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Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – PCH Entrance

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – PCH Entrance

I posted about Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach at the start of my blogging career circa 2008.

I’d been wanting to explore more of the Bolsa Chica wetlands ever since a friend told me about it in 2009.

Back then we visited the interpretive center and took a hike to the heron nesting ground. My son was calling it “hotlands” instead of “wetlands.”

So when fellow bloggers, Debi and Sharlene, decided to meet up at the wetlands — I was a little hesitant about the kids’ reactions to another hot and dusty hike. Then I remembered the we could enter from the south and suggested we give that a try. What a difference a few miles can make!!

I’ve returned so many times over the past decade plus and it never fails to impress! I love this place and the birds and wildlife that inhabit it.

How to Get to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve South Entrance: Parking lot opposite Bolsa Chica State Beach is easily found – by spotting the wooden bridge crossing the wetlands.  Lights on side streets (Beach Blvd, Warner, Goldenwest – can take a LONG time off the freeway. I like to take Seal Beach Blvd. and head south on PCH past Warner). MAP TO BOLSA CHICA ECOLOGICAL RESERVE – SOUTH ENTRANCE


About 30 seconds into our visit, we spotted STINGRAYS – in the wild! Wow! We could have stayed here all day, but the kids wanted to race across the bridge and see what else there was to discover.

Bolsa Chica Ecologial Reserve - stingray

The main draw to this end of the park is the very long wooden bridge which brings you right on top of the wetland.

It’s cooler at this end of the reserve and you can see wildlife in the water, nesting in the vegetation, and flying above.

Bolsa Chica Ecologial Reserve - bridge

We saw plenty of waterfowl on land, in the water, and in the air.

I enjoyed quizzing the serious birders we passed to help us identify some of the species we observed: a rare red heron, willets, black skimmer (whose lower beak is one inch longer than the upper so they can scoop goodies from the water), rock doves, and terns.

We identified the seagulls, cormorants, and brown pelicans ourselves.

Once you cross the bridge, you’ll walk dirt pathways with great views of the water below you. Stay on the trail, you’ll see signs about the protected habitat. We even spotted a large crab doing its distinctive sideways crawl.

If you can last, you’ll make it all the way to the heron nesting grounds reachable from the main entrance to Bolsa Chica wetlands. With little kids in tow, we turned around midway and saw more unique wildlife on the way back.

Be Aware:

  • Only portable toilets in the parking lot.
  • Bring food and water with you – it’s a long walk back to the car.
  • Wear sun protection – there is no shade along the route. However, the cool ocean breeze helped to keep things comfortable.
  • It can be foggy here when it’s warm inland, so make sure you have a jacket.
  • Use caution and try not to leave any items in your car at Bolsa Chica Wetlands (or at any trailhead for that matter). Thieves know you might be leaving valuables in the car because you don’t want to carry anything on your walk. They also know you’ll be gone a while so the opportunity is there.
Bolsa Chica Ecologial Reserve - bird at water edge


  • Parking in a very small lot off Pacific Coast Highway opposite the Bolsa Chica State Beach. If you are driving from the interpretive center to the north – you will need to make a U-turn past the beach entrance to get into the parking lot. If you are coming from the south, it’s a right into the parking lot.
  • Dirt trails — get map from center. Strollers would work at this end of the reserve – as long as they are okay on packed dirt.
  • Only portable toilets in the parking lot. No real restrooms. Personally, I would head up to the Interpretive Center at the corner of Warner and PCH. As an alternative, there’s a Jack-in-the-Box nearby and a nice Trader Joe’s off Algonquin and Warner.
  • No shade
  • Bring water and wear appropriate shoes (water bottle refill station inside the Interpretive Center at Warner and PCH).
  • Binoculars and nature sketchbooks would be good to bring along for older kids
  • Bolsa Chica Conservancy website
  • StockTeam (one of our OLD favorite Huntington Beach websites) photos and description

Originally posted in September 2010.


Wednesday 15th of August 2012

Very neat! Thanks for your report & sharing all your fun adventures.


Wednesday 1st of September 2010

I had no idea you could see stingrays there!! I haven't been down there in years - now I have a great reason to try and get back there really soon.


Thursday 2nd of September 2010

You'd love it, Lisa! And, Debi, we're still talking about it, too. Such a nice open space for the kids to roam and guaranteed wildlife viewing.


Wednesday 1st of September 2010

We had such a wonderful time exploring this amazing spot with you all. The big explorer is still talking about it, so I know we'll be returning. This place is a true treasure trove of nature & wildlife.

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