The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve features a network of about six miles of continuous linked trails that run through nearly a thousand acres of sea bluffs and wetlands. Most of them are unnamed trails that branch off of the Bayview Trail, which is also used by equestrians and cyclists. From the trailhead near the intersection of Jamboree Road and Bayview Way to the other end of the trail near the intersection of Irvine Avenue and Santiago Drive, the Bayview Trail is 2.5 miles long.
The popular West Bluff Trail Loop, which covers much of the same territory as the Bayview Trail, but along a different, looping route, is also 2.5 miles long. It's easy to turn any route into a loop here. Stop and get a map at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center to make it easier to plan your route or to find your way back after a beautiful afternoon of free exploration. You'll also find free parking and bathrooms there.
The main purpose of this ecological reserve is to maintain a haven for wildlife, especially the over 200 species of birds that make this a birdwatcher's paradise. While you can see everything from peregrine falcons to cactus wrens here, this wetland ecosystem is especially prime habitat for wading, water, and shore birds like herons, grebes, and terns. It's also a spawning ground for many marine fish species. Mudsuckers, gobies, and killifish have adapted to navigate the tidal mudflats. Bobcats, coyotes, and raccoons also make the preserve home.
Many plants that thrive here are termed "halophytes," or salt-loving plants, and include coastal sage, cordgrass, pickleweed, fleshy jaumea and sea lavender. As far as humans go, it's a popular spot for kayakers, and artists often come here to paint nature scenes en plein air. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash out of respect for the wildlife here, which includes many endangered species.
Especially if you bookend your time here with visits to the interpretive center, you'll walk away from your time in Upper Newport Bay feeling like you're on your way to a PhD in wildlife ecology. This beautiful sanctuary is a reminder of why it's important to preserve wild spaces. You and your pup will sleep well after a day here, with your dog dreaming of a rich tapestry of scents and you dreaming of hundreds of birds rising from the marsh grass and into the sky.