These hikes are BYOB—bring your own binoculars! Canyoneers, our museum-trained volunteer naturalists and guides, recommended these trails for anyone who loves a patient search that’s rewarded with a close-up view of nature. So, whether you're bringing binoculars for the first time, are an experienced user, or just want to know what trails we love, we’ve got a hike for you.
Why are these three hikes great for bringing binoculars? First, the trails are pretty easy, meaning regardless of your hiking experience, you can keep your eyes up and scan for movement, fluttering wings, or changes in color on a cliffside. There’s also no need to scramble over obstacles with your equipment because the trails are somewhat more open, making it easier to look around. Shorter trails also invite you to take it easy—moving slowly is often how you’ll find wildlife.
Of course, before heading out, check to see if the trail is open to the public, and be sure you’re prepared (and check out more binocular tips below). We hope you find a new trail to love or an old favorite to appreciate once again.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
More than 250 species of shore and water birds can be found here, but what really draws them in are the multiple plant communities in this location. This gorgeous reserve is also home to rare and endangered species. Birders and botanists, unite! Learn more.
Hikers, joggers, and horseback riders can explore oak woodland, grasslands, chaparral, and wetland habitats all in one place. This preserve also hosts large raptors, including the golden eagle. So be on the lookout. Learn more.
Borrego Palm Canyon
Birds aren’t the only thing you’ll need binoculars for. Along this popular and dramatic desert trail, have your lenses ready to get a great look at the desert bighorn sheep often seen in the distance. Learn more.
Love these trails? Snapped a cool photo? Let us know! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Is it your first time using binoculars? Here’s a few tips from the Canyoneers:
Have fun out there! Remember: be respectful of wildlife, our trails, and other hikers, and enjoy the incredible biodiversity the county has to offer. If you really want to nerd out, take iNaturalist along. This app for your phone allows you to upload your nature finds and contribute to scientific research. For more information on iNaturalist, visit our Community Science resources.
Don’t want to hit the trails alone? The Canyoneers offer guided hikes from September through June. Feel free to join one!
The Canyoneer program is made possible with support from dedicated volunteers and proud partner Subaru of America.
Desert Bighorn Sheep by iNaturalist User and The Nat Volunteer Donendicott in Anza-Borrego.
Canada goose sees on the Ramona Grasslands trail recommended by Canyoneers.
A view of the San Elijo Lagoon with yellow-green grasses in the foreground and the Pacific Ocean in the background.
Posted by Stephania Villar, Digital Communications Manager on September 20, 2021
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