increase font use small font sizeuse medium font sizeuse large font size

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park protects one of California’s few remaining coastal estuaries. At least 190 bird species, including some that are threatened or endangered, have been spotted here, on the water and in the extensively restored dunes, wetlands, coastal scrub, and grasslands. Among the birds you may see are Forster’s terns, green herons, willets, common yellow-throats, and belted kingfishers; and endangered long-billed curlews, least terns, and snowy plovers. The 230-acre park also includes an outdoor learning center with interpretive panels, and an amphitheater. A pedestrian bridge across Franklin Creek leads to a trail that skirts Basin 1, a 130-acre marsh that is part of the University of California's natural reserve system. 

Trail/Pathway Details

Carpinteria Salt Marsh

Trailhead: The most level entrance is at the intersection of Ash Avenue and Sandyland Drive.

Length: Under one mile total

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Gentle

One short, steep approach is before the bridge.

Terrain: Firm

Parts of the trail may be impassible in wet weather.


The tall vegetation and abundant birdsong along the first part of this trail may trick you into thinking you've been transported far into the countryside, yet the city of Carpinteria lies just beyond the park’s boundaries. A few yards in from the entrance is a raised area where large boulders serve as seats and interpretive panels tell about the marsh restoration and birds. From here you can also look out on the wide marsh, which often teems with birds. At the trail’s first junction, veer left onto a loop trail to the amphitheater, where views over the marsh offer prime bird-watching opportunities. Back on the main trail, a second spur in less than 100 feet leads gently uphill to another bird-watching area, though if you are seated the view is obscured by plants. As you continue along the main trail, the tall vegetation diminishes, revealing an extensive estuary. You pass a mobile home community and hear noise from Highway 1, but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment. Just past the mobile homes, a short, steep hill leads up to an accessible bridge across Franklin Creek. Follow the trail along the creek’s other side for less than an eighth of a mile to its end, where during my visit in October I lingered on a lovely flagstone landing, watching hummingbirds drink from late-blooming California fuchsia. 

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Accessible Parking: Limited Accessibility

Street parking only along Ash Avenue; no designated accessible spaces

Accessible Restroom: Yes

By trailhead at Ash Avenue and Sandyland Road 

Other Things of Interest

Guided tours leave from the entrance sign at 10 am on Saturdays, May-November; for more information, call (805) 684-5405. For 25 cents you can ride the electric Seaside Shuttle, which stops at the Salt Marsh Nature Park, Carpinteria City Beach and at the major shopping areas in town. It operates year-round, Mon.-Fri., 6 am-7 pm, Sat.-Sun., 10 am-5 pm.
View across marsh
View across marsh (Santa Barbara Land Trust)

Features icon key

  • hiking
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: City of Carpinteria
Phone: (805) 684-5405
Hours: Dawn to dusk
Fees: None
Dogs: Not allowed
Public Transportation:  MTD Santa Barbara
Useful Links: Seaside Shuttle 
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 24, 2008
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing