Photo by: Jan Null
Get out and experience the slough
Things to Do
Visit the Elkhorn Slough Reserve
Stop by the visitor center, enjoy a picnic, and wander five miles of trails through beautiful oak woodlands, calm tidal creeks, and open grasslands. Entrance is free at this time.
Photo by Marilyn Marzell
Visit Kirby Park
Located just north of the Reserve, Kirby Park is a public access point to Elkhorn Slough with a boat ramp and dock, parking lot, and handicap-accessible trail. The boat launch and parking lot are managed by the Moss Landing Harbor District.
The Elkhorn Slough Reserve, located at 1700 Elkhorn Road, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Reserve is closed Monday and Tuesday. When the Reserve is closed, you cannot drive in, walk in, or access the trails, restrooms, or visitor center.
The Road to Kirby Park is closed seasonally. Due to recent storm damage, the trail alongside Elkhorn Slough is closed until further notice.
Some years ago, winter storms weakened the road that leads to Kirby Park. For safety reasons, the County closes the road during the winter season.
Although the Elkhorn Slough Foundation cares for the Kirby Park trail, we do not own or maintain the road, launch ramp, or parking lot.
Kirby Park is managed by the Moss Landing Harbor District. The damaged road is managed by Monterey County. Monterey County has not provided any information as to when the road leading to Kirby Park will be fixed.
For road updates, you can visit Monterey County’s Road Closure Information Page.
We have provided this information as a courtesy to you. The information provided here may not be the most current. You are responsible for knowing where these areas are and what species are permitted. Please also be aware of the many people who use this area for kayaking, birding, and other recreational uses. Safety and caution are of the utmost importance.
Fishing is not permitted at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Along with those restrictions, a large part of the slough waterway is a State Marine Reserve, making it closed to all fishing and protecting all marine life and plants.
Fishing is also not allowed at Kirby Park.
Click here for a map of the slough showing the protected areas.
For more complete, up-to-date information, visit CDFW’s Fishing & Hunting Regulations page.
We do not rent kayaks at the Reserve. There are kayak companies in Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, and Monterey that rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and other boats for use in Elkhorn Slough. A quick internet search will get you started.
The Elkhorn Slough Reserve does not host boat tours out of Moss Landing. There are a couple boat tour operators, kayak, and other recreation rental outfitters in Moss Landing that you can contact directly.
Dogs are not allowed at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. We also ask that you do not plan on leaving your pet in your vehicle while you are visiting, because our parking area does not have any shade.
Dog friendly areas: When open, the trail at Kirby Park does permit you to walk your dog on a leash. Unfortunately, the Kirby Park trail is closed at this time due to storm damage.
While not allowed at the Reserve, hunting is allowed in certain parts of the Elkhorn Slough during the waterfowl season.
Please educate yourself about all the rules and regulations before attempting to hunt at the slough. Visit: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations or contact the Monterey Office of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (831) 649-2870.
We have provided this information as a courtesy to you. You are responsible for knowing where these areas are, when hunt days and times are, which species are permitted, and when the season is open. There is no hunting on private lands and no hunting at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Please also be aware of the many people who use this area for kayaking, birding, and other recreational uses. Safety and caution are of the utmost importance.
Please Note: the paved trail at Kirby Park is closed due to storm damage.
The Visitor Center at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve is fully handicap-accessible. They have accessible restrooms as well as an accessible Research and Education Lab. There is a short paved trail to an accessible overlook area with a scope, but the rest of the trails are composed of uneven terrain not suitable for most wheelchairs, those with limited mobility, and strollers.
Moss Landing State Beach also has a paved road adjacent to Elkhorn Slough for easy birding and otter viewing.
Wildlife and birds are abundant year-round in Elkhorn Slough. But since you asked:
Spring and fall bring more abundant birds as they migrate.
Spring also brings green hills, wildflowers, and baby animals such as sea otters, harbor seals, and nesting birds.
Summer is a great time to visit and escape the heat of the Bay Area.
Fall is a wonderful time of year as well, with abundant birds, sea otters, harbor seals, and perhaps more baby otters. We also love the weather in the fall—typically, the fog of summer lifts and we enjoy a week or two of beautiful weather before winter rains arrive.
Winter is marked by breathtaking sunsets, but it’s harder to plan ahead for clear weather.
We love kayaking in Elkhorn Slough year-round, but conditions vary based on weather, bird migrations, and even time of day. Always check current conditions for wind and tides.
You’ll find a restroom at the put-in site at North Harbor, near the kayak shops in Moss Landing, but not along the waterway.
Kirby Park is open, but there is no longer a port-a-potty available there. The closest restrooms to Kirby Park are at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, located a short drive south on Elkhorn Road. Restrooms at the Reserve are available only during open hours, Wednesday-Sunday, 9am-5pm.
There are no spots to land a boat or use the restroom along the Elkhorn Slough waterway. Plan ahead!
Currently, beyond the put-in site at Moss Landing North Harbor, there are no places to haul out your boat along the slough waterway. The land along the waterway of Elkhorn Slough is owned and managed by many different organizations and private owners that do not permit people to land on their property. Beyond private property restrictions, there are sensitive marsh and mudflat habitats that can be damaged by trampling and sensitive wildlife that are easily disturbed.
We do not permit kayaking within Reserve boundaries. Check out our kayaking page to see areas where boating is permitted at Elkhorn Slough. You can launch kayaks or other small boats at Moss Landing’s North Harbor, located on Highway 1, or at Kirby Park, located north of the Reserve on Elkhorn Road.
Photo by: Brad Lewis