Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Climbing: 320 ft (98 m)
Dogs: Leashed
Trailhead: 2301 University Dr, Newport Beach, CA, 92660, USA
Park Website: Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Hike Weather: Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Hike Weather

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 easy and fun loop hike takes you on trails down along the shore of Upper Newport Bay, then back along the bluffs overlooking the bay that offer great views.

In This Guide

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Hike Videos

These hike videos take you through the turn by turn of all the trails on the hike. There’s also a visual turn-by-turn at the end of this guide that you can print out or look at on your phone.

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And if your browser supports 360 video (try Firefox or Chrome), there’s this version here:

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Directions to Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

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.

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Here’s the address and link for the entrance to the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve: 2301 University Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

Here’s what the trailhead looks like.

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Gear 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.

recommended hiking bootClick here to see all the hiking gear and clothing that I use. Don’t waste your money on gear that’s no good, I’ve done that for you. All my picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Trail Maps

Interactive Trail & Topo Map

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Map Downloads For The Hike

I usually hike with a combination of a paper map and digital map. You can print the PDF map below, and you can also print this web page out. There’s also a GPX file that you can use on GPS devices.

garmin fenix 5xI use the Garmin Fenix 5x mapping GPS watch for my maps and navigation, which works great. It tracks my hikes, all my workouts, my sleep, heart rate, and a ton of other functions. It’s a little pricey, but I literally use it every day to monitor my health, workouts, and adventures. I’d recommend checking it out. You can checkout all of the navigation and mapping gear I use here.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Trail Elevation Profiles

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve 3d map
The hike hugs the Upper Newport Bay shoreline for the first half, and then returns along the bluffs.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve elevation
There’s some very short ups and downs, but otherwise this hike is easy.

What to Expect at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Bird At Upper Newport Bay
There are lots of active ospreys on this hike. Don’t forget to look up. Follow me on Instagram for more great hike shots.

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Turn by Turn 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.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Look for the park entrance tucked into a residential neighborhood.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The parking lot is pretty huge, but does get popular with locals, especially on weekends.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trailhead is in the lot where you first pull in to park.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Follow the trail downhill from the trailhead.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
If you want to make a short detour, head to the observation deck which is on the roof of the Muth Interpretive Center. Otherwise continue downhill.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
As you hike downhill you’ll see the Muth Interpretive Center to your left. That’s your next stop.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Checkout the cool sculpture on the Muth Interpretive Center plaza.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Check the park website link in this article to get the Muth Interpretive Center hours.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
There are many great interpretive displays that explain every aspect of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve in an easy to understand way.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
My favorite part is the fish tank with species that you find in Upper Newport Bay.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
When you’re done in the interpretive center, make the left and head through the employee parking lot.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Continue toward the bike path and then make the right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Hike down in the fenced-in section of trail.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the end of the fenced section, make the right at the creek.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail follows along the creek.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
You can take the smaller upper trail and get closer to the water. Keep your eyes open for mullet.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
When you cross the bridge, continue along the creek.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail starts to head uphill to the bluff.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Throughout the hike you’ll see numerous side trails. Remember that this is a fragile habitat and stay on the main trails. The fauna includes the endangered Saltmarsh Bird’s Beak herb.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the top of the hill hike to the left.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Keep hiking to the left.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Avoid the trails to the right and continue hiking along the trail closest to the cliff.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Okay, this junction is important but easy to miss. First, check out the overlook area, then head down the next left to hike down to the waterfront.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The overlook is a cool little area. There are more of these on the way back.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Leave the overlook and head down the second left from the former picture. You’ll hike down some steps toward the shoreline.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Avoid the trails inland and head to the path along the shore.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Keep your eyes open for sardines and mullet.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the end of the shoreline portion of the trail, continue to the right and head inland.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail heads towards the foot of the bluffs.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
You’ll notice so debris and flotsam down here. If there’s a storm surge or unusually high tide, this area might be underwater, in which case you need to turn around and go back. But usually it’s okay. Time your trip for low tide in Newport Bay for the best chances.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail frequently splits and comes back together. Take the trail on the left in general for the best views. If it’s too wet there, hike to the right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Midway on this section there’s a nice bench to take in the views.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Some sections can be wet and muddy. Good boots help here.It all depends on how high the tide has been.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the end of the waterfront stretch, head up the hill at the big palm.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Make the left at the top of that little hill.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Cross the small bridge.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Once across the bridge, make the quick left and then this right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
After that right, go up the small hill and make the left.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail heads along a lower bluff on the water.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
This section of trail is occasionally overgrown.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Respect the bird habitat and don’t head down to the water.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
This section of trail has some nice views onto sand spits where shorebirds often hang out.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the end of this section of trail, make the right, avoiding the steep uphill trail.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Stay on the wider main trail, avoiding any small trails to the right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
At the larger intersection, make the right. The left turn heads to the street.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Again, stay on the main trail avoiding any smaller side trails.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
You’ll cross a small bridge.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail starts to climb.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
The trail dead ends into the bike path. Make the right here.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Head down the paved bike path for a while.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
When you reach this little bridge, make the right turn to head up this trail, hiking up the hill.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Randomly there’s a trail sign here, but nowhere else.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Keep heading straight up the main trail.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Stay left and avoid the smaller (unofficial) trails along the bluff.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
There are a few scenic overviews as you hike back along the bluffs.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
You’ll get nice views out toward Newport Bay.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
You also get views east toward Saddleback Mountain.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
When the trail dips and climbs, hike to the right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Keep straight at the big junction.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
One last overview on this section.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Eventually the trail intersects with the bike path again. Make the right.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Continue straight on the dirt trail next to the bike path, passing any side trails.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Eventually you’ll see a trail bearing off to the right the heads into the parking lot where you started. Take that to head back.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
And that’s it, you’re back at the parking lot where you started.

A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.