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Harbor Seal Preserve



2.8 mile 4.5 kilometer out and back
100% Runnable


Ascent: 48' 15 m
Descent: -48' -15 m
High: 56' 17 m
Low: 8' 2 m


Avg Grade: 1% (0°)
Max Grade: 4% (2°)


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Trail shared by John McKinney

A coastline run from Carpinteria State Beach to the Harbor Seal Preserve.

John McKinney

Features Swimming · Views · Wildlife


The out and back run takes you from sandy beaches to high-standing bluffs with great views of the Harbor Seal Preserve.


This run follows part of the Carpinteria Beach Trail. Starting from the Carpinteria State beach parking lot this trail meanders down the coast along a large stretch of sandy beach. Shortly you'll come across the mouth of Carpinteria Creek as it cuts across the beach and runs toward the ocean. A sand bar between the river and ocean is often present to allow continued passage along the beach, however if it isn't there a short detour onto 4th street slightly inland will let you cross a bridge over the river before returning to the beach.

Continue running further along the beach before turning inland to cross through Tar Pit Park on the dirt trails there. You'll then pass by the oil pier and parking lot, arriving once again on the coast where there is a great view point of the ocean above the Harbor Seal Preserve that sits along the beach here. December through May this section of the beach is heavily populated with seals making for great wildlife watching. From this point, you can turn around and return back to the parking area.

Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store.

Flora & Fauna

You can expect to see lots of seals on the Harbor Seal Preserve portion of the beach from December to May.

History & Background

The Carpinteria Tar Pits that trail passes through once bubbled up near Carpinteria Beach. In the 1910's the tar was mined and used to pave the coast highway in the county. During prehistoric times the tar pits trapped various animals, such as mastodons, and saber toothed tigers.

Carpinteria gets its name from Captain Portola’s Spanish explorers who, in 1769, saw the native Chumash building a canoe and decided to name the town La Carpinteria, Spanish for carpenter shop.

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319 Since Jul 17, 2017



The sun goes down on Carpinteria State Beach
Dec 6, 2017 near Carpint…, CA


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