We had recently hiked the coast on the southern side of the Tijuana River in our visit to Border Field State Park, and decided today that we’d check out the north side. The North Coast trail is part of the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, which, along with Border Field State Park and some county owned land to the east, make up the the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR).
While this stretch of beach lacks the dramatic cliffs and rocky outcroppings found in the northern half of the county, it is fairly secluded and allows for a nice quiet walk along the water. The estuary to the east is the largest coastal wetland in Southern California. It is an important habitat for numerous native and migratory birds, as well as fish and other creatures.
We had been pleased to discover that leashed dogs were allowed on this small section of the coast, and were joined by our intrepid hiking companion Khan.
The trail began at the cul-de-sac at the end of Seacoast Drive. Midday on a Friday, we had no problems finding parking on the street. To the east was a wooden boardwalk and viewing area which had some interpretive signs and provided an expansive view of the estuary.
We walked over towards the water and found a wide expanse of white sand adjacent to the water. A couple of volunteers from the TRNERR were set up with information about tides, birds in the area, and other useful information.
Along the edge of the estuary was a raised rocky artificial dune one could walk along. We decided we’d walk along the water’s edge on our southbound journey, then return along the dune.
We passed a couple of people set up on the beach with their towels and blankets, but after less than a quarter mile or so, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Except of course for the birds. Like the southern side of the river we visited previously, this area was a haven for all kinds of interesting shorebirds.
Unfortunately being a weekday, there was a significant amount of activity from another, much louder, kind of bird:
Just beyond the estuary lies a Naval Landing Field, where they practice helicopter landings pretty much constantly every day except Sunday. For the most part it wasn’t too disturbing as the roar of the ocean managed to drown out most of the engine noise. I suspect it’s much more irritating along the more inland trails of the estuary.
The raised dune to the east disappeared after a little bit, and we were left with just a wide expanse of sand between the water and the roped off protected area.
We encountered some washed up ocean plant life, which Khan bravely investigated to make sure it wouldn’t harm us. His verdict: safe, but inedible.
Around 1 mile, we came to the Tijuana River outlet, and our turnaround point. Looking across to the south we could make out the buildings just on the other side of the border, including the Plaza de Toros.
Looking out to sea towards the south, we could see the hazy outline of the Coronado islands.
We turned around and headed back up the beach, this time walking along the edge of the estuary. A rope fence along the edge of the slough kept us out of the area inhabited by nesting birds, including the endangered Least Tern and Snowy Plover.
We still had some beautiful views of the wetland, and Mt Miguel in the distance
We reached the beginning of the raised section, and traversed the small ridge for the remainder of our journey.
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From 5 south, take the Coronado Ave exit. Turn right onto Coronado Ave., continue as Coronado turns into Imperial Beach Blvd. Turn left onto Seacoast Drive, follow to the end (less than 1 mile) and park along the street. map
|Total Distance:||2 miles|
|Best Time of Year:||Year round. Go on a Sunday to avoid noise from helicopter training.|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs are allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||No bikes allowed|
For more information, visit:
US Fish & Wildlife Service – Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve