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Want to ditch the stove? Check out my 3-day minimalist meal plan for backpacking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim without a stove.

When I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2017 my menu consisted of homemade dehydrated meals, ramen, instant potatoes, PB&J tortilla “sandwiches,” and oatmeal. I used the freezer bag cooking method to rehydrate all of my hot meals, and while the freezer bags made clean-up a breeze I felt extremely wasteful every time I threw one of them away. And since I was going through 2-3 Ziploc freezer bags a day I was producing a lot of trash!

I’ve been searching for a more earth-friendly cooking option. I’ve ditched the plastic bags and now use a reusable take-out food container to rehydrate my meals (the bowl is flat enough to lick clean, it has a lid, and it fits perfectly in my food cozy!).

But, I’m still not satisfied! I’m once again re-vamping my menu and backpacking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim without a stove.

Why I’m Choosing to Go Stoveless

Blistering summer temperatures and early morning wake-up calls are my main reasons for ditching the stove. Temperatures at the bottom of the Grand Canyon often soar over 100 degrees during the day, and after hiking in the blazing sun the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove (or eat a hot meal)! While many minimalist backpackers would survive on jerky, bars, nuts, and dried fruit, I’m choosing to indulge in wraps and other savory meals that feature fresh, wholesome ingredients.

While some of these food items may be heavier and bulkier than the traditional dehydrated meals, not having to carry a pot, stove, and fuel means that I have extra room for food! I’ve also chosen to use fresh ingredients like sun-dried tomato, tortillas, spinach, and avocado to make the meals extra delicious while reducing the amount of ingredients I need to carry.

 

Our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hiking Route

I’m a big fan of slow hikes that allow plenty of time to take in the scenery and can accommodate side trips. Because this is probably a once in a lifetime trip we chose to spend two nights and three days hiking the Grand Canyon. We start our hike on the South Kaibab Trail and spend the first night camping at the Bright Angel campground. The second night we will camp at Cottonwood before ascending the North Kaibab Trail on our third day. Temperatures at the bottom of the canyon can reach over 100 degrees, so you need to make sure that you don’t carry food that will spoil (and it is the main reason that I planned to eat my spinach on day 1 and save the avocado for day 2!).

My Backpacking Menu

Day 1:

Breakfast at the Maswik Lodge before starting hike at 7am. (Breakfast consisted of a muffin, an apple, and coffee from the hotel coffeemaker.)

Lunch: Mediterranean wrap with Casbah instant hummus, sun-dried tomato, tortilla, and spinach.

Dinner: Chicken wrap with Ranch dressing, spinach, and bacon bits.

Day 2

Breakfast at Phantom Ranch (Breakfast is served family style and must be reserved in advance. Breakfast at Phantom Ranch was one of the highlights of the hike!)

Lunch: Tuna Salad wraps with tortilla, sun-dried tomatoes, Sunkist Tuna Salad pouch (2), and avocado

Dinner: Cold-soak Dr. McDougall’s brand or Sam’s Choice quinoa or couscous salad and top with leftover avocado. (These mixes are pre-seasoned all you need to do is add cold water to the dry ingredients approximately 3 hours before you want to eat)

Day 3

Breakfast: Bagel with 2 packets of Barney Butter’s Espresso Almond Butter and 2 packets of Bonne Maman jam

Special Snack (in case the Barney’s Butter doesn’t have enough caffeine!): Carnation Instant Breakfast and Starbucks Via

Lunch: nuts and dried fruit in case I need an extra boost (you’ll want to start hiking before the sun rises to avoid the heat)

Other items: snacks and supplements for all 3 days

Snacks: Beef jerky or salami, chips, trail mix, granola bars

Electrolytes or Gatorade powder

Other items: salt, pepper, and olive oil to spice up meals when needed

My Shopping List

This shopping list will feed two hungry hikers. (Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links. Purchasing products through these links won’t cost you any additional money, but they do help me earn a few pennies to cover the website maintenance fees.)

Mission Tortilla Wraps – 6 count (I chose the Spinach Herb flavor)

2 packets Sunkist Tuna Salad

1 packet pre-cooked chicken (one packet feeds two people)

Shelf-stable Ranch dressing (or the Buffalo and Barbecue sauces from Chick-fil-A are great!)

1 avocado

1 packet sun-dried tomatoes

Large handful of fresh spinach packed in a ziploc bag

Bacon bits

Casbah Instant Hummus (one box feeds two people)

Dr. McDougall’s brand quinoa or couscous salad (one per person), or one packet of Sam’s Choice Bulgar (this will feed 2 people)

Bagels (the store-bought kind like Sara Lee or Thomas’ brand bagels)

Barney Butter’s Espresso Almond Butter

Jam packets

Starbucks Via

Carnation Instant Breakfast (2 packets)

Seasonings: salt, pepper, olive oil (I store my olive oil in a plastic airline-sized booze bottle)

Your favorite snack items including: beef jerky, chips, trail mix, granola bars, nuts and dried fruit

Gatorade powder

 

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These scenic dog-friendly hiking trails near San Francisco promise to be a big hit with your four-legged hiking companion. All of the trails on this list are within a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The dog-friendly hikes range from easy jaunts to challenging workouts.

Lands End Coastal Trail

Tourists flock to the Lands End Coastal Trail for views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, but dogs love this trail too! Many people choose to do this hike as a shorter out-and-back hike, but active dogs love the varied terrain in this 3.5-mile loop. The dirt path begins at Sutro Baths and hikers pass by several scenic viewpoints before discovering Mile Rock Beach, traversing through groves of Eucalyptus, and winding through a hidden historic battery.

 

Sutro Baths and Lands End is a great dog-friendly hiking trail in San Francisco

Cataract Falls

The dog-friendly, six-mile Cataract Falls hike near Mount Tamalpais is a waterfall wonderland. This is a stair-stepping, butt-busting challenging trail that rewards visitors with over 2-miles of waterfalls. The trail follows Cataract Creek as it cascades down Mount Tamalpais and flows into Alpine Lake. This is a pleasant hike year-round, but its full beauty unfurls in the wet months. In winter and spring the ferns are lush, trees are fuzzy with moss, the waterfalls gush, and wildflowers are abundant. As the year progresses the vegetation recoils and the Maple trees glow with autumn hues.

 

Sweeney Ridge

On a clear day Sweeney Ridge offers hikers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and the stunning coastline and Pacific Ocean. This challenging 7.2-mile ridgeline walk in Pacifica also features a Nike Missile site and the San Francisco Bay Discovery site. The trail is a mix of steep gravel fire roads, paved paths, and narrow single-tracks that traverse through the coastal scrub. Depending on the season, hikers may even be lucky enough to see a rabbit or two dart across the trail. Hikers can access the trail via several different trailheads, but my personal favorite is the entrance behind Shelldance Orchid Gardens.

Dog-friendly hiking trail Sweeney Ridge in Pacifica, California.

 

 

Water Dog Lake

There are always happy hiking dogs on this 3.6-mile trail in Belmont. This easily customizable route consists of two loops. The shorter inner loop is a heavily forested trail that follows the shoreline of Water Dog Lake in the lower canyon. While many owners allow their dogs to swim in the pond, the water can be mossy and green and may not be healthy for dogs. It is still enjoyable to sit on the bench or walk the short pier and watch the ducks swimming.

The sunny outer loop (Lake Loop Trail and John Brooks Trail) is a wide trail popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. The trail winds along the upper part of the canyon and gets a fair bit of sun and can get quite hot in the summer months. While portions of the outer loop are shaded, the majority of the trail does not have shade.

 

Devil’s Slide Trail

Is whale watching with your dog your idea of the perfect afternoon? Then head to Devil’s Slide Trail for an easy 3.5 miles out-and-back coastal walk. The dog-friendly paved path hidden between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay is popular with both walkers and bicyclists. With epic views year round, the Devil’s Slide Trail that runs along the old Hwy 1 is the perfect place for whale watching on a clear day. The trail sits high above the bluffs and walkers are treated to stunning views and the soothing sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below. On a sunny day you might be lucky enough to spot a migrating Grey or Humpback whale breaching or showing off its flukes as it dives deep into the ocean. The many benches scattered along the path make this the perfect place to rest, enjoy the views, and soak up a bit of sun.

Cute dog taking in the view at the Devil's Slide Trail near Pacifica, California.

 

You can use our Trail Finder to search for more dog-friendly trails in the San Francisco Bay Area. And if you need tips for hiking with your dog we have that too! What are you waiting for? Take your best buddy on a nature-filled hiking adventure!

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Wondering what to pack for your first backpacking trip? This basic packing list for beginner backpackers has the essential gear to make your first backpacking trip a success.

Hiking and backpacking are two of my favorite things in the world. While I’ve always enjoyed hiking it took me a bit longer to get into backpacking. I resisted backpacking for a long time simply because I didn’t understand how it worked. I thought that backpacking involved carrying all of my car camping gear on my back- it sounded awful! When I finally understood that backpacking required new gear I tried to purchase everything as cheaply as possible. I wasn’t concerned about how heavy my pack was because I was only going out for one night at a time.

I traded my large 6-person tent for a smaller 2-person Coleman tent, I bought a synthetic 20-degree mummy bag, and I borrowed a backpack, stove, and water filter. The rest of my gear I cobbled together from what I already had available. I used an inflatable swimming pool floaty for my sleeping pad, I brought a spoon and fork from my cutlery drawer, and a small flashlight (I didn’t know about headlamps yet!). It wasn’t until I started backpacking on a regular basis that I began upgrading my gear.

But, it still took a while before I felt confident in my gear choices. The amount of gear that I thought I needed to be a “real backpacker” was overwhelming and expensive, and finding the gear that worked for me took a lot of trial and error. I bought a lot of gear that I ended up not using because I found that cheaper “hacks” worked just as well, or better than, the expensive, carefully engineered ultra-lightweight equipment. More importantly, I learned what equipment was worth the investment (tent, sleeping bag, and backpack), what equipment can be shared (water filter, stove), and what equipment can be hacked, multi-purposed, or bought inexpensively (sleeping pad, cutlery and kitchen essentials, and water bottles).

The items on my packing list are the items that I now confidently carry with me every time I backpack. They are my go-to items that I’m a bit lost without. (Want this list as an easy download? Scroll to the bottom of this post and sign up to receive my Essential Packing List for Beginning Backpackers.)

Hike

Camp

Eat

Clothing

Here’s what I have in my bag whether I’m backpacking for one day or 10 days.

What do you have on your gear list? Have you developed any hacks to multi-purpose or replace expensive gear? Join our private Facebook group for women who are new to backpacking or backcountry adventures and share your gear list or learn more about backpacking and backcountry adventures. Come say hello!

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Being prepared doesn’t require you to carry a heavy pack or buy a bunch of expensive gear. Here’s what I consider to be essential gear for day hikers–gear that could help save your life.

When I was new to hiking I’d often hit the trail with nothing but a water bottle. I soon upgraded to carrying a backpack, but for many years, my backpack was just a convenient way to transport my water, snacks, and sweatshirt. It took being locked in a state park after hours to make me realize that I was woefully unprepared.

In the end, everything turned out okay. The volunteer park ranger had left a note on my car windshield with the code to unlock the padlock on the main gate, and I wasn’t hurt, only embarrassed that I was the “irresponsible hiker” who didn’t leave the park before closing time. But, that experience made me realize that I needed to be self-sufficient, especially when hiking alone.

There are no guarantees that if I got hurt someone would come looking for me. Even though I was relatively close to civilization, I was still far enough away that I didn’t have cell service. And, since the main gates to the park were locked, the chances of encountering another hiker on the trail was pretty slim. To make things worse, I had told my boyfriend that I was going hiking, but I never bothered to mention exactly where I was going. Suddenly, it hit me, if I had twisted my ankle, fell down an embankment, or got lost I would have had no other option but to try to survive overnight in the wilderness. And it would have been a pretty miserable night with only a granola bar, half a bottle of water, and an old sweatshirt!

That experience made me completely re-think what I carry in my backpack. I realized that I was severely lacking some essential gear that could help save my life if I ever got stranded in the wilderness again. I didn’t need to buy a bunch of expensive, fancy gear. All of the items in my bag are lightweight and relatively cheap. And aside from the snacks and water, everything lives in my backpack 24/7, and gives me great peace of mind.

The items on this list are what I consider to be essential gear for day hikers, and I would never leave home without each of these items in my pack. Here’s what’s in my bag (full disclosure: some of these are affiliate links, but I’ve only listed items that I personally use and trust):

  1. SOL Emergency Bivvy

The SOL Emergency Bivvy is basically a foil blanket, but better. If you need to spend the night outside you can wrap it around you, or you can crawl inside it and use it as a sleeping bag. The shiny material inside will reflect your body heat and keep you warm while the waterproof outside will keep you dry. If you get lost in the woods you can use the reflective material to signal for help. The best part is that this packs up super small, weighs less than 4 ounces, and costs around $10.

  1. Fleece jacket or other warm layers

Weather in the Bay Area changes constantly so I always have a cheap fleece hoodie and a knit beanie in my bag. You can choose to pack whatever warm layers you like, but whatever you do, avoid bringing a sweatshirt or other cotton clothing. Aside from weighing more than a fleece, a cotton sweatshirt takes a long time to dry and isn’t a very heat efficient, so that sweatshirt can end up making you cold when you really need to stay warm.

  1. Water and snacks

I’ve been on many hiking trips where I end up giving water to people who haven’t brought enough. I always carry more water than I think I need, and if I’m attempting a strenuous hike on a hot day I fill my 3-liter Camelback water bladder to the brim before hitting the trail. I also always carry a Life Straw in my emergency kit. The Life Straw is small, personal water filter that safely purifies questionable freshwater sources. It’s like a straw that lets you drink directly from the lake or stream. Since it costs only $15 and weighs only 2 ounces the Life Straw is a no brainer!

You can’t survive on water alone! That’s why I always pack some extra snacks just in case I need an extra boost or my hike takes longer than planned. Trail mix, dried fruit, and beef jerky are some of my favorite hiking snacks.

  1. Basic first aid kit

I bought this basic first aid kit for $2.50 and then beefed it up with a few additional items. My first aid kit includes an assortment of bandages, a pair of tweezers, Advil, antiseptic wipes, and some hand sanitizer wipes. If you’re hiking with dogs you can check out this article for tips on how to build a dog-friendly first aid kit.

  1. Whistle

The sound of a whistle is louder and carries further than the human voice. If you fall down an embankment or get stuck in a place where you aren’t easily seen by other hikers the sound of a whistle will alert any hikers in the area. (You should blow the whistle three times and then listen for a response. If there is no response try again.) I personally carry this lightweight emergency whistle that costs less than $4. But, before you go out and buy a whistle take a look at your pack, some backpacks have a whistle built into the chest strap.

  1. Light

I prefer a headlamp, but a flashlight works just as well. These Coast headlamps have three levels of bright light and a mellow red light setting. What’s better is that you can get two headlamps for only $25. After each hike I check the batteries to make sure that they are always bright.

  1. Pocket Knife

I can’t believe how much use I’ve gotten out of this small Gerber pocket knife. Okay, so most of its use has come from cutting a loose string from my clothing, or using it to cut up the salami that I brought for lunch. But, I’ve also used this knife to cut guyline and to shave down wood to make kindling. This knife costs less than $10, weighs practically nothing, and has a million uses.

  1. Sunblock

Never estimate the power of the sun! I always wear a hat and bring sunblock to protect my sensitive skin. I always carry extra sunblock because being burnt to a crisp is no fun!

  1. Fire starters

Whether it is a lighter or waterproof matches, I always carry something to help make a fire in case of emergency. A fire will help keep you warm and the smoke from a fire can also help emergency personnel find your location (just be sure that you don’t burn down the forest!). In addition to matches, I bring a Ziplock baggie with some cotton balls that have been smeared in Vaseline, as an easy, lightweight fire starter. This tutorial will teach you how to make your own fire starter from Vaseline and cotton balls.

  1. Navigation

I always pick up a trail map from the park headquarters because I don’t trust myself to memorize the route. If there isn’t a trail map for purchase I take photos of any maps I find along the way- whether they are on an info kiosk or a trail marker. In addition to a paper map I also download a map of the area onto my phone before leaving the house.

What essential items do you carry in your pack?

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The trail to Murietta Falls is one of the most challenging hikes in the Bay Area. Clocking in at 12 miles with over 4ooo feet of elevation gain, this dog-friendly out-and-back hike will definitely give you a workout.

The Ohlone Wilderness is popular with both day hikers and backpackers. The entire trail spans 28 miles and connects Mission Peak, Sunol, and Del Valle Regional Parks. The trail can be grueling in the heat of summer and a formidable opponent in the winter. I apparently like pain, and I usually end up hiking this trail twice a year. I’ve found that the out-and-back hike to Murietta Falls is a great way to periodically gauge my fitness level.

The majority of the trail is a wide fire road that follows the contours of the East Bay hills. Within the first three miles of the hike, you’ll climb 1630 feet as you follow the trail almost entirely uphill. You’ll get a bit of reprieve as the trail narrows and dips down to Williams Gulch, an idyllic shady grove of Oak trees with a bubbling creek. Savor your time here before taking on the Big Burn, a series of steep switchbacks. Despite its name, the narrow trail through the Big Burn is quite nice compared to some of the other steep uphill climbs on this section of the trail, but be on the lookout for Poison Oak creeping amongst the purple thistle that grows along the trail in the spring and summer.

After climbing 1310 feet you’ll reach the highest point on the trail (3200ft) and begin the descent to Murietta Falls. The falls are usually bone dry in the summer, so if you are hoping to see the waterfall it is best to attempt this trail in the winter or after a heavy rain. The narrow, unmarked trail leading to the waterfall may require a bit of rock scrambling, but after you reach the falls hang out for a bit and revel in your accomplishments before retracing your route to arrive back at the trailhead. (If you have trekking poles, you’ll want to use them on your way back to avoid sliding down some of the steep downhill sections.)

Even though this is a dog-friendly trail, owners should strongly consider leaving the pooch at home if hiking in the summer months. At the height of summer, temperatures can reach over 100 degrees and water sources on the trail can be unreliable. If you’re new to hiking with your dog, check out my blog post for some handy tips.

The Trailhead:

Enter at the Del Valle Regional Park main entrance (you can get your hiking permit when you pay your entrance fees). Proceed through the gate and continue driving straight into the park. When the road dead-ends, make a right turn and head towards the parking lot near West Swim Beach and the Rocky Ridge Visitor Center. Park at the far end of the parking lot and look for the trailhead near the Lichen Bark area (you’ll see a sign for the Ohlone Wilderness).

The Route:

Take the Sailor Camp Trail until it meets the Ohlone Trail. Continue on the Ohlone Trail for 5.23 miles and make a right at the junction after Johnny’s Pond to follow signs to Murietta Falls. Follow the trail for another quarter-mile and when the trail splits stay to the left. The trail will head downhill and cross a small creek. Shortly after crossing the creek, look for a large rock on the right side of the trail and a narrow path leading to what looks like an overlook. Follow this unmarked trail and scramble down to the falls. Retrace your steps and follow the trail back to the trailhead.

Other details:

Parking: Paid parking lot

Fee: $6 entrance fee, $2 hiking permit

Restroom: Flush toilets available at the trailhead, pit toilets available along the trail

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The dog-friendly, six-mile Cataract Falls hike near Mount Tamalpais is a waterfall wonderland. This is a stair-stepping, butt-busting challenging trail that rewards visitors with over 2-miles of waterfalls.

The trail follows Cataract Creek as it cascades down Mount Tamalpais and flows into Alpine Lake. This is a pleasant hike year-round, but its full beauty unfurls in the wet months. In winter and spring the ferns are lush, trees are fuzzy with moss, the waterfalls gush, and wildflowers are abundant. As the year progresses the vegetation recoils and the Maple trees glow with autumn hues.

This popular trail can get extremely busy on the weekends and parking at the northern trailhead entrance at Fairfax Bolinas Road is limited. I recommend beginning your hike at the Rock Spring Trailhead (where Pan Toll Road intersects with Ridgecrest Blvd.).

The trail starts in a small meadow before leading into the trees. The trail crosses the creek and winds through the trees before arriving at the Laurel Dell Picnic Area. Pass through the picnic area and follow the trail as it begins its descent into the canyon. The trail becomes narrow and much of the lower half of the trail is made of steep stairs that can be slippery in wet months. The trail comes to an end shortly after passing Alpine Lake. When you reach the end of the trail, turn around and retrace your steps. As you ascend over 700 feet in less than 1.5 miles you may be surprised at how suddenly this “easy” walk turns into a challenging hike.

The Trailhead:

Begin your hike at the Rock Spring Trailhead and follow the Cataract Falls trail until it dead-ends at Fairfax-Bolinas Road. Then, retrace your steps and climb back up the mountain.

The Route:

Follow the Cataract Falls trail out and back. The first half of the hike is all downhill, but remember what you go down you must go back up! The Marin Municipal Water District’s website has a map of all of the trails in the area.

Other details:

Parking: The Rock Spring parking lot can fill-up quickly on weekends. It is best to get to the trail early.

Fee: No fee

Restrooms: Port-a-potties are available on both ends of the trailhead and pit toilets are located in Laurel Dell Picnic Area, about 1-mile from the Rock Springs trailhead.

Hours: Open from 7am to sunset

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[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Section” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off”][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label=”Fullwidth Image” src=”http://www.treesandtents.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/SanBruno_HikingGuide_BlogImage.png” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” animation=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” alt=”Admiring the view from the top of the ridge at San Bruno Mountain.” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Located just outside of San Francisco’s city limits, San Bruno Mountain is a well-kept secret. This 9.26 mile trail offers a refreshing and quiet reprieve from the busy urban sprawl that surrounds the mountain. From its summit, hikers are rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the entire Bay Area, and the views continue as you walk the ridgeline from one peak to the next.

The park has recently invested in new trail markers that make navigating a breeze. The hike starts at the Old Guadalupe Trailhead and follows a paved fire road for less than a quarter-mile before connecting to the Bog Trail, a flat, scenic loop. Whether you decide to take the right or the left side of the Bog Trail loop (both paths are equally great!), keep your eyes peeled for birds and you just might be lucky enough spot an owl or a hawk. The mile-long Bog trail will lead you through scenic Eucalyptus groves and marshlands until eventually guiding you into the main part of San Bruno Mountain. You’ll follow the trail as it continues past the picnic area and winds under the road. Continue walking along the road, next to the secondary parking lot and connect to the Summit Trail, located near the information kiosk (you can also pickup a trail map here).

The Summit Loop Trail is a single track trail that switchbacks up the mountain. If you want to add an additional mile to your trek, you can take the longer Summit Loop Trail that leads to the Ridge Trail. Or use the route that is mapped below and follow the trail markers for the Summit Loop Trail towards the Eucalyptus Trail. As you continue to climb, the Eucalyptus groves thin and views of the city will slowly peek above the chaparral. Shortly before reaching the summit, take the Ridge Trail and continue admiring the views as you walk along the trail for 5 miles out-and-back. After hiking back along the Ridge Trail, vary your hike a bit by taking the Dairy Ravine Trail back to the picnic area and re-connecting with the Bog Trail.

The Trailhead:

Park on Crocker Avenue and access the trailhead by passing through the gate.

The Route:

From the Old Guadalupe Trailhead take the Bog Trail until you reach the picnic area. Follow the paved path under the bridge and along the parking area until you reach the information kiosk and connect to Summit Loop Trail (heading towards Eucalyptus Trail and Dairy Ravine Trail). Follow the Summit Loop Trail and connect to the Ridge Trail. Follow the Ridge Trail until it ends and then retrace your steps back toward the Summit Loop connector. At the three-way junction with Summit Loop and Ridge Trail, follow signs for the Dairy Ravine Trail and eventually connect with the Bog Trail and head back to your car.

Other Details:

Parking: Street parking at trailhead

Fee: No fee

Restrooms: Flush toilets are available at the picnic area

Hours: 8am to sunset

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[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Section” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off”][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label=”Fullwidth Image” src=”http://www.treesandtents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BaylandsStroll.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” animation=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” alt=”These pelicans are just some of the birds that call the Palo Alto Baylands Byxbee Park Hills their home.” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

The Palo Alto Baylands offers world-class bird watching from trails that snake through over 1900 acres of protected salt marshes and mud flats. This short 2.7-mile trail follows the marshy shoreline before winding through Palo Alto Baylands Byxbee Park Hills where walkers are treated to sweeping views of the bay. If you prefer a longer walk, check out the 7-mile Adobe Creek Trail.

This short walk offers visitors an easy, year-round escape into nature. When I visited one November afternoon, the sun had just moved behind the Byxbee Hills and the animals in the marsh seemed to jump into action. I stopped on one of the wooden observation decks to admire three pelicans that were swimming close to shore while bobbing their heads in-and-out of the water. As I stood there quietly observing, I heard a rustling in the trees and turned to see a hawk land less than 10 feet from where I was standing. Less than a minute later a jackrabbit darted between the bushes near the base of the observation platform.

In addition to the animals I saw, this area is also home to foxes, raccoons, skunks, and coyotes, in addition to more birds than I can count. If you want to learn more about this special ecosystem or about the birds who call this area home, join one of the guided nature walks. Ranger-led walks are offered year-round. Check the schedule online, or call 650-617-3156 to learn more.

The Trailhead:

Located near the public restrooms, the trailhead is easy to find. Head towards the bay and follow signs for the Adobe Creek Trail.

The Route:

Take the Adobe Creek Trail and make a right at the first signed junction and head toward the Renzel Wetlands. Follow the path you come to an unmarked “T” in the path, and take the trail to the right to head up the hill. The trails at the top of Byxbee hills wind around the park. You can take your time exploring and admiring the sweeping views of the bay from various vantage points as you work your way to the opposite end of the park. When you’re all walked out take one of the trails down the small hill and back to the parking lot.

Other details:

Parking: There are two small parking lots near the trailhead.

Fee: No fee

Restrooms: Flush toilets are available at the trailhead.

Hours: Open from 8am to sunset

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[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Section” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off”][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label=”Fullwidth Image” src=”http://www.treesandtents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Adobe-Creek-Loop.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” animation=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” alt=”A duck cleans itself at the Palo Alto Baylands.” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

With over 1900 acres of protected bayside marshland, The Baylands in Palo Alto is a destination for migrating birds and birdwatchers of all ages. This flat, 7-mile path begins at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and loops around the Palo Alto Baylands salt marshes and mud flats. If you want a shorter stroll, opt for the 2.7-mile Byxbee Hills and Mayfield Slough walk.

The bird watching in the Palo Alto Baylands is stunning! The scenery in The Baylands tidal marsh changes with the tides, and the various sloughs and flood control basins create separate zones for a variety of birds to enjoy. A good portion of the Palo Alto Baylands Adobe Creek Trail runs between two sloughs, giving hikers opportunities for bird watching on both sides of the trail. On one side of the trail you might see hundreds of ducks happily swimming and quacking up a storm in the slow moving water, while on the opposite side of the trail Sand Pipers daintily prod the mud flats with their beak.

Unfortunately, this trail isn’t 100% magical nature viewing. To complete this loop, walkers are required to continue on a paved path that runs alongside a busy road that is adjacent to the even busier Highway 101. It would be wonderful if The Baylands could one day build a boardwalk to connect the trails and make this a true hiking loop. But even with the frontage road distraction, this dog-friendly and bike-friendly loop is a wonderful trail when you want a walking path with a bit of distance.

If you want to learn more about this special ecosystem or about the birds who call this area home, join one of the guided nature walks. Ranger-led walks are offered year-round. Check the schedule online, or call 650-617-3156 to learn more.

The Trailhead:

Begin in the parking lot opposite from the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center. As you are facing the Interpretive Center, take the sidewalk to your left and go over the bridge. After crossing the bridge, stay on the path as it winds away from the road and becomes the Marsh Front Trail.

The Route:

Follow the Marsh Front Trail to Byxbee Park Hills. Continue on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail toward Shoreline Lake. Just before reaching Shoreline Lake, the trail will split; take the paved path to the right and follow it for about a half-mile. As you walk, apartments and businesses will be on your left while the creek is on your right. As you reach the end of the path, it will look like the road ends, but stay to the left and continue until you reach a wood and iron trestle bridge. Cross the bridge and continue along the frontage road until crossing a second wood and iron trestle bridge and making a right to loop back onto the dirt trail. You will pass a wood viewing deck on your left before coming to an unmarked fork in the road. You can head to the left and go up and into the Byxbee Hills, or stay to the right and continue along the Adobe Creek Trail (as shown in the mapped route below). The Adobe Creek Trail will wind along the marsh until it meets back with the Marsh Front Trail and you can then retrace your steps back to your car. Find a detailed map of the area on the city of Palo Alto’s website.

Other details:

Parking: There are several parking lots in the area.

Fee: No fee

Restrooms: Flush toilets are available at the Ranger Station and at the base of the Byxbee Park Hills.

Hours: Open from 8am to sunset

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[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Section” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off”][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label=”Fullwidth Image” src=”http://www.treesandtents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BairIsland_Hiking-Guide.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” animation=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” alt=”The tidal marsh of Bair Island is home to a variety of birds” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

If you’ve ever doubted the magical, restorative powers of nature, you owe Bair Island a visit. The majority of Bair Island runs along Highway 101, but the bird watching is so spectacular that the freeway traffic fades into the background.

The easy, flat path begins at the access bridge near the Bair Island Marina. Take the bridge across the waterway and head to the right to a large raised platform viewing area. The Peninsula Open Space Trust and Save the Bay have been working hard to improve and preserve this fragile ecosystem. The tidal marsh zone is part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is home to harbor seals, rays, leopard sharks, and a variety of birds including peregrine falcons and egrets.

After taking in the views from the platform, retrace your steps and follow the path past the entry bridge. The trail will curve and run parallel to Highway 101 before turning into the marsh and ending at the Middle Bair Island Observation Deck. As you walk, take time to watch the birds and keep an eye out for rabbits that can frequently be seen hopping amid the low brush.

The Trailhead:

After parking in the wildlife refuge parking lot follow Bair Island Road to the wildlife refuge access bridge.

The Route:

This out-and-back walk consists of two parts. After crossing the access bridge, head to the right and visit the first observation platform before turning around and following the path past the entry bridge and to the second viewing platform. After reaching the second viewing platform (the Middle Bair Island Observation Deck) turn around and retrace your steps to the entry bridge.

Other details:

Parking: Plentiful parking available in the wildlife refuge parking lot.

Fee: No fee

Restrooms: Available at the parking lot near the trailhead

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