San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center

Nature Center: 2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
Annie's Canyon Trailhead: 900 North Rios Ave., Solana Beach
Park: (760) 634-3026
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., daily
View the  park brochure. Watch our latest trail video.

Whether you are a runner, hiker, birder, photographer or painter, San Elijo Lagoon provides natural solace and recreation. One of San Diego’s largest wetlands, this 979-acre reserve is primarily a shallow-water estuary, formed where the Escondido and La Orilla Creeks meet the Pacific Ocean. It makes for a beautiful backdrop for weddings and special events!

From sunrise to sunset, explore 7 miles of easy-to-moderate trails and hike the quarter-mile, moderate-to-strenuous Annie’s Canyon Trail. Trails connect wetland habitats of coastal strand, salt marsh, freshwater/brackish marsh, riparian scrub, coastal sage scrub, and mixed chaparral. Kids will enjoy TRACK Trails, a nature-themed scavenger hunts to win prizes online. 

Several trailheads can be accessed from residential areas in Solana Beach – stop by the Nature LEED Platinum-certified Nature Center to learn more and map your trek. The Nature Center is a perfect starting point for experiencing the beautiful San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. Museum-quality interactive exhibits interpret the history and development of the ecological reserve, as well as the plants and animals that thrive on site. 

Twice daily, incoming tides cover much of the landscape with salt water. As the tide ebbs, mudflats are exposed that are rich with invertebrates, providing food for shorebirds and ducks. Fresh water from rain-fed creeks and storm drains mixes with the salt water. The plants and animals in this estuarine environment have evolved to survive at the intersection of land and ocean. 

Visit the News & Events page for park events, updates and closures.
Click here to view development projects. 

  • Annie's Canyon Virtual Hike
  • San Elijo 1
  • San Elijo 2
  • San Elijo 3
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