Things to Do

Bring the family. Flora and Fauna abound. The birds sighted here number more than 370. Of these species, 320 are migratory and 50 are residents. Click to see a short film to learn a little bit more about why the Tijuana Estuary is so special. Here are some suggested things to do:

Take a guided nature walk.
Check calendar for current schedule.
Discover the native plants of the Tijuana Estuary on this tour led by a very knowledgeable docent. Docents will be happy to answer your questions as well as give you an overview description of an estuary. Second Saturday: Meet at 5th & Iris Ave. (no restrooms). Fourth Saturday: Meet at the reception desk in the Visitor Center to begin your tour. There is no fee.


Long-billed CurlewTake a guided bird walk.
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Take a leisurely walk along the North McCoy trail to see and identify the many birds of the estuary. The North McCoy Trail is 1/3 mile long and is an excellent place to find the Light-Footed Clapper Rail, a marsh hen that is on the endangered species list. Usually where you see the Clapper Rail, you have a chance of seeing the Yellow Crown Night Heron not found listed in Western Bird books because it is not normally found in California. Pick up the pamphlet Birds of Southern California’s Coastal Bays and Estuaries from the rack inside the Visitor Center. It will help you identify the local shore birds. The tour is led by informed docents and binoculars are provided free of charge. There is no fee for this tour and it is for all ages. Please meet at the Visitor Center reception area. Learn more about what birds you’d expect to find in Imperial Beach in this short film.

Attend a Free Talk.
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Come meet estuary experts at our Saturday Speaker Series. At the Saturday Speaker Series, invited guest speakers engage the community in a variety of topics related to the Tijuana Estuary and its watershed. Talks take place in the Training Center building is located near the Visitor Center entrance. You are free to ask questions on the subject being discussed. All are welcome, coffee is hot.

Jr Rangers Mudflat Inverts ActivityJoin the Junior Rangers.
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Discover the rich natural and cultural heritage preserved in parks during this FREE program for children from 7 through 12 years of age. These hands-on classes are led by our education department. Download a pamphlet on the weekly topics or pick one up in the visitor center. One time visitors can pick up a copy of the California State Parks Junior Ranger Adventure Guide in the visitor center. Children with special needs or large groups should be coordinated in advance with education staff, (619) 575-3613 ext. 305/306.

Get Involved!
Volunteer at the Reserve, there are several ways to get involved whether you have a day to give or would like to volunteer long-term as a Stewardship Volunteer, Docent, or more. Our Community Volunteer Events, especially Tijuana River Action Month (Sept & Oct), are a great way to accumulate community service hours or to just give back to the land (check calendar for current schedule). Read more about our Volunteer Program.


Come to one of our Festivals and Celebrations.
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Whether we are celebrating Discovery Labs, World Migratory Bird Day, or another special event, your family is sure to enjoy it!




Hike the trails.
We have several very navigable trails, the North McCoy Trail, the South McCoy Trail, the River Mouth Loop, and the Seacoast Trail. Recently, the trails were resigned, many have new names. The names used below correspond to the updated Tijuana River Valley trail map on this website, however the brochure map in the Visitor Center contains the former names. Stop by the Visitor Center before heading out on the trails to get wildlife updates or to borrow a pair of binoculars from the Visitor Center Park Aide (you will need to leave an identification card until your return). Please do not venture off the trails. The trails are free for your enjoyment.

  • North McCoy Trail (.3 miles)
    The North McCoy Trail is probably the best for those who are unable to walk very far because it is relatively short (see above). It is also a trail that would be easiest for the use of wheel chairs or strollers. This trail dead-ends where you are able to see across to the South McCoy Trail but there is no way to cross at this point.
  • South McCoy Trail (.75 miles)
    To get across to the South McCoy Trail and to the River Mouth, upon leaving the parking area turn left. Caspian Way will turn into 3rd Street. Turn right onto Imperial Beach Boulevard for two blocks, make a right turn onto 5th Street, and drive to the end of the street. There is parking directly across from the trail. Be sure to stop and sit at the bench at the Brackish Ponds which is a favorite hangout of visiting waterfowl.
  • River Mouth Trail/Loop (1 mile)
    By way of a trail fenced on one side by the Navy Outlying Landing Field, this will take you to the river mouth (the last trail to the right ), a peaceful and calming spot, where a lone bench is there for you to rest, listen to the waves, and wait for the birds to come to you. Binoculars will be helpful. Usually you will see an abundance of brown pelicans, curlews, least terns (in summer), etc. Dogs on leash are permitted on this trail as they also are on the Seacoast Trail (North Beach Trail on Visitor Center brochure). Bike riding is also permitted. You can also access this trail by walking around the apartments next to the Visitor Center where you will see a dirt bike path which leads onto the trail which runs along the fence of the Navy Training Field.
  • Seacoast Trail (.75 miles)
    Formerly North Beach Trail. This trail can be accessed by driving to the south end of Seacoast Drive. Read the San Diego Reader’s Roam-O-Rama about Jerry Schad’s hike along this trail. Click to view the “Hike from Pier to River Along Imperial Beach” short film or learn more about this section of the California Coastal Trail by clicking here.
  • Coast Trail North and South (1.5 miles)
    Formerly South Beach Trail. If you like to walk along a secluded beach, this hike is for you. To access this trail you will need to drive to Border Field State Park. From the entrance gate, walk west until you reach the beach, do not turn with the road. Once you reach the beach you can head south to Monument Mesa or north to the Tijuana Rivermouth. Be sure to bring your binoculars – dolphins can be spotted in the ocean; pelicans, terns, and various shorebirds can be spotted at the rivermouth; and the view from Monument Mesa is amazing! Dogs are NOT permitted on this trail, please respect the boundary signs that mark the nesting habitat for the endangered California Least Tern and the threatened Western Snowy Plover. Click to learn more about other trails in the Tijuana River Valley.

Tell Everyone…what a great park this is to experience fun and education for the entire family.

Visit Soon.