0912_elkhorn_slough_046The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is 1700 acres and located at the east end of the Slough, inland from Moss Landing. It is one of many access points to the Slough, but is a great first stop when planning your visit. The Visitor Center is home to fun and informative exhibits, a nature bookstore, and is staffed with knowledgeable naturalists who can answer your questions. There are picnic tables, restrooms and hiking trails.  We host regular tours and events. Binoculars are available for loan.


The Reserve and Visitor Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm

The Reserve is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

When the Reserve is closed you cannot access the trails, restrooms, or visitor center.

Entrance Fee

To walk the trails there is a $4.12 day-use fee for adults 16 and older. Children under 16 are free. We only accept credit cards for entry fee, NO CASH.

Admission is free if you are just visiting the Visitor Center, restrooms and picnic area.  Entry is also free with a California hunting or fishing license. An annual CDFW Lands pass is available for $22.92.


The Reserve is located at 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville, CA  95003 Click here for directions and a map.


Regular docent-led tours are Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm – no reservations necessary for groups smaller than 6.

There is also a special Early Bird Tour on the first Saturday of the month at 8:30.

There is no extra fee for tours.  Find out more>>


The Reserve has 5 miles of trails that meander through oak woodlands, wetlands and meadows.  See the trail map for more>>



Beyond regular tours, the Reserve hosts special events, volunteer work days and clean ups throughout the year. Check our calendar often to see what’s happening.

Other information

Dogs and bicycles are NOT allowed on any of the Reserve trails. Dogs should NOT be left in cars while you hike the trails.

You can NOT launch a boat or kayak at the Reserve. Fishing and hunting are not allowed at the Reserve. Click here for recreation information.

There is a short paved trail to an overlook that is wheelchair accessible – the rest of the trails are dirt, gravel or grass with some hills and not suitable for wheelchairs. There is a wheelchair accessible bathroom, visitor center and offices.  For more information, call the Reserve at (831) 728-2822.


Reserve Rules

  • 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!