Elkhorn Slough

Home to hundreds of species of birds and marine life, the Elkhorn Slough is the remainder of an ancient river valley. The main channel winds seven miles inland, feeding 2,500 acres of rich marsh and tidal flats. Pelicans, herons and egrets, as well as countless fish, sharks, crabs, sea lions and otters call the slough home. There are several ways for visitors to access and explore the Elkhorn Slough, from kayaking to walking trails. 

This is an image of an Eco Tour boat sailing on the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing at dusk

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is located at the east end of the Elkhorn Slough, inland from Moss Landing. It is one of many access points to the Elkhorn Slough and is a great first stop when planning your visit to the area.

The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The Reserve has 6 miles of trails that meander through oak woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. It features a visitor center, picnic areas, and guided walks are offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Entrance is free.

The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Reserve staff are dedicated to ensuring the health of Elkhorn Slough and its surrounding watershed through research, restoration, and Education.


Elkhorn Slough is a clear favorite with birders. With over 346 species of resident and migratory birds at Elkhorn Slough, it's no surprise why. Elkhorn Slough has rookeries for heron and egrets that become especially active in May. Other species often spotted in Elkhorn Slough are brown pelicans and least terns.

Visitors to the Elkhorn Slough area can bird from the platforms at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area, Kirby Park, along Elkhorn Road, or at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Elkhorn Slough Reserve offers an early birding walk at 8:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month.


Elkhorn Slough's gentle waters and fascinating flora and fauna make it an ideal spot for kayaking. The main water channel is 7 miles long, and many smaller side channels provide opportunities for exploration. Be aware of the tides, however; that small side channel you're paddling on might disappear quickly at low tide! Respect the local wildlife; stay 200 feet from water mammals at all times.


Elkhorn Slough Reserve is a beautiful hiking spot, with easy, largely flat trails that are perfect for an easy walk. With six miles of trails through marshes, woodlands, and alongside tidal creeks, the Reserve is a great spot for hiking. When hiking at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, please remain on the trails, both for the wildlife's protection and for your own; the brush in the area contains liberal amounts of poison oak and ticks.

Kirby Park

Another spot to walk along the banks of the Elkhorn Slough is Kirby Park. In addition to the boat and kayak launch, and parking area there is a one-mile walking path. Perfect for viewing birds and taking in the sounds.

Search all lodging