Reserve trails begin at the Visitor Center.
Visitors must check in prior to walking. There is one paved accessible path that connects the Visitor Center and the overlook. Within the Reserve there are three main trails. Each of the three trails offer views of the oak woodlands, grasslands, salt marsh, and tidal flats. All trails are dirt and gravel with at least one incline.
At the first south (left) trail junction, you will see a post labeled Long Valley Loop Trail. The uneven dirt path descends to the water’s edge. There is a small T-boardwalk over the salt marsh. Two benches along the trail offer views of oaks and water. Wildlife: rabbits, deer, bobcats, and a variety of birds. Nests: dusky footed wood rat. Tracks/Scat: deer, coyote, & raccoon. There is the option to combine the Five Fingers Loop Trail as the Long Valley Loop and Five Finger Loop connect to one another.
From the paved walkway the second available left is a post labeled Five Fingers Loop Trail. This trail is relatively flat for the first 1/4 mile. About halfway you can turn northwest/right and complete the loop or continue straight to the Parsons Overlook extension. There is a bench at a high point overlooking the Slough. A second extension down steep stairs to a wildlife blind offers views hanging over the mudflats. The loop itself winds down into a Eucalyptus forest and connects with the South Marsh Trail at the smaller barn.
Parson’s Slough Overlook Extension: .3mi (.5km) This extension offers great views of one “finger” or water inlet. A variety of birds and sometimes sea otters and seals can be seen. During low tide this is a favorite viewing spot for shorebirds.
The South Marsh Loop Trail continues below the overlook. A 1/8 mile steep hill descends to the small barn/ big barn trail junction. If you take a right at the small barn you will encounter oaks and shade first. If you continue straight in the big barn direction you will encounter saltmarsh and water sooner. The tide level may determine which way you can walk. Big Barn: hosts two owl boxes and one bathroom outside the building. Wildlife: egrets, herons, shorebirds, raptors, rabbits, snakes, bat rays, sharks, crabs, and an occasional seal or sea otter. Nests: red tailed hawk, dusky footed wood rat, acorn woodpecker. Tracks/Scat: coyote, deer, rabbits.
Whistle Stop Culvert and Levee Extension, and Hummingbird Island (HBI) Extension: .3mi (.5km)
On the far side of the South Marsh Loop a short, flat walk will take you over the culvert and levee, with scenic views of tidal mudflats. Continuing to HBI crosses an ACTIVE railroad track; Stop, Look, Listen, Look, Cross. The trail is narrow, with steep stairs leading to the crest of island. There are two art sculptures on the island and views of the main channel of Elkhorn Slough. Wildlife: bat rays, birds, sharks, sea otters, seals, lizards. Tracks/Scat: coyote, raccoon.
North Marsh Overlook Extension: .3 mi (.5km)
This trail goes north to a scenic viewpoint overlooking tidal mudflats and Kirby Park. Wildlife: migratory waterfowl, pelicans, bobcats, hawks, lizards, snakes. Tracks/Scat – coyote.
Reserve guided trail walks – Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
More about tours>>
Early Bird Tour – First Saturday monthly, meet at 8:30 a.m. at Reserve Gate.
More about this regular event>>
Special tours – available upon request, call 831-728-2822.
Groups of 5 or more please call ahead
- Enter the Reserve through the entrance at 1700 Elkhorn Rd. only during the posted open hours – Wed to Sun, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
- Remain on designated trails. Only foot traffic is allowed on trails. Strollers, wheelchairs, and walking sticks properly cleaned are allowed.
- Smoking is not allowed.
- Take photographs and memories only. No collecting is allowed. All plants, animals, and artifacts are protected.
- Releasing of any animals, feeding of wildlife, or introduction of any plant is prohibited.
- No pets on trails, in picnic areas, or in the Visitor Center.
- Fires, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, and firearms are not permitted.
- Picnic only in designated area.
- Please put litter in trash cans. Please recycle.
- Researchers have established experiments around the Reserve. Please do not remove or disturb any stakes, plots, small flags, cages, or other such objects.
Thank you for your cooperation in keeping our site clean and enjoyable for others!