Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||3 miles (4.8 km)|
|Hike Time||2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||120 feet (37m)|
|Highest Elevation||75 feet (23m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Park Website||Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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.
There have been some closures since the video was shot, please reference the step-by-step directions below for updates.
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.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
Great for all hikes – short ones to 10+ miles Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.
This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.
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.
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 link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Trail Maps
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
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.
- 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
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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.
FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.
The section of the trail along the water has been closed by the park.
The following directions are no longer an option. I recommend following the trail along the cliff, and then looping back. I’ll have updated directions in the near future.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.