“A lovely run with estuary birds, natural coastline, and the Pacific Ocean at the southwestern end of America.”
— Kathleen Schwartz
Birding · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The Estuary is protected land; signs are up stating there is no access off the trail. Dogs must stay leashed. National Wildlife patrol the area. Also, it is tempting to wade across the river to continue, but don't. The water is know to be contaminated. Finally, it is advised to check the tide schedule. This run is easier at low tide to run on harder packed sand and to avoid having to run back up to the road to avoid getting wet at the end of the housing development.
A great out-and-back run with scenic coastal views and a run along the beach.
It's one of my favorite trail runs in the area at low tide. At high tide, the sand is a struggle to run through.
The trailhead is located in a neighborhood at 5th and Iris in Imperial Beach. There is a small parking lot for three cars including one handicap spot. Dog poop bags and a trash can are available at the trailhead. The Naval Outlying Landing Field borders the trailhead parking and during the week, you'll see the naval helicopters practicing maneuvers.
For this run, head off toward your right on the singletrack Connector Trail
that heads away from the landing field. Depending on the tide, the estuary waterways will be high or low, and always will have an abundance of birds to watch for. Also noteworthy are the neighborhood vegetable gardens with chickens, ducks, and some fun art creations.
The singletrack will split in two; either path is fine and will meet up shortly again. When you reach the bridge at Grove St., head to the left. The trail will widen and you'll soon pass the Tijuana River Visitor Center on your right; this is a great stop to learn about the wildlife and wetlands. In the spring, the wildflowers along this trail are off the hook!
At the end of the North McCoy Trail
, you'll reach a small set of stairs that take you up to the sidewalk on Imperial Beach Blvd. Head left. It is less than a block along the city street to the ocean. At the corner of Imperial Beach Blvd. and Seacoast, you reach another parking lot with the "ART" sculpture rising above (or red squiggly lines, depending on your vantage point). Pass through the parking lot and head down the path and short stairs to the ocean. This trail heads left, and you'll be running the remaining mile and a half in the sand.
Depending on the tide, to avoid getting wet at the point where the apartments end, you may have to leave the sand and use the public access to the road (Seacoast) and continue to the end of the road to meet back up with the coastline.
The last mile is all natural, undeveloped coastline that is always beautiful and not populated. This run ends where the Tijuana River meets the ocean. You'll see Mexico two miles in the distance, most notably the Bull Ring. Also, the Coronado Islands are visible off the coast of Mexico. When you are done taking in the view, retrace your steps to head back to the trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
Over 370 species of birds have been sighted here. A nice five-acre native plant garden surrounds the Tijuana River Visitor Center. See trnerr.org for more information.