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“This refuge has it all!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge
Elk and Waterfowl auto tour routes, Los Banos, CA 93635
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Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Los Banos
Attraction details
Oakland
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
“This refuge has it all!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2013

I have been to four of the national wildlife refuges now and it makes me appreciate the San Luis one even more. Just for starters, it's free, they have a nice visitor center and you can get out of your car wherever you want (but you will spook the birds more easily if you leave your car). As far as the attractions go, they have a tule elk driving loop, a wetlands driving loop, a spur road with fishing spots and several places to pull over and take a hike. So, you can spend most of the day there if you really want to slow down and investigate everything.

Of course, you'll see the most wildlife if you go in the wet season. I guarantee you'll see a large amount of waterfowl and raptors. I went in August the first time and most of the wetlands were dried up and the temperatures were in the upper 90's, so I don't recommend that. But I would recommend picking up lunch in Los Banos and heading out to take in the wildlife and scenery at San Luis. If you have the time, the Merced refuge has lots of wildlife and a nice auto tour.

Visited March 2013
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23 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Modesto, California
Top Contributor
493 reviews 493 reviews
212 attraction reviews
Reviews in 197 cities Reviews in 197 cities
505 helpful votes 505 helpful votes
“Birders Will Love This Place!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 15, 2013

I visited here twice in the past month; in January with my husband and most recently with a friend earlier this week. Since I am a fairly avid birder I have been coming to this refuge for years, but had not visited for a few years prior to my recent visits. This refuge is very large and features a beautiful new visitor center which we stopped in briefly and was staffed with a ranger. There are also a few auto tour routes including the tule elk tour route, a few nature trails, boardwalks and platforms for wildlife viewing. At times there can be a great number of birds to see but you need to come at the right time. The best times to visit are late fall through winter (November through February). During November - January there are large flocks of geese, swans and ducks. During my January visit we saw a number of tule elk, a coyote and a number of waterfowl including snow geese, greater white-fronted geese, American white pelican, tundra swan, seven different ducks, three kinds of hawks, a few shorebirds, white faced ibis, the most beautiful meadowlarks with bright orange/yellow chests and such melodious song and a great-horned owl which I got to watch hooting in a nearby tree. This is just some of what we saw as we drove the auto tour route passing by ponds, marshes, fields and sloughs. Central Valley wildlife refuges have a peaceful beauty that must be seen to be appreciated. Coupled with the sound of waterfowl and tree birds, it is a lovely experience. You should plan to come in the morning or late afternoon. My favorite time is late afternoon when the lighting and shadows are so great and the sun is setting. There is no fee to enter the refuge. I would recommend spending from one to two hours to drive the auto tour route(s) and perhaps do a little strolling and bird observation. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars or scope and a bird book for identification purposes. You can pick up a bird list at the visitor center or at a kiosk near the entrance. This is a great place and not to be missed if you are a lover of nature!

Visited January 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Luis Obispo, California
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Don't Miss Merced WR Area”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 27, 2013

I have found the SL section nice to drive and walk. I found the Merced portion of their reserve just East of Los Banos really good viewing, and very few people. Wonderful Winter photo experience.

Visited January 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Central California
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Don't miss this.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 30, 2012

Wildlife plentiful, views spectacular, even in August. Sunset was amazing, with everything mirrored in ponds that gave off as much light as the sky. Amazing.

Visited August 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Banos
Top Contributor
197 reviews 197 reviews
63 attraction reviews
Reviews in 93 cities Reviews in 93 cities
88 helpful votes 88 helpful votes
“Birdwatchers paradise”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 23, 2012

The brand new visitor Center is pretty impressive. Lots of neat exhibits... especially for kids. Interactive stuff. Window for viewing in inclemenet weather.Trail all around. It is away from food and Gas. Bring your own food. There is no visitor bookstore and there should be. No visitors there when we were there even though it was a nice day. I would think that even if busy, you could get away from a crowd on one of the trails.

Visited October 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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