Walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Are you looking for a relatively easy trail to hike on in San Diego? Well, look no further as I have found the perfect spot! The Batiquitos Lagoon is between Carlsbad and Encinitas, and it is one of the last saltwater marshes in Southern California. Today I will be taking you on a tour of the 3.14-mile Batiquitos Lagoon Trail.

Batiquitos Lagoon Map topography

Let’s go!

7380 Gabbiano Lane, Carlsbad


Nature Center-9am-3pm daily

Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Information

Batiquitos Lagoon Trail-A Photo Tour

I was so happy to come here for the first time. I have always been curious about this lagoon, as you can see from the Interstate 5 freeway. Here are a couple of references for you. The first is a map of the lagoon and a list of all possible birds seen here. Finally, I added the Self-Guided Batiquitos Trail Map, highlighting several sites.

Fun Fact- Batiquitos translates to ‘little watering hole” in Spanish.

Batiquitos Lagoon Trail Map Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Batiquitos Lagoon Trail Map Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
List of possible birds seen at the lagoon

Batiquitos Lagoon Self Guided

Batiquitos Lagoon Self Guided Trail Map 1 back side

Why don’t we have a little fun following the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail Map above?

Start of Trail Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
The beginning of the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Batiquitos Lagoon Marsh View-Cattails

Cattails in the far distance

Today we will start our walk at the beginning of the nature center’s lagoon (see above address).

Can you see the dead cattails in the distance? You can assume a freshwater source (urban-runoff) whenever you see cattails, as cattails cannot survive in saltwater alone.

West View Bridges Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Here we have the bridges for the freeway, the highway, and the railroad. Each structure restricts the flow of water to the lagoon from the ocean.

Underneath the trestles of each bridge and underpass, the swallows build their mud nest. So, swooping swallows eating insects in the sky is a familiar sight in the spring and summer. These birds help keep the number of flying insects down to a minimum.

Batiquitos Lagoon-Nesting Site

Nesting Sites Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Do you see the sand in the far distance? We have man-made sand nesting sites for the endangered California Least Tern and the Western Snowy Plover.

There are small stones and shells on the sand that the birds use to camouflage their nests within the sand.

Salt March Birds Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
A few examples of bird species seen here at the lagoon

Bird’s Observed at the Batiquitos Lagoon

There are typically over 60 species of birds that are viewable at any one time. Here are a few examples to consider.

Migratory Birds

Ducks:  Canvasback, Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy, Lesser Scaup

American Pelican, Elegant Tern, Least Tern, Belted Kingfisher, American Avocet, Western Sandpiper, Snowy Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper

Resident/ Wetland

Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Yellow legs, American Coot, Mallard Duck, Killdeer, Great Egret, Gulls (several types), Ridgeway’s Rail, Willet, Caspian Tern, Savannah Sparrow


Osprey, Coopers Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon

Upland Types

Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, House Finch, California Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Cassin’s Kingbird, Bushtit, Cliff Swallow, California Gnatcatcher, Say Phoebe, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black Phoebe, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow

Fascinating Geology Seen at the Batiquitos Lagoon

Scripps Formation Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Do you see the rugged hill to your left of the path? This tan sandstone area is called the Scripps Formation. It is believed to be over 45 million years old!

If you were to look closely, you would see many shellfish fossils. There are over 200 prehistoric sites recorded within one mile of this lagoon, some dating back as far as 9000-3500 years ago, left behind by California Paleo-Indians and more recently from the Kumeyaay (2300 to about 1800 A.D.).

Looking over at the hills,  they were cut by waves over 100,000 years ago when the sea level was 400 feet higher.

Please click on the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation link above if you want to learn some exciting information like this.

Here is a short video that I made that highlights the nesting site across the lagoon and gives you an idea about the surrounding hills to imagine how the hills became flat.

Riparian Habitat at the Batiquitos Lagoon

Riparian Habitat Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

A Riparian Habitat is the cooperation between plant species and a water source characterized by hydrophilic plants. The plant has adapted to allow its roots to be submerged in water.

Plants commonly found here include the coyote brush, California sagebrush, bush sunflower, arroyo willow, and non-native species, such as sweet fennel,  castor bean, and wild radish.

Sweet Fennel Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
Sweet Fennel
Wild Radish Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
Wild Radish

The Eucalyptus is a prominent non-native species and is a favorite nesting site for the great blue heron and snowy and great egrets.

The problem with the Eucalyptus tree is that it excretes a powerful oil that prevents native species from growing under and around them.

Eucalyptus Trees Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Bird nesting site tree view top trees
Can you see any nests up there?

Batiquitos Lagoon Coastal Salt Marsh

Coatal Salt Marsh Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
Pickleweed and Coyote Brush

Here between the water’s edge and the trail, we have an example of a coastal salt marsh community. Pickleweed (Salicornia virginica) is the most dominant salt-tolerant plant found here.

It is a soft fleshy plant that looks like and tastes like pickles. Early settlers would eat this plant and use it to make glass and soap due to its high alkaline salt content.

Because pickleweed is dense and close to the ground, it also provides excellent nesting habitat for the endangered Belding’s savannah sparrow.

Canary Island Date Palm Tree

Canary Island Date Palm Batiquitos Lagoon trail

If you do not mind, I would like to add something about this glorious tree I came upon on the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail. The Canary Island palm tree is a non-native species, but it has a presence!

Look how giant this creature is! I fell in love with this tree and plan to go back sometime soon to look at it again.

End of the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

End of Trail 1 Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Here we are at the end of the trail. At this point, you turn around and head back.

Let’s first have a closer look.

Close up end trail Batiquitos Lagoon

This part of the lagoon trail is closed and is designated as a Natural Preserve for the Western snowy plover.

Above View End Trail Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Heading Back

Bird Nesting Site bird watching bench
Bird-watching station

While making my way back, I took the opportunity to better look at all of the bird-watching stations found immediately on the trail.

What a fabulous place to go bird watching! Remember that you may see over 60 species here at any one time.

For more in depth look, here is the most recent list from ebird.org.

Click on the link below.

—>List of Birds Seen at Batiquitos Lagoon<—

Batiquitos Lagoon Panoramic 1 Batiquitos Lagoon

Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center

Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Nature Center

Before leaving, let’s go inside the Nature Center and have a quick look. The front porch has a beautiful view of the lagoon and is also a great place to sit and relax after walking.

Bird Display Case inside nature center
Bird display
Bird Display Case inside nature center
Wing display
Native American Display Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center
Native American Display

Inside the Nature Center, there are copious amounts of information for you to look over and a few pamphlets you may take while walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail.

Volunteers are happy to answer any questions you may have, so please do not hesitate to ask! I asked about the native plants at the lagoon and was given a specially made book to study before beginning my walk.

I had a spectacular time walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail, and I highly recommend others to do the same as it is a relatively easy trek.

I hope you enjoyed our little adventure, and please leave any comments or questions you may have below.

Until next time!

As an added bonus, I came across a very talented drone photographer (Jaxon Travis Photography) and would love to share a ‘birds-eye-view’ of Batiquitos Lagoon.


18 Replies to “Walking the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail”

  1. We were just researching all the places we’d like to visit in the USA and came across your site. This looks like an incredible place to stop off and do some walking.

    We have always wanted to visit California, I like surfing but I think the sharks put me off! Haha.

    Thanks for the useful information!

    1. Hi Mark! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. San Diego is a great place to visit, that is for sure. Please try not to think about sharks too much as it is an infrequent occurrence. My only advice would be to not surf at San Onofre State Beach seeing that a lot of Great Whites have been observed over there.:-)

  2. What a great article and it sure looks like a great place to travel to
    Might have to go on my bucket list Colleen
    All the very best

  3. Thank you for the wonderful tour. I live in Tennessee and of course I do not have any salt marshes to explore.
    I agree the Canary Island Date Palm tree looks quite impressive and so immense.

    Its been a while since I visited the area, but when I do I know a place now to just get away and enjoy some unique nature.

    1. Hi Doug! Thank you so much for your comment! I love Tennessee! I have two Aunts that live right near the border in Mississippi. It is a very beautiful state. Yes, that Canary Island Palm tree sure left an impression on me. I keep trying to picture when it was planted. This area used to have houses near it and farms in the late 1880’s. I keep wondering if this tree is that old. I hope you can make it down here sometime in the future!

  4. I like the way you led us on the trail and showed us things like we were actually there on the walk with you. It looks like a gorgeous place. Perhaps when I go visit my son in California this will be one of the places I stop to visit. Thank you for the detailed pictures and sharing!

    1. Hi Karin! Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you do make it here when you visit your son. It really is a wonderfully easy hike that is so calming to your soul. Enjoy your visit!

  5. Colleen,
    All I have to say is wow!. Your website is great, filled with so much useful information. I live in New Mexico and family and I visit San Diego every other year for Sea World, but now we have more options for my girls instead of Disney Land.
    They always want to do something different, but we always end of at Disney Land.

    Love! Love! Love!.

  6. wow, that is some nice scenery. I want to visit San Diego now. I like places like that, Yosemite is one of my favorite places to visit. I also enjoy Monterey, I like the glass bottom boat tours, and whale watching tours that they put on there. The epic white seal is always a nice site, if hes there. That is a lot of birds that live in that area, it looks like an amazing place.

    1. Hi Jonathan! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I have only been on one glass bottom boat in Mexico, and it was terrific. Yes, Batiquitos Lagoon does have a lot of birds stopping by. Next time I need to take the time and sit quietly and watch a few.:-)

  7. Omg, it’s gorgeous here! I wish I had somewhere to get out and walk here in NC but its just trees an endless see of unmanicured trees and yards. Thanks for sharing! Look forward to more 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Marlinda! It is beautiful over at the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail. In fact, I hope to go back real soon and look for the fossils in the bluffs. Thanks again!

  8. Dear Colleen,

    It’s absolutely beautiful to say the least!!!

    So much to see and enjoy and questions abound. I’m very happy to have found your page focused on this gem of a locale.

    Thank you for the collection of information. Outstanding website. I look forward to coming back, exploring the site, and hopefully planning to visit soon.

    All My Very Best,


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Ricardo! It brings me such joy to hear you say this! It is such a pleasure to share my love of San Diego to the world. I hope that you will someday be able to visit!

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