Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

A biological and geological wonder awaits

Take a hike through one of the largest remaining wetlands in Southern California

A great egret visits the wetlands of La Orilla
A great egret visits the wetlands of La Orilla

The San Elijo Ecological Reserve protects one of the largest remaining wetlands in Southern California, as well as the bordering hills containing beautiful stands of maritime chaparral and coastal sage scrub. The La Orilla Trail gives you a chance to experience the diverse habitats that make up this biological and geological wonder.

Start hiking through the cool, dark eucalyptus forest near the trailhead. Within the first quarter- mile, the trail passes through riparian vegetation with abundant arroyo and Gooding’s willows, mule fat, and cottonwood trees, intermingled with chaparral and coastal sage scrub species. The wetlands here are fresh water, as La Orilla Creek discharges into the lagoon. You may find a great egret standing among the reeds and hear sound of frogs croaking in the spring.

The trail leaves the wetland and enters into a mixture of coastal sage scrub and maritime chaparral. In addition to scrub oaks, goldenbush, and coyote bush, you can find toyon, lemonadeberry, coast live oak, and Torrey pines, many of which are quite large. Some of the less common plants found here include the fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, blue elderberry, and southern honeysuckle. The birds hiding from you in the brush include spotted towhees and California thrashers — common residents of chaparral and coastal sage scrub — as well as the endangered California gnatcatchers, which live only in Southern California’s coastal sage scrub.

Sponsored
Sponsored

At 0.47 mile from the trailhead, the La Orilla Trail crosses the Santa Helena Trail at right angles. Continue straight ahead on the La Orilla Trail. Almost immediately, you will pass some of the largest and oldest lemonadeberry bushes found anywhere. These are over 20 feet tall, with trunks up to six inches in diameter. They may have never known fire.

The trail now begins to climb up a small knoll called Tern Point. On the way up, you reach one of several viewpoints looking out over the lagoon’s east basin to Manchester Avenue on the other side. It is difficult to identify the vegetation occupying almost the entire basin from this distance, but San Diego sedge and salt grass are known to be abundant in these wetlands. There are only a few patches of open water.

As you approach Tern Point, the trail splits and forms a loop around the Point. Take the trail to the left on the way out and return on the other trail. The trail to the left descends to the La Orilla Trail from the Santa Carina Trailhead.

Although the knoll is called Tern Point, in recent years, no terns have been reported to nest in this part of the lagoon.

Working to restore the wetlands

However, a substantial amount of restoration work has taken place here. Many eucalyptus trees were removed and hundreds of native species have begun to grow out of their protective cones. Tern Point gives you a good perspective on the extent of the restoration work going on in the lagoon, as well as on the freeway construction.

Chaparral on the right, wetlands on the left

At one mile from the La Orilla Trailhead, the trail begins to descend a low ridge, thinly vegetated with coastal sage scrub, while an intermittent stream course below to the left has a thick growth of cottonwoods and willows. Alkali flats are on the right. The trail continues almost as the dividing line between chaparral/coastal sage scrub/riparian vegetation on one side and more salt-tolerant species on the other. At 1.4 miles, the trail turns to the left and crosses the stream course it has been following, continuing for another 0.1 mile to a trail from the Santa Inez Trailhead. This is the end of the trail at the present time. The Dike/Levee Trail and the further reaches of the Santa Inez Trail out into the lagoon are closed due to construction and restoration activity. On your way back out, take a moment to appreciate the tremendous diversity here.

Driving Directions: (Solana Beach) From I-5 , take the Lomas Santa Fe exit (exit 37). Go east on Lomas Santa Fe about 1 mile to Highland Drive. Make a left and continue for 0.5 mile to its junction with El Camino Real. Turn left on El Camino Real and continue for about another 0.5 mile to the La Orilla Trailhead parking on your left. Hiking length: 3 miles, out and back. Allow 2 hours.

Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss negligible.

Note: Horses and leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. Sections of the trail can be muddy during the winter rainy season.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Drifter Luke Fink likes the traveling life

Former BMX rider reaches the age of cage
Next Article

Looking to the bright lights of Mainly Mozart

The two concerts at the Conrad are going to be special occasions
A great egret visits the wetlands of La Orilla
A great egret visits the wetlands of La Orilla

The San Elijo Ecological Reserve protects one of the largest remaining wetlands in Southern California, as well as the bordering hills containing beautiful stands of maritime chaparral and coastal sage scrub. The La Orilla Trail gives you a chance to experience the diverse habitats that make up this biological and geological wonder.

Start hiking through the cool, dark eucalyptus forest near the trailhead. Within the first quarter- mile, the trail passes through riparian vegetation with abundant arroyo and Gooding’s willows, mule fat, and cottonwood trees, intermingled with chaparral and coastal sage scrub species. The wetlands here are fresh water, as La Orilla Creek discharges into the lagoon. You may find a great egret standing among the reeds and hear sound of frogs croaking in the spring.

The trail leaves the wetland and enters into a mixture of coastal sage scrub and maritime chaparral. In addition to scrub oaks, goldenbush, and coyote bush, you can find toyon, lemonadeberry, coast live oak, and Torrey pines, many of which are quite large. Some of the less common plants found here include the fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, blue elderberry, and southern honeysuckle. The birds hiding from you in the brush include spotted towhees and California thrashers — common residents of chaparral and coastal sage scrub — as well as the endangered California gnatcatchers, which live only in Southern California’s coastal sage scrub.

Sponsored
Sponsored

At 0.47 mile from the trailhead, the La Orilla Trail crosses the Santa Helena Trail at right angles. Continue straight ahead on the La Orilla Trail. Almost immediately, you will pass some of the largest and oldest lemonadeberry bushes found anywhere. These are over 20 feet tall, with trunks up to six inches in diameter. They may have never known fire.

The trail now begins to climb up a small knoll called Tern Point. On the way up, you reach one of several viewpoints looking out over the lagoon’s east basin to Manchester Avenue on the other side. It is difficult to identify the vegetation occupying almost the entire basin from this distance, but San Diego sedge and salt grass are known to be abundant in these wetlands. There are only a few patches of open water.

As you approach Tern Point, the trail splits and forms a loop around the Point. Take the trail to the left on the way out and return on the other trail. The trail to the left descends to the La Orilla Trail from the Santa Carina Trailhead.

Although the knoll is called Tern Point, in recent years, no terns have been reported to nest in this part of the lagoon.

Working to restore the wetlands

However, a substantial amount of restoration work has taken place here. Many eucalyptus trees were removed and hundreds of native species have begun to grow out of their protective cones. Tern Point gives you a good perspective on the extent of the restoration work going on in the lagoon, as well as on the freeway construction.

Chaparral on the right, wetlands on the left

At one mile from the La Orilla Trailhead, the trail begins to descend a low ridge, thinly vegetated with coastal sage scrub, while an intermittent stream course below to the left has a thick growth of cottonwoods and willows. Alkali flats are on the right. The trail continues almost as the dividing line between chaparral/coastal sage scrub/riparian vegetation on one side and more salt-tolerant species on the other. At 1.4 miles, the trail turns to the left and crosses the stream course it has been following, continuing for another 0.1 mile to a trail from the Santa Inez Trailhead. This is the end of the trail at the present time. The Dike/Levee Trail and the further reaches of the Santa Inez Trail out into the lagoon are closed due to construction and restoration activity. On your way back out, take a moment to appreciate the tremendous diversity here.

Driving Directions: (Solana Beach) From I-5 , take the Lomas Santa Fe exit (exit 37). Go east on Lomas Santa Fe about 1 mile to Highland Drive. Make a left and continue for 0.5 mile to its junction with El Camino Real. Turn left on El Camino Real and continue for about another 0.5 mile to the La Orilla Trailhead parking on your left. Hiking length: 3 miles, out and back. Allow 2 hours.

Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss negligible.

Note: Horses and leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. Sections of the trail can be muddy during the winter rainy season.

Comments
Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Three poems by Lucille Clifton

Longtime Poet Laureate of Maryland is often compared to Emily Dickinson
Next Article

Switchfoot BRO-AM Beach Fest, Uptown Rhythm Makers, Cobby Brzeski, Chest Fever, Elvin Bishop

Fests, tributes, and more in Encinitas, Balboa Park, Bankers Hill, Little Italy, Solana Beach
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox Movies@Home — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close

Anchor ads are not supported on this page.