Three Great BYOB Trails (Bring Your Own Binoculars)

These hikes are BYOB—bring your own binoculars! Canyoneers, our museum-trained volunteer naturalists and guides, recommended these trails for anyone who loves a patient search that’s rewarded with a close-up view of nature. So, whether you're bringing binoculars for the first time, are an experienced user, or just want to know what trails we love, we’ve got a hike for you.

Why are these three hikes great for bringing binoculars? First, the trails are pretty easy, meaning regardless of your hiking experience, you can keep your eyes up and scan for movement, fluttering wings, or changes in color on a cliffside. There’s also no need to scramble over obstacles with your equipment because the trails are somewhat more open, making it easier to look around. Shorter trails also invite you to take it easy—moving slowly is often how you’ll find wildlife.

Of course, before heading out, check to see if the trail is open to the public, and be sure you’re prepared (and check out more binocular tips below). We hope you find a new trail to love or an old favorite to appreciate once again.

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
More than 250 species of shore and water birds can be found here, but what really draws them in are the multiple plant communities in this location. This gorgeous reserve is also home to rare and endangered species. Birders and botanists, unite! Learn more.

Ramona Grasslands
Hikers, joggers, and horseback riders can explore oak woodland, grasslands, chaparral, and wetland habitats all in one place. This preserve also hosts large raptors, including the golden eagle. So be on the lookout. Learn more.

Borrego Palm Canyon
Birds aren’t the only thing you’ll need binoculars for. Along this popular and dramatic desert trail, have your lenses ready to get a great look at the desert bighorn sheep often seen in the distance. Learn more.

Love these trails? Snapped a cool photo? Let us know! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Is it your first time using binoculars? Here’s a few tips from the Canyoneers:

  1. How do you use binoculars when wearing glasses? Most binoculars have eyecups that you can twist up or down. If you are wearing glasses, twist the eyecups down for best viewing. If you aren't wearing glasses, twist them all the way up.
  2. To make finding your subject matter easier, first find it with your naked eyes. Then without moving your eyes from that spot, bring your binoculars up to your eyes and into alignment with your view. With some practice, you'll be able to find your target every time!
  3. To reduce vibration and keep your view steady, when looking through binoculars you can lean your optical instrument on top of a stable object you can safely reach in your surroundings. When bird watching at home, lean the binoculars against a window.
  4. Save your specs. The National Audobon Society has a great article about caring for your binoculars, including how to clean them.

Have fun out there! Remember: be respectful of wildlife, our trails, and other hikers, and enjoy the incredible biodiversity the county has to offer. If you really want to nerd out, take iNaturalist along. This app for your phone allows you to upload your nature finds and contribute to scientific research. For more information on iNaturalist, visit our Community Science resources.

Don’t want to hit the trails alone? The Canyoneers offer guided hikes from September through June. Feel free to join one!

The Canyoneer program is made possible with support from dedicated volunteers and proud partner Subaru of America.

Desert Bighorn Sheep by iNaturalist User and The Nat Volunteer Donendicott in Anza-Borrego.

Canada goose sees on the Ramona Grasslands trail recommended by Canyoneers.

A view of the San Elijo Lagoon with yellow-green grasses in the foreground and the Pacific Ocean in the background.

Posted by Stephania Villar, Digital Communications Manager on September 20, 2021

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