All in for Agua Hedionda

Paddle and Hike at Agua Hedionda in Carlsbad

The stunning San Diego coastline is no secret—it’s got some of the most pristine sandy shorelines in the world. But just beyond some of those stretches lie beautiful, less-frequented hidden gems: lagoons! In the county, there are six in total, but for your next adventure, choose Agua Hedionda Lagoon for some oar-some kayaking and a few short and sweet hiking trails.

For a short hike, you’ve got five options—the Bayshore Drive Trail, Cove Drive Trail, Hubbs Trail, Kelly School Trail, and Discovery Center Trail. All are easy and worth exploring, but we like the Hubbs Trail for a quick jaunt before heading out on the water. Park at the end of Garfield Street and take the path that hugs the bluff, exploring the northernmost shore of the lagoon between the Coast Highway and the railroad tracks. Enjoy wildflowers in spring and incredible ocean views year-round. Scan the lagoon for pelicans, who like to hang near the (closed) Mussel Farm.

After the hike, head to California Watersports on the north shore on the other side of the I-5 freeway, stopping at the Discovery Center along the way to learn more about the lagoon and its flora and fauna residents. There are actually four environments at play here: marshlands, upland plant communities, intertidal mudflats, and subtidals. At the shop, rent a kayak (starts at $25, or bring your own) or a paddleboard (or even a swan boat!) and get out on the water. An hour is perfect as you paddle along the northeast shore; you’ll hardly notice the freeway (and the jealous commuters) as you coast along the shimmering waters.

Scan the skies for osprey—there’s actually a nest along the shore a stone’s throw from the dock—and many other of the 192 bird species found here. You’ll likely catch cormorants, least terns, gulls, and pelicans too. As far as marine life, among the 70 species of fish, there are flounder, white sea bass, and stingray, but keep your eyes open for jumping mullets.

As you continue paddling, vistas become more serene and you’ll pass by more shoreline trails and some houses. Paddle on to your heart’s content, but just be sure to take time to stop and smell the coastal air—it’s a special beauty out on the lagoon. Yippee-kayak!

To get to the kayak rental on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, take the I-5 to the Tamarack Ave. exit and head east. Take a right on Adams St. followed by a right on Chinquapin Ave. and a left on Harrison St. Head straight and follow signs for the lagoon and find parking in one of the lots. Dog-friendly on the trail!

Story and photos by Matt Pawlik, @mattitudehikes

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