Coal Oil Point Reserve

Directions:  From the parking area, a well-defined path leads to the ocean bluffs, and a stairway descends to the beach.  Stay on top of the bluffs and follow a path west, paralleling the edge of the cliffs and passing through another eucalyptus grove.  The trail, frequented by joggers, emerges at a small dirt parking area.  Directly across the parking area, an unmarked trail continues northwest through chaparral to the edge of Devereaux Slough.  Before taking this trail, you may choose to turn left and head south to Coal Oil Point, which features an overlook of the Santa Barbara Channel and the entrance to Sands Beach.  

After searching for humpback whales and dolphins, return to the parking area and find the sandy trail on the left.  This trail quickly connects with the paved Slough Road.  Being careful of cars, follow the road northeast along the edge of Devereaux Slough. 

Credit: The website for the Coal Oil Point Preserve can be found at  Wildlife photographs courtesy of Callie Bowdish.  More photos can be found at

Distance: 3 miles round-trip

Time: 1.5 hours

Highlights:  The reserve is one of the best remaining examples of a coastal-strand environment in Southern California.  The largely undisturbed dunes have become a nesting site for the endangered Snowy Plover.  In the heart of the reserve, Devereux Slough is a seasonally flooded tidal lagoon that dries out in the summer to form salt flats and hypersaline ponds and channels.  Thousands of migratory birds visit throughout the year, and the Slough is often considered one of the top ten birding spots in the Western United States.

Similarities/Differences:  Until you reach the western side of Devereux Slough, you will encounter many more humans that you would on the Animal Hike at Rancho Alegre.  But depending on the time of year, your encounters with animal species on the reserve, particularly birds, may be much more frequent.  If you feel like having a naturalist with you, guided tours are available.

Elevation Gain: Near level

Difficulty: Easy

Restrooms:  There is one portable toilet on the reserve at the top of the path to the beach.

Trailhead: From Santa Barbara, drive the 101-North to the Glen Annie Road / Storke Road exit in Goleta.  Turn left on Storke and drive 1.3 miles to El Colegio Road.  Turn left and drive 0.2 miles to Camino Corto.  Turn right and drive 0.5 miles to Del Playa Drive.  Turn right and park beneath the eucalyptus trees at the end of the block.

Near the north end of the Slough, leave the road and take a trail up to a paved road that runs along the north shore.  After two minutes of walking west down the road, the Pond Entrance will be on your left.  Take this path and stay to your left along the Pond Trail, which follows the western edge of the Slough before cutting west and dropping down to a small pond.  You can circle the pond, looking for animals, or take the trail southwest from here through sand dunes to the ocean shoreline.  Take a left to walk down Sands Beach to Coal Oil Point.  From there, you may climb up to to parking area and return to your vehicle by taking the familiar trail along the bluffs.  If you choose instead to continue walking the sands of West Campus Beach to reach your vehicle, beware of tar... it can be everywhere!

Tours:  Free guided walks on the Reserve with trained tour leaders are offered on the first and third Saturday of each month at 2pm.  For more information and to reserve a spot on the tour, use the contact information found at:

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