Although there is limited access to the refuge, there are a few activities you can get involved in to view the beautiful wildlife that call Seal Beach NWR their home. Because of the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach military mission of storing and handling ordinance (munitions), the Refuge is closed to the public except during special events and escorted tours held on the last Saturday of each month (excluding December). To book your free tour, contact the wildlife refuge at (562) 598-1024.
The 965-acre Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, which is entirely within Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, is located in the northwest corner of Orange County. The refuge protects a remnant of what was once a vast wetland complex extending inland along the southern California bight from the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers to the Santa Ana River.
Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is an important stopover and wintering location within the Pacific Flyway, providing relatively undisturbed habitat for thousands of migratory birds, including shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors. During monthly tours, visitors can expect to see shorebirds darting from one foraging area to another within the tidal flats. The occasional green sea turtle and light-footed Ridgway’s rail thrive within the Refuge’s diverse marsh complex offering a rare appearance.
The Friends of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge and Refuge staff lead monthly walking tours lasting approximately two hours and covers a walking distance of one-mile round trip. Special tours can also be arranged preferably 2 - 3 months in advance for groups of 15 – 20 people throughout the year. Visitors will be transported by shuttle to Refuge Headquarters where they will enjoy a variety of displays. After a brief introduction, guests will be taken to docent led interpretive stations covering topics such as bird identification, marsh critters, and the native plant garden. The observation deck provides gorgeous views into the marsh.
Visit our Seasons of Wildlife in the Species page to find out what you might see at different times of the year.
Note: reservations are requiredto attend the free public walking tour of the Refuge normally held on the last Saturday of each month. Visit the Friends of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge website for the most up-to-date information on tours and volunteer opportunities. You can also book your tour by calling the wildlife refuge office at (562) 598-1024.
Trail Name: Bolsa Avenue Trail
Open Season: Monthly walking tours
Length: 1 mile
Surface and difficulty: Paved and Firm, Boardwalk, ABA compliant
Information: Monthly Refuge tours and special guided birding tours start by meeting tour guide by Navy base main gate. The tour last approximately two hours and covers about one-mile round walking distance.
Facilities that are currently available to accommodate visitors include a six- to eight-foot-wide pedestrian pathway, consisting of decomposed granite, that leads from the Refuge office east along Bolsa Avenue to an existing observation deck, located about a quarter of a mile east of the intersection of Bolsa Avenue and Kitts Highway. The observation deck is located on the south side of Bolsa Avenue and provides views into the marsh. Interpretive signage on the deck provides the public with information about the habitats and species protected on the Refuge. Also available to the public during organized tour s are trails that meander through the native plant garden. Signs have been placed throughout the garden to identify the various native plants and the wildlife in the area.
Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is located within the Naval Weapons Station.
To Main Gate – From I-405: Take the Seal Beach Blvd. off-ramp. Turn left on Seal Beach Blvd. and travel south for approximately 2 miles. The base Main Gate will be on your left-hand side at Forrestal Ave.
To Main Gate – From Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH): Turn north on Seal Beach Blvd. The Main Gate will be on your right at the second light.
Rules and Policies
The refuge is located within Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Public access in the refuge is limited or restricted to once-a month tour (last Saturday of each month) as it is located within an active military base.
The refuge can be visited by signing up for a free tour done once a month.
- Reservations required by the Wednesday before the event – Call (562) 598-1024 and spell first name, last name, and middle initial for ALL participants. If no middle initial, provide date of birth.
- US citizens only, government issued photo ID is required for all participants over 18 years of age.
- Smoking and weapons are prohibited.
- Photography is permitted on this escorted tour, however, taking photos of Navy personnel or buildings is prohibited.
Meet at the base Main Gate parking lot (800 Seal Beach Blvd.) at 8:30 AM to catch the shuttle - The tour will conclude around 11:30 AM. Unfortunately, late arrivals cannot be accommodated.