Nestled in the community of Newport Beach, the Bluff and Bay Trail Loop in Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve offers great views of Upper Newport Bay and world-class wildlife spotting. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is home to some 200 bird species, including some endangered species, making it a top bird watching destination in the USA.
This guide has an easy and fun loop hike that takes you on trails down along the shore of Upper Newport Bay, then back along the bluffs overlooking the bay that offer great views.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Parking & Directions
Here’s the address and link for the entrance to the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve: 2301 University Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is located about 15 minutes from Irvine, 50 minutes from downtown LA, and about 80 minutes north of San Diego.
Parking and admission to the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center is free.
Bathrooms are in the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.
What You Need For the Hike
This isn’t a hardcore hike that requires any special gear. The only thing is that the lower trail can be muddy, so good hiking boots or waterproof sneakers would be smart.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.
This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.
The first part of the hike takes you down along the shores of the Upper Newport Bay, which is much less traveled than the rest of the park. The second half of the hike takes you back along the bluffs, passing several scenic overlook points where you can take it all in from about 75 feet above the bay.
This whole area, run by the Orange County Parks Department, encompasses about 1,000 acres of open space, all tucked into the middle of busy Newport Beach. The actual Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is 135 acres and sits on the north side of Newport Back Bay, offering great views of the whole coastal wetland, one of the largest in southern California.
The Upper Newport Bay is where San Diego Creek (I know, we’re not near San Diego) empties to the Pacific Ocean. San Diego Creek carries much of the nutrient-rich water down from the Santa Ana Mountains, making it a great place for wildlife to feed. If you keep going down Upper Newport Bay, it opens up to Newport Harbor, where people keep their fancy boats.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Hike Directions
There are a lot of twists and turns in these hike directions. If you get lost, don’t sweat it, the park is small and you’ll probably be easy to find your way. You can also pick up a map at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, but it only has the main trails on it.