 miles to Thousand Palms Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 2 miles to the visitor’s center. Turn left into the lot.  Parking is free but donations are encouraged.
  • Agency: Coachella Valley Preserve
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  October – March
  • USGS topo map: “Myoma”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information:  Preserve homepage here; Yelp page here; trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 5
Visitor center, Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms, CA

0:00 – Visitor center (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This short trail serves as a nice introduction to the landscape of the Coachella Valley Preserve. If you don’t have time for the longer Pushwalla/Horseshoe loop, the walk to and from McCallum Pond is an enjoyable excursion.

0:02 - McCallum Trail Head, Paul Wilhelm Palm Grove (times are approximate)

0:02 – McCallum Trail Head, Paul Wilhelm Palm Grove (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head toward the visitor center. The rustic building, cozily hidden in the tall palms of the Paul Wilhelm Grove, is worth a visit; inside you will find displays including fragments of Indian pottery, animal bones, maps, guides to plant and animal life and more. You may also be able to get a trail guide here.

The McCallum Nature Trail begins past the visitor’s center, near the restrooms. Follow it into a the palms, where you will walk on a boardwalk. Stay right as another trail (also a boardwalk) branches off to the left and soon you will exit the grove. The trail meets up with another trail from the parking lot; stay straight and head toward the palms, which will now be in sight.

Trail junction, McCallum Nature Trail, Coachella Valley Preserve

0:12 – Junction with the other trail from the parking lot

Just before the grove, you’ll reach a Y-junction. Head right and soon you’ll reach the pond, where you can sit and enjoy its peacefulness beneath the shade of the palms. The pond is home to the endangered Desert Pupfish.

Continuing past the pond, you reach another junction. You can extend your hike to a part of the preserve known as Moon Country by heading right but if it’s a hot day and you’re short on time, you can return to the visitor’s center by heading left. Soon you’ll rejoin the McCallum Trail, heading back to the visitor’s center.

McCallum Pond, Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms, CA

0:22 – McCallum Pond,

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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Dominguez Gap Wetlands (Long Beach)

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Wetlands in the south end of the park

Wetlands in the south end of the park

California Golden Poppies, Dominguez Gap Wetlands

California Golden Poppies, Dominguez Gap Wetlands

Dominguez Gap Wetlands (Long Beach)

  • Location: Del Mar Avenue and Virginia Vista Court, Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach.  From the 405 Freeway, take the Long Beach Blvd. exit and head north for 0.2 miles.  Turn left on 36th St., go 0.3 miles and bear right on Country Club.  Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Los Cerritos Park Place.  Follow it past the side of the park to a T-junction and turn right on Del Mar.  The entrance (unmarked, just a gap in the fence) to the wetlands will be on the left in half a mile, just before Virginia Vista (a private road).  Park on the street for free, keeping in mind posted restrictions about time and days.
  • Agency: Los Angeles County Department of Public Works
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: Long Beach
  • More information: Park description here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 1
0:00 - Entrance to the park on Del Mar Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Entrance to the park on Del Mar Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Most hikers probably won’t drive too far to visit the Dominguez Gap Wetlands, but for residents of Long Beach – the Bixby Knolls area in particular – this pleasant little pocket of open space is an enjoyable place to explore.  The park occupies a thin corridor between the 710 Freeway and the Virginia Country Club.  In addition to the attractive pools of water, this spot is a good one for birdwatching.  Ducks, blackbirds, hawks and cormorants are among the fowl that might be seen here. From Del Mar Avenue, enter the park through a gap in the chain linked fence.  Follow a wide walkway a short distance to the beginning of the loop.  There are a few benches beneath a shade structure and interpretive plaques describing the restoration process of the wetlands.

0:05 - Interpretive plaque beneath the shade shelter (times are approximate)

0:05 – Interpretive plaque beneath the shade shelter (times are approximate)

The loop can be hiked in either direction.  To go clockwise, look for a dirt walkway descending slightly (as opposed to the spur leading to the paved bike trail).  The opposite end of the loop branches off on the right in a similar manner; use this if you would prefer to hike counter-clockwise.

0:12 - Indian Paintbrush on the west trail

0:12 – Indian Paintbrush on the west trail

The trail borders the wetlands, briefly sharing a portion of the bike path, crossing under a railroad bridge before finally reaching a turnaround point at Del Amo Blvd (about 1.2 miles from the starting point).  Along the way keep an eye out for plant life including California Golden Poppies and Indian Paintbrush as well as the diverse array of birds (possibly rabbits too).  Once you reach Del Amo, turn around and follow the opposite side of the loop back to Del Mar Avenue.

0:27 - Looking back from just before Del Amo

0:27 – Looking back from just before Del Amo

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

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Franklin Creek, Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

Franklin Creek, Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

    • Location: Carpinteria, on the corner of Ash Avenue and Sandyland Road.  From Ventura/L.A., take Highway 101 to the Casitas Pass Road exit.  Turn left on Casitas Pass Road and go 0.2 miles to Carpinteria Avenue.  Turn right and go 0.3 miles to Linden Avenue.  Turn left and go 0.5 miles to Sandyland Road.  Turn right and go 0.3 miles and park where available on the corner of Ash and Sandyland. From Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 to the Linden Avenue exit.  Turn right and go 0.6 miles to Sandyland Road.  Turn right and follow Sandyland to the corner of Ash and park where available.
    • Agency: City of Carpinteria
    • Distance: 1 mile
    • Elevation gain: Level
    • Suggested time: 30 minutes
    • Difficulty rating: G
    • Best season: Year round
    • USGS topo map: Carpinteria
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 1
0:00 - Carpinteria Salt Marsh trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Carpinteria Salt Marsh trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This short nature trail visits some coastal wetlands near downtown Carpinteria, providing nice views of the surrounding mountains and a good opportunity to see migratory waterfowl including herons, egrets and terns.  You also might see hummingbirds, wrens and goldfinches.  To be sure the trail’s purpose is primarily educational; don’t expect much in the way of solitude or physical challenge.  If you’re driving on Highway 101 the park is a nice place to stop to stretch your legs, located less than a mile from the freeway.  Scenic downtown Carpinteria also invites exploration before or after your visit here.

0:06 - View of the wetlands shortly after leaving Ash Avenue (times are approximate)

0:06 – View of the wetlands shortly after leaving Ash Avenue (times are approximate)

From the corner of Ash and Sandyland, enter the preserve and stop by an observation deck where interpretive plaques describe the ecology and geology of the area. The trail bends right and parallels Ash Avenue for 0.2 miles before bending left and heading northwest. (A short loop branches off, leading to an amphitheater where you can get some more views of the wetlands.)

0:11 - View of the mountains after crossing Franklin Creek

0:11 – View of the mountains after crossing Franklin Creek

At 0.3 miles you reach a T-junction. Turn left (the right fork heads toward a mobile home park) and cross Franklin Canyon on a footbridge. On the opposite side, continue following the trail, first northeast and then northwest toward Sunnyland Cove Road. Just before you reach it, bear left at a fork and follow the boardwalk to a clearing where you can sit on some rocks and look out over the marsh. This is the turnaround point.

0:15 - View from the turnaround point

0:15 – View from the turnaround point

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.


San Elijo Lagoon

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Wildflowers in the San Elijo Lagoon

Eucalyptus grove on the La Orilla Trail near El Camino Real

Eucalyptus grove on the La Orilla Trail near El Camino Real

San Elijo Lagoon

  • Location: Solana Beach, north San Diego County.  From I-5, take the Lomas Santa Fe Drive exit (37), and head west for 0.8 miles (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from San Diego).  Turn right on N. Rios Avenue and drive 0.8 miles.  Park at the end of the street, near the gated entrance to the park.
  • Agency: San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy/San Diego County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season:  All year (9am-5pm daily, closed Christmas)
  • USGS topo map: “Encinitas”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: here; trip report here; trail map here; Everytrail report here (starting and ending at El Camino Real)
  • Rating: 5

The San Elijo Lagoon is San Diego’s answer to Bolsa Chica, Back Bay and Orange County’s other coastal wetlands. Its proximity to I-5 is hard to ignore, but there are a few places in the reserve that do feel isolated. There’s also a nice variety of scenery: not only the wetlands, but various trees and plants, coastal views and hills in the distance.

There are a bunch of trails here, on both sides of I-5.  Following the main trail from Rios Avenue to El Camino Real makes a nice, moderate workout that provides some scenic variety.

From the end of Rios Avenue, follow the dirt trail, heading east and downhill. Interpretive plaques describe some of the plant life here, including wild cucumber, black sage and lemonade berry. You get nice views of the marshlands.

At 0.2 miles, bear left on the Gemma Parks Trail, which follows the shore of the marsh.  (The right fork is the main trail, which you can take as an alternative).  The trails meet up again shortly before I-5.  Head left and follow a trail that parallels the freeway before crossing under it. Climbing over the rocks can be a little tricky so be careful.

On the eastern side of I-5, the trail heads back toward the south side of the lagoon. There are some nice views of the Pensasquitos area to the east. At a junction by an information board, head left and continue on the main trail. This section is also known as the La Orilla Trail. It heads through a diverse riparian landscape, passing by eucalyptus trees and even a few pines.

Just over two miles from the start, you cross a dirt road. You can extend the trip by heading left toward a seasonal trail which leads north for a mile. The main trail continues through more wetlands, entering a pleasant grove of eucalyptus trees before finally ending at El Camino Real, 2.7 miles from the start.

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Harriet Wieder Park

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Wetlands in Harriet Wieder Park

Harriet Wieder Park

  • Location: 19521 Seapoint Ave, Huntington Beach.  From the traffic circle in Long Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway south for 10.2 miles.  Turn left onto Seapoint Ave, drive a mile to Garfield Ave (past the park entrance) and make a U-turn.  Head back toward P.C.H. and enter the parking lot on your right.  From downtown Huntington Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway north for 2.3 miles and turn right on Seapoint.
  • Agency: Orange County Parks
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “Seal Beach”
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 1

Harriet M. Wieder Park, in the northwestern corner of Huntington Beach, is Orange County’s newest regional park. As of now, the park is open to the public but not yet fully developed. There is no formal trail system here, but there are quite a few footpaths that are easy to follow. The route here samples some of the park’s scenery. The wetlands are similar to those at nearby Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The coastal views aren’t as dramatic and the wildlife isn’t quite as varied as at Bolsa Chica, but Wieder Park is still worth a visit if you’re in the area. It is also dog friendly, which Bolsa Chica is not.

From the parking area, look for a dirt trail heading south toward Seapoint Avenue. Turn right on a wide trail that heads across an open space and then down to a creek. Crossing the creek is the only tricky part of this route, but it’s not too difficult; you work your way through some bushes and arrive at another trail which runs parallel to a fence.

Head up the hill, following two large metal pipes. (Don’t complain; this land could easily have become a golf course.) Soon you’ll see a small path leading downhill to the right. Walk over the pipes and follow this path, carefully crossing over the top of some small bluffs.

Soon you reach the back of the park, marked by another fence. Make a loop, heading back toward the houses. Soon you come to a split where the main road continues toward the park entrance, but you can make your trip a little more interesting by heading left on a single-track trail. This trail completes a loop, soon arriving at a junction where you head right and retrace your steps back to ward the dirt road. Rejoining the dirt road (with the pipelines), you continue retracing your steps. This time, however, before you get to the creek, head right and follow another trail heading back toward Seapoint. When you get there, head left and return to the entrance of the park.

If the route sounds a little convoluted, remember that there are many possible trips you can take at Wieder Park. It will be interesting to see the evolution of one of Orange County’s newest outdoor spaces.

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

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Pond at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

  • Location: 5 Riparian View, Irvine.   From the 405 Freeway, take the Jamboree exit.  Go south for 0.9 miles on Jamboree, turn left on Campus.  Drive a mile to University, make a U-turn and turn right on Riparian View, and follow the signs to the parking area.
  • Agency:  Sea and Sage Audubon Society
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Tustin”
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2

Like the Madrona Marsh of Torrance, the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary offers a quick and convenient urban escape, where people can walk in nature and check out some marshlands and wildlife.  Although it’s hard to ignore the sounds of the nearby 405 freeway and Jamboree Road, the trees block out much of the urban landscape.

There are quite a few trails to choose from here.  The South Loop, which is 1.4 miles, tours a few of the sanctuary’s large ponds.  To get there, walk through the garden where interpretive plaques describe some of the wildlife in the area and provide interesting trivia (such as that bees in some way effect one out of every three bites of food we take.)

After strolling through the garden, you pick up the South Loop Trail.  It can be hiked in either direction.  Along the way, you pass several side trails that you can explore, although the main route should be obvious.  There area  few spots where the trees open and you can get a nice look at the ponds.  The South Loop circles ponds 1, 2 and 5, and passes by 3, before returning.  (You can pick up a map in the garden to follow your route, and check out some of the other trails in the park.)

It should come as no surprise that the sanctuary doesn’t present much of a wilderness experience, but for busy commuters who want to get out into nature on their lunch break or before or after work, it’s perfect.  Even veteran hikers should keep this trail in mind for beating the summer heat and getting their outdoor fix between bigger trips.

Nature Loop in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve

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Dusk in the Back Bay of Newport Beach

On the boardwalk, Nature Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Nature Loop in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve

  • Location: Newport Beach.  From route 73, take the Jamboree Rd. exit south for 2.3 miles and turn right on San Joaquin Hills Road.  Turn right onto Back Bay Drive (one-way heading northbound), and in about half a mile, park on the left in a parking lot.  From Pacific Coast Highway, go north on MacArthur for 0.9 miles and turn left on San Joaquin Hills Road, and go 1.4 miles.  Take a right on Back Bay Drive.
  • Agency: Upper Newport Bay Ecological Resreve
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Newport Beach”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 2

Like the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve farther up P.C.H., Newport Bay’s park gives O.C. residents a chance to see marshlands and a huge variety of water fowl up close.  There are a bunch of trails to explore in the reserve, and the short but sweet Nature Trail is worth a visit if you’re in the area.

From the parking lot, head north on Back Bay Drive, enjoying nice views of the wetlands on the left.  You cross a bridge and soon will see the sign for the Nature Trail.  The trail heads into a quiet, wooded area, crosses a boardwalk, and soon comes out on a dirt fire road.  Take a right, and head back to the parking lot.  You can extend your trip by walking south on Back Bay Drive, or taking a left on the fire road and exploring Big Canyon.

By the way, when hiking this park, in addition to the ducks, egrets and hawks you’re likely to see, keep an eye out for “Babe”, a bobcat who makes her home in the area.