Carpinteria Seal Rookery, and Clifftop Walk

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Santa Barbara, CA
Carpinteria Seal Rookery, and Clifftop Walk
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Below the cliffs at the Bailard exit of Carpinteria is a harbor seal rookery. You can stand on the cliffs and watch the baby seals play in the water in a little lagoon at the shore. The seals chose this lovely lagoon as a home, despite the oil platoon and pier nearby. Docents are there to answer your questions and provide a look through their binoculars. It's magical for kids. When you arrive at the parking lot, head toward the ocean and then turn right on the path. Soon you will come to an area where you cross the train tracks and stand beside the docents to view the seals. Late February and March is the best time to see the baby seals, but as early as December you can see the pregnant mother seals.

If you take the path to the left instead, you can follow the wide hard-packed trail along the cliffs. You are surrounded by wild bushes and scrubs with flowers. The air is heady with the scent of the native plants. The light catches their funny-shaped leaves and it's very pretty. The ocean stretches out for miles before you, and you can see the curve the coastline takes to the south. It's an easy hike to take with kids. You can play on the new baseball field afterwards. This path is protected from the cold sea air and can be very hot, even in November. It's a good thing on a winter day in February though!
You can take a steep sandy path down to the beach from the path that leads to the seals. The beach here is lovely for a hand-in-hand stroll with your lover. December 1st - May 31st each year, the beach is closed at the far end by the Venoco pier. But you can still have a long walk on the rest of the beach. Don't bring dogs near the seals because they scare the mother seals who then flee, abandoning their babies.
If you drive on Bailard towards the mountains, you will soon come to a small, plain playground, Monte Vista Park. It's nothing special but it works if you have kids who are craving a playground.
If you walk west along the bluffs and past the Venoco parking lot you will come to more bluff-top trails above beautiful Jelly Bowl Beach.
For a happy place to eat, with picnic tables out on the grass, and a sand pit for kids, check out Padaro Beach Grill.

Continue to directions...

View as you walk to the left along the cliffs, amongst the native plants. It's roasting hot in this part of the walk!

Plants catch the light as the sea glimmers in the background.

The warm, sheltered trail amidst wildflowers, to the east of the parking lot.

The seals chose this lovely lagoon as a home, despite the oil platoon and pier nearby.

The chilly part of the trail, by the sea, to the west, by the seal rookery.

Path down to the beach.

Flowers on the path in February.

These seals are a pale brown, camouflaged against the sand.

The seals like to lie in this sheltered spot where the rocks curve. They are almost the same color as the rocks.

Lots of couples walk on the beach on a gloomy February day.

Yellow flowers and Eucalyptus tree, along the trail.

The trail, and three oil platforms.

Daisies in late March.

Daisies and blue sky with little clouds.

Lilac-colored flowers and sea.

The amazing path leading down to the beach.

Yellow daisies, sea, and island.

The Venoco pier.

Flowers above the sea.

The winding path.


Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rookery is located at Bailard Ave and Carpinteria Ave, Carpinteria CA 93013.
Exit Highway 101 at Bailard Ave and head towards the ocean. You will come to a large parking lot, which is where the trail starts. There are clean restrooms on the far side of the baseball field, which is east of the parking lot.
Volunteer docents are at the rookery from 7am-7pm daily Dec 1-May 31.
Seal Watch, the volunteer docent organization, can be reached at (805) 684-2247.


Click on map for interactive view


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Martee' and Liam

Wed, 09 May 2007

What a beautiful spot,really heaven on earth!!! My son and I had an unforgetable day at the rookery and then at the beach. It was low tide and we splashed around for hours in the shallow pools. We are so lucky to have these protected bluffs to enjoy. Great website! The description of the trails and directions helped us plan our day. Many thanks.

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Thu, 29 Mar 2007

A truly beautiful and magical place. We visit Carpinteria a couple of times per year. This is one of our favorite stops. Do get a surf dog, if you can. They are delicious. Leanne from Washington.

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Thu, 11 Mar 2010

This was a delightful day trip for my 3-year-old, 5-month-old, and me. We saw lots of other families with small children enjoying it, too. The bluffs are a little nerve-racking if you've got kids who like to stand on the very edge, but further up the path where the docents are, there are rope boundaries. It was really cool to see so many seals in one place! Thanks for the great description and info.

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Sun, 20 Sep 2009

Short hike, beautiful scenery and native vegetation. The docent information about the seals is great, and enhances appreciation of the rookery. Unique and lovely place. The weather was comfortable.

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Sun, 04 Mar 2012

I loved this place. The path took us right to the bluff and you could see seals in the water playing around,probably looking for fish. lol The seals and their babies were really a delightful scene. A great place. The trails took you down to the water and you could walk for miles.

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Fri, 06 Nov 2009

As a scientist myself, would love to go or volunteer as a docent. Love the blog. Keep posting please.

Last Updated: Sun, 09 Apr 2017 03:17:12 GMT

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