Whether you’re a bird nerd or just like beautiful views, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach is a must-do in these parts. Its 1,341 acres of coastal estuary are home to over 200 avian species. Wander the 3.3-mile lollipop loop trail to explore the varying habitats here, from riparian lowlands to marshes and mudflats and coastal dunes.
Start at the Mesa Trailhead on the east side of the parking lot. You’ll immediately cross a bridge and get to a waterside pathway lined with coyote bush and coast sunflowers. Follow this route for 0.8 mile to the Mesa Trail Overlook. This is the perfect spot to take in the surrounding wetlands and read up on the local flora and fauna.
A few steps down and you’ll find a low bridge across the water. It’s one of the best spots for spying ducks, loggerhead shrikes, and snowy egrets. From the Mesa Trail Overlook, turn left onto the Pocket Loop Trail. This 1-mile loop around the Bolsa Pocket gets you up close to the mudflats full of nesting great blue herons. The route follows the shoreline then curves uphill and bridges to the crest of a sand dune, linking back to the Mesa Trail Overlook.
BEER BONUS: Huntington Beach’s Riip Beer Co. is directly off the Pacific Coast Highway and just across the street from Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. As the home of the Super Cali IPA, the 2016 silver medalist in the Great American Beer Festival IPA category, Riip Beer Co. is definitely a place for IPA lovers. Founded in 2014, Riip Beer Co. made a name as one of the first nano breweries in SoCal and operating on only a 3 bbl nano brewing system. Their small-batch beer is handcrafted, and though they specialize in IPAs, their brews range from blondes to stouts. With plenty of outdoor seating, Riip is an essential stop on a Huntington Beach adventure.
The north entrance of Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is located at 3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach. Take the Bolsa Chica St. exit from CA-22 and head south. Turn right on Warner Ave. then left into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve north entrance. The parking lot accommodates bicycles; no bikes on the trail. No dogs.