Santa Inez to Santa Carina Loop Trail

  • TRAIL STATUS: OPEN. Visitors are reminded to stay home if sick, avoid groups and gatherings, and to wear a nose and mouth covering if within 6 feet of others.

  • DISTANCE (ROUND-TRIP): 1.3 miles

  • TIME: 30 minutes

  • HOURS: Sunrise to sunset


  • PETS/ANIMALS: Horses + leashed dogs welcome

  • ENTRANCE: Santa Inez Trailhead   See map

  • CLOSEST PUBLIC TRANSIT: Solana Beach Transit  See map

  • PARKING: Street parking available

  • TERRAIN: Some steep parts. Note a sandy patch and incline (erosion-control stairs).

For hikers seeking a peaceful getaway, this trail is ideal.

You hike to the Santa Carina Overlook (aka Tern Point Overlook), which provides a fantastic view of the East Basin. At the moment, that view includes our restoration construction. Our Native Plant Nursery is situated on Santa Inez, where you may find a school group planting native seeds.

Traversing this quiet stretch of the San Elijo trails, you can spot peaceful wildlife – and even abundant wildflowers in the springtime.

Keep an eye out for:

No. 1

An impressive overlook

(called both Santa Carina + Tern).

No. 2

Our Native Plant Nursery

which you can pass by. You can also request a tour or volunteer there. Learn More

photo of plants with restoration cones over themphoto of plants with restoration cones over them
No. 3

Exciting restoration work

by the Nature Collective – note the cones + flags as you hike.

What to Expect

  1. Turn right at the trailhead, walk down rustic, erosion-preventing stairs, and then continue on the trail.
  2. Soon there’s a bench. Enjoy the idyllic spot for listening to birds – and taking a breather.
  3. Further down the trail, the terrain changes from packed dirt to loose, beach-like sand.
  4. Next, you encounter an incline – including erosion-preventing stairs. This takes you to a fork in the road.
  1. Keep right and view the current restoration work (note the cones and flags).
  2. Follow the loop until you reach a lookout point with two benches. Drink in magnificent views of the lagoon.
  3. Continue on, and turn right at the fork. This takes you back to the trailhead.
  4. Once you reach the gravel path by the trailhead, walk right to see the nursery filled with native plants of the area.

On your hike, you might see . . .

Large green bush with red berries


In the 1920s, the extensive harvest of toyon for Christmas decorations so threatened the populations that a state law was passed prohibiting the removal of any part of the plant from public lands.

More Info

Ridgway’s Rail

This federally endangered and secretive species has a loud, clapping call, and it’s been spotted more frequently in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve over the last few years.

More Info

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