Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
|In This Guide|
|Distance||3 miles (4.8 km)|
|Time||2 Hours (Total Time)|
|Total Climbing||320 feet (98m)|
|Highest Elevation||75 feet (23m)|
|Park Name||Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve|
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.
What To Look For At Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
- Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is very popular with bird watchers, especially during migration periods, when there can be up to 35,000 birds here at once. Keep your eye out for (the rarer) white pelicans, the (endangered) burrowing owl, and the bobcat. Easier to spot are the numerous osprey, brown pelicans, great blue heron, egret, and mullet jumping from the water.
- 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.
- A minute or two after the start, you’ll arrive at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, which has great exhibits on all of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, including a fish tank. It’s run by the Newport Bay Conservancy (check the website out for more wildlife info), and is well worth the visit.
- Parking and admission to the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center is free.
- Bathrooms are in the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.
- Some sections along the bay can be muddy, so waterproof footwear is a smart option.
- 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 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.
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 what I would take.
- Workout clothes
- Gore-tex hiking shoes or boots
- Water or a hydration backpack
- A camera
My Top Gear Picks
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
- Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
- Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
- Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
See My Full Gear List
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Trail Maps
I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
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.
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You can watch this video in 360 degrees.
I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, the trail conditions, and more. This is how you can use and view them.
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