Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
40.00 ft (12.19 m)
Trail type
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a popular wetlands estuary lying along the Pacific Coast Highway near the boundaries of Huntington Beach and Sunset Beach.

Covering an area of 1300 acres, the wetlands reserve contains mud flats, coastal dunes, salt marsh, riparian and seabird nesting environments. Over 200 species of birds have been identified at the reserve since land was initially set aside for the reserve in the 1970's.

Its bridge and trails popular amongst birdwatchers and nature photographers, the network of trails inside the grounds provide mostly easy and flat terrain and is a local fixture for walkers and joggers. 

While there are multiple paths within the reserve. A main trail to the reserve's most popular and scenic areas of the strip of land running between water that can be accessed by way of a long wooden bridge from the parking area along Pacific Coast Highway, and the much quieter Bolsa Pocket area covers 3 miles, though visitors can easily customize their path based on their own distance desires. This looping route takes visitors from coastal marine wetland environments where herons and brown pelicans can be seen resting on the water or stalking the estuary's edge for their next meal, to the Bolsa Pocket and Brightwater Trail Access where native plants line the marsh's edge and slight rises in elevation offers good viewpoints for taking in the scene.

Visitors should bring binoculars, and seek out any of the viewpoints with interpretive signs along their hike for good places to sit and take in the environment. Despite lying near the core of Huntington Beach, the ecological reserve feels like an entirely different place, though, unfortunately, it's hard to get away from the roar of traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The ecological reserve is open daily from 6am-8pm. 

While the most central parking area is along Pacific Coast Highway opposite the entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach, there is additional parking located at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy building (who also offer tours of the wetlands to the public) at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Warner Ave, and onstreet parking with access through the Brightwater Trailhead at the intersection of Brightwater Drive and Bolsa Chica Street.

Pit toilets and trash cans are located at the reserve parking areas.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Local escape from urban environment.


Highway noise. Litter.

Trailhead Elevation

9.00 ft (2.74 m)

Highest point

28.00 ft (8.53 m)


ADA accessible
Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Family friendly
Bird watching
Guided tours

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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