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 Dana Point Trail COVID-19 Notice

The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM)—owner and manager of the Dana Point Preserve– is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic impacts and following updated State and County public health orders per the Orange County Health Website instructions.

Our top priority is protecting the health, safety, and well-being of our visitors, staff, and volunteers and slowing the spread of this disease while simultaneous continuing to protect the endangered species that reside on this Preserve.

In the wake of careful and ongoing consideration, our responsibilities require, and our assessments have determined, that the CNLM Dana Point Preserve trail remain closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The re-opening of this trail must responsibly be based on the specific conditions of this trail, the status of COVID-19 cases in the County, and public health agency orders and guidelines. In brief, the size and configuration of the trail does not allow for visitors to practice the social distancing or CNLM to provide safe conditions required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Further, opening the trail at this time is likely to result in increased incidents of stepping ‘off trail’ to avoid close encounters—actions that, especially at this time of year, could severely harm the endangered species onsite (i.e., breeding season).

We understand the desire of the public to return to the CNLM Dana Point Preserve trail. We will continue to monitor the situation relative to COVID-19 data for Orange County and County and State orders weekly and will provide public access as soon as safely possible. Thank you, for your understanding during this difficult time.


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.