Dana Point

Area: The CNLM Dana Point Preserve consists of 29.4 acres within the City of Dana Point and adjacent to the City of Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center.

Location: Dana Point, Orange County, CA

Date Acquired: 2005

Acquisition Type: Center for Natural Lands Management owns the preserve.  We protect and manage species and habitats on the preserve in perpetuity.

Key Habitats:  Coastal sage scrub; Coastal bluff scrub

Species of Special Interest to CNLM: Coastal California gnatcatcher, Pacific pocket mouse, California box-thorn, Cliff spurge, Prostrate spineflower

Center for Natural Lands Management – COVID-19 Public Notice Prior to Opening

UPDATE (Oct 8, 2020) – The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) is reopening their Dana Point Preserve Trail for public access.  To reopen trails, CNLM is required to follow federal, state, and local guidance to minimize the risk of COVID-19 contagion.  This is a trial reopening to determine if the Dana Point Preserve Trail can open safely; thus, conditions will be monitored and adjusted as deemed appropriate. CNLM will close or further restrict trail access if COVID-19 conditions worsen or there are unsafe conditions created onsite, including lack of compliance with trail use guidelines and regulations.

The current and ongoing health crisis demands that Preserve access and trail use requirements be changed from previous norms to reflect the new environment in which we operate.  Before entering the trail, please read the updates and regulations below.

Commencing Thursday November 19, 2020 and until further notice, CNLM’s Dana Point Preserve Trail will be open to the public:

Tuesday         08:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thursday        08:00 AM – 12:00 PM

New visitor rules for COVID-19 safety while on the CNLM Dana Point Preserve:

  • Do not enter if you are sick or have been in contact with individuals that have been sick.
  • The trail is now designated for One-Way Trail use (see map)
    • Enter at Dana Strand Road
    • Exit at Scenic Drive at the City’s Nature Interpretive Center
  • Always maintain 6 feet (2 meters) between you and other visitors unless you live in the same household.
  • Trail users must have a face mask and wear it when approached by individuals from another party or group (masks must fully cover the mouth and nose).
  • No large or mixed group recreation.
  • Passing other trail users on the trail is prohibited.
  • No gathering or stopping along the trail.
  • If a trail or trailhead is crowded, choose not to walk.

In addition, a portion of the trail is now designated a quiet zone.  Please be respectful of the wildlife and remain quiet in this section of the trail.  Signs will be posted designating the start and end of the zone.

CNLM staff and volunteers have authority to refuse entrance to or require any visitors not in compliance to leave. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time as we move towards reopening the CNLM Dana Point Preserve Trail.

We will continue to monitor the status of the COVID-19 treat, all government public health orders, and public trail use experience and revise this guidance and trail access as appropriate. Click on the link for more information on reopening California during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/

Map of the Dana Point Trail. Enter At the end of Strand Road and exit near Scenic Drive.


CNLM acquired the 29.4 acre headlands promontory in December of 2005.  This acquisition was due to a generous donation from the Harry and Grace Steele Foundation.

Conservation Significance

The CNLM Dana Point Preserve was created to protect the federally threatened Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) and endangered Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus). The Pacific pocket mouse was thought to be extinct before it was rediscovered on the CNLM Dana Point Preserve in 1993. To date, the only other location where the Pacific pocket mouse has been found is within three different geographic areas on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. In addition, eight rare plant species have been documented on-site including California box-thorn (Lycium californicum), Cliff spurge (Euphorbia misera), and Prostrate spineflower (Chorizanthe procumbens).

Our Work

Our primary goals are focused on protecting habitat for the Pacific pocket mouse, Coastal California gnatcatcher, rare plant species, and other sensitive species that utilize coastal sage scrub and coastal bluff scrub. Due to the small size of the Dana Point Preserve, and its degree of isolation from similar habitats, CNLM monitors the rare and listed species and habitat on-site to identify threats, record population dynamics, and establish methods to alleviate problems that negatively impact the species. The most serious and current threat to the Preserve is illegal off-trail use that can destroy Pacific pocket mouse burrows,  disturb nesting Coastal California gnatcatchers, and trample rare plants.  Degradation of habitat by domestic dogs, cats, trash and non-native plants are also a significant threat.

Introducing Dana Point Preserve

View all videos or visit us on YouTube. For more information, please contact us at (760) 731-7790.

Our on-the-ground work includes: enforcement of off-trail use, conducting trail maintenance, monitoring sensitive plants and animals, and removing non-native and invasive vegetation that is detrimental to both coastal sage scrub and coastal bluff scrub habitats.  We work with the City of Dana Point, volunteers, and others to accomplish these goals.

Photo credit of California Gnatcatcher:  Dee Dee Gollwitzer 

(All other photos by CNLM staff)

Public Access

The CNLM Dana Point Preserve is located adjacent to the City of Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center (NIC), and can be accessed from the NIC parking lot at 34558 Scenic Drive, Dana Point. A ½ mile public (non-looping) trail that follows along the top of the headlands promontory on the Dana Point Preserve is accessible from the NIC and the dead end of Dana Strand Road. This four foot wide natural surface trail is open to the public daily from 7 am to sunset. Walkers will experience 100-foot elevation changes, stairs in two sections and five overlooks with benches. The trail is designed for pedestrian use only—bicycles and dogs (on or off-leash) are strictly prohibited. Baby strollers and wheel chairs are not currently recommended. The Nature Interpretive Center is owned and managed by the City of Dana Point and is open to the public from 10:00am to 4:00pm Tuesday through Sunday.


For information about Dana Point Preserve, volunteer opportunities, or Center for Natural Lands Management please contact Korie Merrill at  760.731.7790 x. 204 or by email at kmerrill@cnlm.org.  For volunteer opportunities at the City of Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center please contact: Bernice Villanueva, City of Dana Point Natural Resource Protection Officer at bvillanueva@danapoint.org.