This dunes complex is recognized as a National Natural Landmark, and contains some of the most remote and least disturbed habitats in the dunes complex. Habitats include fore dune, open sand, back dune, coastal dune scrub, dune swale, and several wetland types.

Home to more than 120 species of rare plants and animals, the refuge provides a safe place for species such as La Graciosa thistle, surf thistle, beach spectacle pod, giant coreopsis, California red-legged frog, western snowy plover, and California least tern.

Visit Us

Visitors may reach the Refuge via either of two access hikes:

Oso Flaco Hike

From the intersection of Highway 1and Oso Flaco Lake Road, located 3 miles north of Guadalupe, proceed 3 miles west to the Oso Flaco Lake parking lot. This park and parking lot are owned and managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks). A fee for parking is charged. If a State Parks attendant is not present, be sure to use the self-pay parking envelopes at the entry kiosk. After paying for parking, hike 1 mile west across the Oso Flaco Lake trail and boardwalk to the beach. After reaching the beach, proceed south a quarter-mile to Oso Flaco Creek. If the stream crossing is shallow and safe, proceed 1 mile south along the beach to the northern Refuge boundary. This route requires a round trip hike of approximately 4.5 miles to reach the Refuge and return to the parking lot.

Rancho Guadalupe Hike

From the intersection of Highway 1 (Guadalupe Street) and Highway 166 (Main Street), at the south end of Guadalupe, drive 2.8 miles to the entrance gate of the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve parking lot. A voluntary donation for access to the park is requested at the entrance gate. From the entrance gate, drive 2.0 miles west to the paved parking lot, located at the beach. This park and parking lot are owned by the County of Santa Barbara Department of Parks and Recreation, and are managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management. From the parking lot, hike north along the beach about a half-mile to the Santa Maria River. If the river crossing is shallow and safe, hike about 1.5 miles north along the beach to the southern Refuge boundary. This route requires a round trip hike of approximately 4.0 miles to reach the Refuge and return to the parking lot.

Fishing

Surf Fishing occurs in State waters outside of the refuge boundaries, however anglers use refuge beach to access this area. More than 95% of catch is barred surf perch (Amphistichus argenteus). Please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website for licences. 

Refuge beach closures occur from early March through late Sept. each year to protect the federally threatened snowy plover nesting habitat.   

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2000 at 2, 553 acres located in the heart of an 18-mile long coastal dunes complex.  The refuge is located five miles northwest of Guadalupe, California, and the refuge boundary covers 1.8 miles of beach front, extending three miles inland.

      This dunes complex is recognized as a National Natural Landmark National Natural Landmark
      The National Natural Landmarks Program preserves sites illustrating the geological and ecological character of the United States. The program aims to enhance the scientific and educational value of the preserved sites, strengthen public appreciation of natural history and foster a greater concern…

      Learn more about National Natural Landmark
      , and contains some of the most remote and least disturbed habitats in the dunes complex. Habitats include fore dune, open sand, back dune, coastal dune scrub, dune swale, and several wetland types.

      Home to more than 120 species of rare plants and animals, the refuge provides a safe place for species such as La Graciosa thistle, surf thistle, beach spectacle pod, giant coreopsis, California red-legged frog, western snowy plover, and California least tern. 

      Refuge beach closures occur from early March through late Sept. each year to protect the federally threatened snowy plover nesting habitat.   

      Tours

      The Dunes Center hosts a few family interpretive hikes, and special events throughout the year, in addition to interpretive panels found on the trail system. Natural history, endangered species, dune formation, and insects are the usual topics.  There are lectures and slideshows at the local Dunes Center also.

      What We Do

      The refuge is currently being managed to preserve threatened and endangered species habitats, which includes protection from predators and invasive species invasive species
      An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

      Learn more about invasive species
      .

      Two small ponds were created with suitable edges to plant the federally endangered La Graciosa thistleGambel’s watercress, and marsh sandwort. The water depth and slopes were also shaped to be potential refugia for the benefit of the California red-legged frog.

      The above-mentioned plant species have extremely small populations and narrow habitat requirements.  They are raised in greenhouses, transported to the refuge and fenced off from feral pigs and mule deer. The goal is for these plants population to stabilize around the periphery of the ponds without requiring intensive management.

      The once-dynamic refuge dunes  would be  on the move were it not for non-native invasive species such as European beach grass and Veldt grass; these have anchored the dunes and changed the behavior of the entire system. The Service continues to work with partners to chemically and manually control these invasive species.

      The Service continues to monitor Western snowy plovers on refuge property. Many of the nests are exclosed each season to increase nesting success by reducing depredation pressure. Refuge beach closures occur from early March through late Sept. each year to protect the federally threatened snowy plover nesting habitat.

      The purpose of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan or CCP is to specify a management direction for the Refuge for the next 15 years. Check out the CCP here.

      Get Involved

      There is very limited access allowed on the refuge, for both the protection of sensitive wildlife and for public safety. Refuge beach closures occur from early March through late Sept. each year to protect the federally threatened snowy plover nesting habitat.   

      There is no hunting allowed on the refuge. 

      For any questions, please call the Refuge Manager at (805) 644-5185 or email hoppermountain@fws.gov

      To find out more about hunting and fishing follow the link here: /node/3407

      Projects and Research

      At this time, the refuge is undergoing a very important milestone in which the next 15 years of management will be planned. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge is currently in its planning phase with public scoping meetings scheduled.  Please visit our Conservation page to find out more!