How about a creepy coastal crawl this Halloween? The 1,449-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach is the largest saltwater marsh between Monterey Bay and Tijuana, a paradise for pelicans and plovers. Release your inner ghostbuster on a 3.4-mile (round-trip) hike through the wetlands, frequented by nearly 200 species of winged creatures, and—as rumor has it—a boy ghost who haunts a scenic overlook. Start at the Conservancy’s Interpretive Center, where you can grab a trail map and bird checklist. Head for the singular path, the Mesa Trail, over the footbridge. Follow along the cliffs overlooking the outer bay, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the ocean before coming up to remnants of a WWII mount gun and bunker. The boy ghost is rumored to be at this scenic overlook, which also features a handful of palm trees serving as a nesting grounds for great blue herons.
Head a few paces south to the bridge and watch fish-hunting birds, including the graceful fast-flying endangered California least tern. Continue east on the inner bay loop trail, flanked by the Bolsa Chica inner bay to the south and the ocean-connecting full tidal basin to the north. Eerie silhouettes of oil bobbing pumpjacks loom in the distance. After a mile, the trail turns south onto a boardwalk, a prime spot to catch nesting snowy plovers, but don’t get too close … many hikers have claimed to be grabbed by their ankles and nearly dragged into the marsh! Finish your haunted hike continuing along the inner bay loop trail adjacent to the PCH, back to the Mesa Trail and your car.
BONUS THRILL: Located 30 minutes away is the classic theme park Knott’s Berry Farm … make that Knott’s Scary Farm! Halloween mazes include a zombie apocalypse and there’s also the Calico Saloon, serving alcohol. Plus “Elvira’s Danse Macabre” theater show, and an outdoor comedy-horror stage show. (Pictures below.)
To get to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve interpretive center parking lot, take the I-405 and exit Brookhurst Street south. After a mile, turn right onto Ellis Ave. and take this for 2 miles, continuing via a slight left onto Main St. Turn right at Garfield Ave., followed by a left at Seapoint St. and then a right onto the Pacific Coast Highway. Take the PCH north for 3 miles, turning right into the Conservancy’s lot at Warner Ave. No dogs.