Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area

The four conservation parks that comprise the nearly 60 acres of the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area include Harbor Point Conservation Park, Dana Point Preserve, Hilltop Conservation Park and the South Strands Conservation Park. The conservation parks are home to over 150 species of plants and animals that are native to coastal Southern California including the Federally Endangered Pacific pocket mouse. The Dana Point Preserve is owned and managed by the non-profit Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM, http://cnlm.org/), whose main resource objectives at Dana Point are the protection, restoration, and enhancement of the coastal sage scrub habitats and populations of Pacific pocket mice and coastal California gnatcatchers residing on the Preserve.  The Pacific pocket mouse population is one of only three remaining populations in the wild.  

The trail system covers approximately three miles and includes pedestrian trails, coastal and beach access, scenic overlooks, and the Nature Interpretive Center. The trails maximize public coastal access and ocean view opportunities while conserving the extremely rare resources on the Headlands.

Where the Whales Are

Whales are visible directly from the Nature Center patio and from the CNLM Dana Point Preserve Trail, specifically Overlooks 2 and 3.

Trails are open from 7am to sunset daily.

Binoculars are available for free and can be checked out from the Nature Center which is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Many marine mammals can be seen year-round, including common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, pacific white-sided dolphins, and a humpback whale or two.

Between the months of December and mid-May, Grey whales are seen during their annual, 10,000 mile migration.  

In the summer months, blue whales can be seen off shore.

On rare occasions, transient pods of Bigg’s orcas have been spotted from shore.  

Whale Festival

The City hosts the Festival of Whales  each year in March to celebrate the Grey whale migration.

For more information visit http://festivalofwhales.com/

Learn More

A free, educational tour, the “Whale Walk & Talk” is offered every second Saturday of each month from 9am to 11am beginning at the Nature Center. The tour is a docent-led walk along the CNLM Dana Point Preserve Trail where guests learn about the whales and dolphins frequently seen in the Southern California area and, depending on the time of year, may spot a whale or two from shore.

For more information on the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area, please visit http://danapoint.org/department/public-works-engineering/environmental/natural-resources/dana-point-headlands-conservation-area.

Visit http://www.friendsofthedanapointheadlands.org/ to join the Friends of the Dana Point Headlands, a non-profit organization working to “inspire and enhance the conservation of the Dana Point Headlands”.  

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The Whale Trail


  • restrooms
  • accessible
  • trails
  • picnic-area

Marine Mammals Commonly Seen Here

Marine Mammals Occasionally Seen Here

Marine Mammals Rarely Seen Here

The Whale Trail is a nonprofit organization in partnership with
Partners NOAA Seattle Aquarium People for Puget Sound Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife The Whale Museum National Marine Sanctuaries