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BEGINNER: San Joaquin Wildlife Refuge

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  • San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

    Campus Drive & Riparian View, Irvine, CA (map)

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  • Do not use GPS; read the hike description! Joel will be wearing a psychedelic shirt. Cell phone: [masked]

  • Lost?  Call Joel at[masked]


    We'll be hiking in the beautiful San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary in the City of Irvine.  Owned and managed by the Irvine Ranch Water Company, this facility boasts more than 300 acres of wetlands, plus an astonishing array of nature (especially birds).

    This is a very easy hike, and we'll take our time so we can appreciate the flora and fauna.

    This is a beginner's hike and is not suited to those wanting a conditioning hike.


    Distance: This hike will be between 3 and 5 miles depending on the hike leader's choice: we have 12 miles of trails to choose from, so we'll mix it up for variety.

    Difficulty: This is a flat hike on very easy terrain at a slow pace; this is a great first hike.

    Gear: All you need is a hat, water, and comfortable shoes: hiking boots aren't necessary, nor are trekking poles. Do bring some light snacks for energy out on the trail. Bird watchers might bring binoculars as well.

    Facilities: There is water and a restroom at the trailhead, plus a few port-a-potties scattered out on the trails.

    Pets: Sorry, IRWD does not permit animals - leashed or unleashed - in the Marsh.

    Post-Hike:  We'll stop off by the visitor center to sign the guest book and browse a bit.


    The San Joaquin Marsh is part of the IRWD Michelson Water Reclamation Plant, which prepares treated wastewater and urban/storm runoff so it can be safely sent down the San Diego Channel to the Upper Newport Bay, and then to the ocean..

    The 11 ponds are in the southwest portion of the property, where they not only host lots of waterfowl, but serve to help clean the water before it's sent on its way.

    The trails take us all over the property, and whether one is exploring the ponds on the South Loop Trail, walking under the canopy of Shady Lane, or exploring the Urban Forest, there's just a tremendous variety of nature to experience here.

    This not a sewage treatment plant, so there's no unpleasant odor, and the whole place is just beautiful.


    This is tricky: There is no street address to use with GPS and if you try it will route you the wrong way. The address above is the entrance to the property, 1/2 a mile away from where we meet.

    We meet in the parking lot of the Duck Club, which is right near the Audubon Sea and Sage Society building, and there is no access from Michelson even though your GPS may send you there.

    From the 405 Freeway (north or south): Exit Culver and head south towards the ocean; after 0.8 miles, turn right onto University, then 1.1 miles later turn right on Campus.

    The turn onto Campus takes you directly onto the bridge over the San Diego Channel: stay in the right lane, and immediately after the bridge is the turn on to Riparian Way. This turn easy to miss (see streetview): 

    Once on Riparian View, head 1/2 mile, the side road to the facility will be on the left (and you'll likely find that the road is blocked just after the turnoff).


    1) Select hikes that are at your ability level.  A sweep bearing a walkie talkie will bring up the rear. 

    2) Bring at least one bottle of water (16oz).

    3) Heavy rain three days or less prior to hike cancels hike.

    4) Wait at each trail crossing or turn-off for the rest of the group and the organizer.

    5) Wear appropriate hiking clothes and shoes.

    6) Do not leave a fellow hiker behind without inquiring as to their condition.

    7) You are responsible for your own safety.

    8) No smoking on this or any other Sunset Hike


    Group organizer and assistant organizers assume no liability; hike at your own risk. By being a member of this group you hereby agree to assume all risks and liability related to or resulting from any and all group functions. You agree that neither you nor any third party will hold any of the group's leaders, officers, or representatives liable for any injury, loss, or damage to your own person or any members of your family, friends, acquaintances, children, pets, or property, arising directly or as a consequence from a group activity. You also agree that your membership of this group is based on an "at will" basis.

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  • Joel S.
    Sunset Naturalist,
    Event Host

    Getting better.

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