La Orilla to Santa Carina Overlook


  • DISTANCE (ROUND-TRIP): 2 miles

  • TIME: 40 minutes

  • HOURS: Sunrise to sunset 


  • PETS/ANIMALS: Horses + leashed dogs welcome

  • ENTRANCE: La Orilla Trailhead Rancho Santa Fe, CA   See map

  • CLOSEST PUBLIC TRANSIT: None available.

  • PARKING: Small dirt parking lot, along El Camino Real. Roughly 8 spots. Please utilize waste and recycling containers at the trailhead.

  • TERRAIN: Uneven, including erosion-control stairs on steep sections.

Scout out birds, deer, and a myriad of plants on this trail.

Visitors enjoy the variety that mother nature provides on La Orilla’s sweet and simple hike. Thanks to two picnic tables at the trailhead, you can pack a meal to share with family + friends – or simply take a load off, post-hike. If you travel the trail after a rainy winter day, be mindful of muddy sections and possible closure.

Are you going birding? If so, see how many avian friends you can spot – especially woodpeckers and hummingbirds!

Keep an eye out for:

changing leaves of Fremont Cottonwoodchanging leaves of Fremont Cottonwood
No. 1

Fremont cottonwood trees

creating a shady canopy – and contributing to a dense woodland. Learn more

No. 2

Anna's Hummingbirds

buzzing around, and resident Woodpeckers tapping away. Learn more

No. 3

Riparian woodland trees

including California sycamore. Learn more

What to Expect

  1. Find the trailhead on El Camino Real – there’s a “San Elijo Lagoon” sign in view, as well as parking spots.
  2. At the start of the trail, you see a kiosk with further information about the trail, plus trash and recycling cans.
  3. For the first part of the trail, you wander past riparian trees such as Arroyo willow and Fremont cottonwood. If you’re quiet and listen carefully, you can often hear birds singing in the trees.
  4. Next, you walk by La Orilla Creek, which runs dry most of the year. During and after rain, water can accumulate in the area. Admire the dense native Desert Grape vines that climb over the trees and shrubs.
  1. As you continue, see the Torrey pine trees and sagebrush, and watch the terrain change from packed to more loose sand.
  2. Ascend an incline with spaced-out stairs, which connects you to the Santa Carina Loop, and turn right. Along this loop, benches provide a place to enjoy the overlook view and admire the wildlife (look out for mule deer here!).
  3. Follow the loop around, and you return to the La Orilla trail and its trailhead, which features two picnic tables.
  • link

    A pleasant, easy walk through a lightly wooded area, with great views of the lagoon.
    Read more

    Mark Burns
  • @giannaheavy link

    Great trail if you’re looking to get a nice peaceful run or walk with not too much activity. Mid day is recommended to wear head…
    Read more

    Enrique Tapia
  • link

    This was a neat thing to explore with the dogs
    Read more

    George Bigney
  • @wildairfoto link

    Pleasant short trail for a little walk or trail running.
    Read more

    Joel Scarbez

On your hike, you might see . . .

leaves with small green bead-like bulbs on stem

Desert grapes

The local Native Americans, known as the Kumeyaay, used the fruit of desert grape as food, either fresh, dried or cooked. The Cahuilla also used them for wine. More info


choose a mate, and then these residents of the chaparral become the sort of couple that does everything together. More info

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