• Activities:

    Stand Up Paddle, Photography, Kayaking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Wildlife

Kayaking up Elkhorn Slough is not only an easy trip, but one that offers many natural rewards as well. Home to the largest southern sea otter population on the planet, thousands of shorebirds, sea birds, seals, and sea lions, you'll be entertained for hours.

Elkhorn Slough is located in Moss Landing, which is in the dead center of Monterey Bay, California. Elkhorn Slough is one of California's largest wetlands and part of a National Estuarine Reserve located in central Monterey Bay, California, just a short trip from the Monterey Peninsula and the Santa Cruz area. The wildlife rich reserve winds inland many miles and provides an important feeding and resting place for wildlife. Each season is unique and you may be greeted in nature's dynamic playground by endangered animals, nesting birds, feeding sharks and giant slugs.

To get to the Slough, just drive on Highway 1 (head south from Santa Cruz or north from Monterey) till you get to Moss Landing. If you do not have your own kayak, there is no need to worry as Kayak Connection and Monterey Bay Kayak are located right in the north section of the Moss Landing Harbor, ready to rent you a kayak on demand. Single person kayaks go for $35 and double person kayaks are about $55 for the day. They usually just ask that you return them before sunset, so you have a lot of flexibility.

Most people put their kayaks in the water, just north of the slough, on the west side of Highway 1 (if you rent a kayak, this is where you'll enter the water). From here, it's just a short 2-3 minute paddle under the Highway 1 bridge to enter Elkhorn Slough. The slough goes back for many miles, but most people won't paddle more than 1-2 as a good majority of the wildlife is fairly close to the highway. Along the way, you should expect to encounter many sea otters, harbor seals, shore birds, sea birds, and you may even see a few bat rays and small sharks underneath the water! The slough offers different species of animals throughout the season, so check online to see what birds or other animals are there at certain times. Elkhorn Slough is fairly easy to navigate as it really consist of just the one river system, so getting lost is not a big concern at all. This is a must visit area for any nature and wildlife lover looking to get close to some of California's most beautiful creatures!

Pack List

  • Kayak
  • Paddles
  • Lifevest
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Blister pads or gloves
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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I'd been dying to go kayaking, and finally decided to give this place a try! I had a very easy & friendly experience with Kayak Connection (reasonable prices, quick lesson, etc). Great spot for seeing wildlife!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I loved my kayak tour. Slough is generally calm and therefore is good even for beginners. I chose to do a tour rather than explore on my own with a rental so that I could hear a little about all the wildlife we were encountering. Definitely good to see it via kayak, but it looked like standup paddleboard would have been fun too!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Saw harbor seals, sea otters, and tons of other marine life! Rachel was the best guide and I highly recommend lunch at The Whole Enchilada afterwards! The owner, Ray, is so kind!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Kayaking the slough is one of the most tranquil things you can do. All the birds, seals, Sea Otters and even dolphins make this a nature lovers paradise.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Chase Dekker

Wildlife photographer and biologist currently based in my coastal hometown of Monterey, California. Always looking for the next wildlife adventure!

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