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Bolsa Chica Wetlands & Reserve: Parking, Hours


The Bolsa Chica Wetlands and Reserve in Huntington Beach, CA is a protected wildlife refuge that began in 1973. Peaceful, calming, and pristine, it spans 1,445 acres of unforgettable nature with trails of 4 miles.

It's home to a plethora of plants and wildlife. View coyotes, squirrels, rabbits, black widows, rattlesnakes, fish, and ducks.

That's just a few of the many species here. 

A cornucopia for birdwatchers, there are upwards of 420 bird species. Nearly half of all birds in the U.S. are present at one time or another.

The National Audubon Society chose it for their "Top 9 Great California Birding Sites".

It provides unobstructed views often visited by wildlife and fashion photographers. Entrance is free, however groups of 25 or higher must register.

The Bolsa Chica Wetland Hours are from sunrise to sunset. The best time to visit is early mornings or evenings.

Operated by the California Department of Fish and Game, The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is popular for walks, photographers, birdwatching, nature tours, and foliage.

Yearly visitors number around 30,000 a year. Spring is often the preferred season to visit since nesting and hatching occur.

The footbridge is popular to take photos and observe. 

NOTE: It is illegal to feed wildlife. Doing so can endanger their health.

The following is forbidden:

Bolsa Chica Wetlands Parking

Carpooling is highly suggested. Bolsa Chica Wetlands parking is limited.

There are two parking lots for the Bolsa Chica Reserve.

NORTH PARKING LOT: 3842 Warner Avenue which has the interpretive center. This lot is small.

SOUTH PARKING LOT: 18000 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92647.

Tours & Visiting

It's recommend to confirm before attending. Occasionally, events occur. Groups of 25 or more are required to register by The California Dept. of Fish and Game. Telephone 714-846-1001.

Bolsa Chica Conservancy 3842 Warner Avenue T: (714) 846-1114 Hours: 9 am to 4pm Free public tours are offered on the 1st Saturday of each month from 9:00 am to 10:30 am.

Amigos De Bolsa Chica T: (714) 840-1574 FREE FIRST SATURDAY TOUR: Tours are every 15 minutes on the first Saturday of each month. From 9;00 am to 10:30 am. gather at the South lot. Learn about the rich history, species, ecology, and ongoing restoration.

LAST SATURDAY BIRD TOUR: Walk is on the last Saturday of each month at 9:00 am.

PRIVATE TOURS: The cost is $1/person, $25 minimum. Max tour size is 70. To reserve a docent tour Tel: (714) 840-1575 or e-mail:

  • Bicycles

  • Fishing

  • Dogs

  • Watercraft

To report a violation: (888) 334-2258

Located nearby is the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center at 21900 Pacific Coast Highway which cares for injured wildlife. Their network of volunteers is instrumental in providing rehabilitation for animals endangered by toxic spills or harmed by humans. As a non-profit, they rely on donations.

To report an injured/orphaned animal: Tel: 714-374-5587

Two seasons occur for bird watching at Bolsa Chica: winter and summer.

  • Winter Peak: November thru February

  • Summer Peak: April thru August

Off peak, you'll still see many birds to observe.

History of The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica translated from Spanish means small bag. The earliest recorded inhabitants were those of Native Americans some 8,000 years ago. Through Spanish colonization and upon California joining the union, it has passed through several hands.

In 1895, a portion was sold to businessman who created a duck hunting preserve. Due to the tidal conditions, a dam was constructed significantly damaging the ecology. In the 1920's, the discovery of oil in Huntington Beach set off a boom stretching to Santa Barbara. It took until 1940 before any drilling occurred.

By the 1950s, the beach below it suffered so badly from pollution that it was called Tin Can Beach. It became Bolsa Chica State Beach in 1960 after California purchased it. For the next several decades, gov't agencies and community organizations worked tirelessly to restore it.  

In 1990, a non-profit called The Bolsa Chica Conservancy was created. Formed by community, business, and government, they provide a range of services educating on the ecology and threat of pollution. Volunteers maintain the integrity of the environment by removing as much as 10 tons of trash a year. 

Photo Credit:

Mike Park


  • Bolsa Chica Reserve

  • Written by

    Nicholas McDonough

    Senior contributor to The Hangout Blog living in Southern California. Connect with