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San Francisco is best explored on foot. There are 47 named hills in San Francisco, and with all of these hills come a large variety of pedestrian staircases. This one-mile Coit Tower walk explores the scenic stairs that lead from the waterfront to Coit Tower before ending in North Beach.

The stairs leading to Coit Tower have inspired visitors and residents for generations. With sweeping views of Alcatraz and the Bay these stairs have inspired moviemakers and set the scene for many events in Armistead Maupin’s literary hits. This one-mile walk leads you up the classic wooden stairs of Filbert Street before continuing on the red brick of the Greenwich steps. Visitors have a chance to take in the views and famous murals of Coit Tower before heading down to North Beach and ending at Washington Square Park.

The Trailhead:

The walk begins at Levi’s Plaza, easily found between Sansome Street and the Embarcadero.

The Route:

From the Embarcadero walk through Levi’s Plaza Park and cross Sansome Street. Begin your stairway walk by walking up the concrete staircase at the end of Filbert Street. The concrete stairs will soon lead you to a wooden staircase surrounded by lush landscaping and private gardens. Make a right onto Montgomery Street, follow the street until it dead ends, and then take the brick Greenwich steps up to Coit Tower. When you reach the tower you will follow the pedestrian path past the tower and to the left to connect with the Filbert Street stairs that lead into North Beach. Make a left on Grant and walk two blocks before making a right onto Green Street. You’ll find Mara’s Italian Pastry on Columbus, near the corner of Green Street. I highly recommend making a right onto Columbus and stopping at Mara’s before ending the walk at Washington Square Park.

Other details:

Parking: Metered street parking is available and there are also parking garages in the area.

Fee: No fee

Restroom: There is a coin-operated bathroom at Coit Tower.

 

 

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As part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is home to a large assortment of marine creatures. The protected coastline nurtures life, and as a result the marine animals are extremely active on this gorgeous stretch of coast.

Harbor Seals (and the occasional otter) frolic in the waves, while Pelicans and other short birds skim the surface of the water. And hidden under the crashing waves the sea is alive with sea stars, crabs, and sea anemones. In fact, most people flock to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve during low tide to gaze at the life below the surface in their healthy tide pools. The marine life here is so diverse that scientists have discovered over 25 new species in these waters since the reserve opened in 1969.

You can check the tide schedule to plan the best time to visit. The small parking lot can get crowded at low tide, so you might want to come a few minutes early and enjoy the trails or the beach until the tide goes out. It is also important to note that while the tide pools are great for older children, the slippery rocks and crashing waves can be dangerous for young children.

Visiting During Pupping Season:

In addition to the amazing tide pools, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has plenty of pristine, white sandy beaches to enjoy. Just how much beach is available for exploring depends on the tide and the season. Many Harbor Seals make their home here and during pupping season parts of the beach are closed to protect the seals. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of great views and seal-watching to be had. The Bluff Trail overlook is the best place to watch the seals.

During pupping season the female seals return to established safe zones (like Fitzgerald Marine Reserve) to give birth, recuperate, and nurse the baby seals. It is important to respect all boundaries and give the seals plenty of space during this special time. Even though seals can seem playful, they really are shy creatures and being on land during pupping season makes them vulnerable to human interaction. If a mother seal is spooked because a person is too loud or gets too close to her and her baby there is a risk that she will abandon the baby on the shore because she no longer thinks that the area is safe. It is extremely important to stay at least 300 feet away from the seals when they are on the beach.

The Trailhead:

To get to the established trails, head into the neighborhood and take the pedestrian bridge near the intersection of California Street and North Lake Street.

The Route:

Time your hike so that you can check out the tide pools during low tide. Depending on your timing you can start or end your day exploring the tide pools. To start your hike, take the pedestrian bridge and head to the left to follow the Dardenelle Trail. The Dardenelle Trail is part of the California Coastal Trail, follow the trail for about .25 miles until you see the trail marker directing you to the Seal Cove Staircase. The connector trail will lead you through a part of the Cypress grove before meeting up with the Bluff Trail. Make a left onto the Bluff Trail and follow it for a short distance to the Seal Cove Staircase. Take the stairs and enjoy a leisurely walk on the beach before heading back up the stairs and returning to the Bluff Trail.

At the top of the staircase, make a right and follow Ocean Blvd. There is a small trail next to the road that leads to a viewing area with some benches. If I have the time, I follow the road to the Moss Beach Distillery (just down the drive from the benches) and enjoy a drink and a snack while soaking up rays on the Distillery’s patio (and warming up next to the fire pits on a cold, foggy day!) As you wind down your day, head back the way you came, but once you return to the trails, stay to the left and take the coastal Bluff Trail back to the pedestrian bridge.

Other details:

Parking: Parking lot

Fee: No fee

Restroom: Restrooms available at the parking area

Special Events: The Reserve offers private tours for large groups and educational programs for schools. You can learn more about the special programs and events on the park website.

 

 

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Important Note: This Calaveras Big Trees hike is located in the park’s South Grove. The road to the South Grove is closed from mid-November to late-April.  If you are attempting to hike this trail in November or April you should check the park’s website for current road conditions before heading out.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is home to the tallest trees in the world. You get to admire these giants in this jaw-dropping, nature-filled 4.9 mile Calaveras Big Trees hike.

In addition to being the world’s tallest tree, the Giant Sequoia is also one of the oldest living trees on Earth. Also called Sierra Redwoods, the Giant Sequoia is unlike the Coastal Redwoods that thrive on thick fog and grow only in certain coastal regions. The Sierra Redwoods are taller and wider than the Coastal Redwoods and prefer the mild, wet winters and dry, warm summers found on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

This 4.9-mile loop takes you to the park’s largest and most impressive tree, the Louis Agassiz tree. The Agassiz tree is 250 feet tall and has a diameter of over 25 feet– this tree is larger than most San Francisco apartments!

While the Giant Sequoias may steal the show, they are just one of the beautiful sights on this trail. The rushing water of Beaver Creek, the fragrant Incense Cedars, and the colorful birds that call these big trees home, are just a few other wonderful things on this hike. If you are lucky enough to hike in the spring, you’ll find the forest awash with color from seasonal wildflowers and the Mountain Dogwoods bursting with large white flowers.

The Trailhead:

Once you enter the park it is an 8-mile drive to reach the South Grove. After parking in the South Grove lot, the trailhead is well marked and easy to find. Look for the bulletin board and trash cans (across the parking lot from the bathrooms). At the trailhead, you can also pick-up a wonderful interpretive guide that tells you all about the trail and the big trees that you will see along the way. The guide is also available for download on the park’s website.

The Route:

Signage on the trail is excellent. Follow signs for the South Grove Trail. The trail passes a picnic area before crossing Beaver Creek and starting a climb into the trees. (Shortly after crossing the bridge, you’ll see a sign for the Bradley Grove Trail. If you would like a longer hike, take the Bradley Grove Trail loop for an additional 2.5 miles of hiking before continuing with the South Grove Trail.) Rest assured that the short climb early in the hike is the only bit of elevation on the trail- the rest of the hike is flat and easy.

You’ll follow the South Grove Trail for about a mile before you start seeing any Giant Sequoias. Continue along the trail until you come to a junction, you can choose to continue on the South Grove Trail loop (which I highly recommend) or you can head straight for the Agassiz Tree and shorten this hike to a 3-mile out-and-back hike. If you choose to continue with the loop, follow the South Grove Trail as it loops back to the junction and then follow signs for the Agassiz Tree. After visiting the Agassiz Tree turn around and follow the South Grove Trail back to the parking lot.

Other details:

Parking: Parking lot at the trailhead

Fee: $10 park entrance fee

Restroom: Pit toilets at the trailhead

 

 

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Henry Coe State Park is the largest state park in Northern California with an extensive trail system that winds up and down various canyons and over the relatively unknown Blue Ridge section of the Diablo Range. The Mount Sizer loop is 15.3 miles long and has an elevation gain of 4225 ft, which makes it ideal for training for Mount Whitney. Although Mount Whitney’s elevation is much higher (14,508- the tallest peak in the contiguous US!) it is 22 miles long with an elevation gain of 6100 feet. The Mount Sizer loop has a nearly identical ratio of distance to elevation change making it a great way to see how you might fare during the longer hike.

The Mount Sizer Loop is best done in the winter or early spring. Chances are if you choose one of these seasons, the grass will be bright green and you’ll see lots of wild flowers blooming. I went in late May 2016, which was an exceptionally hot and dry spring. I carried 3 liters of water because I didn’t think that the lakes and creeks would have enough, but during better conditions you can filter and utilize various bodies of water on the trail. Tree coverage is not terribly dense; there are sections of exposed hiking, and parts of the hike go through the remnants of a wildfire. Don’t let this deter you! The section of the trail that was charred provides a surreal backdrop during your descent, the opportunity to see how resilient trees can be, and watch new life begin to grow.

While hiking you get the chance to descend into deep canyons lined with chamise and other chaparral plants. Throughout the trail you see lots of Grey Pine trees, California Buckeyes, and a variety of Manzanita trees, which are super unique due to their smooth, waxy trunks and sometimes very distinct red or light brown coloring. For budding plant enthusiasts, (pun intended!) Henry Coe has remained insulated from many invasive and non-native plant species, so you get to experience a mostly undisturbed terrain. I saw an acorn woodpecker and trees lined with holes for their acorns. In the fall, it is Tarantula mating season! I’m not a fan of spiders, but it is pretty cool to see these non-poisonous critters scampering around. If you return to Henry Coe for a backpacking trip, beware of Mountain Lions!

There are two ways to approach Mount Sizer; I went up the route that goes over the Hobbs fire road, also known as “The Shortcut”. This nickname is not because it takes significant length off the trail, but because it is the shortest approach to the top. In roughly 1.5 miles you gain 1500 feet at a 22% grade, which is just a fancy way of saying this section is STEEP.

The Trailhead:

The trail starts at the Coe Ranch headquarters by the East Dunne Ave entrance. The trailhead is well marked, but I highly recommend bringing a map.

The Route:

From the park headquarters, you begin the trek going from Monument Trail to Hobbs Road. This is not a gradual start, less than a mile in you have already ascended 400 feet! Continue straight until you see the sign for Hobbs road on the left. The trail begins a downward slope from here. Continue past the Frog Lake turn off, going towards the Middle Fork Coyote Creek crossing. It was not flowing while I was there, but it still looks like an easy creek crossing. Near the water, the trail and surrounding area is lush and green, which is drastically different from the next section. After the creek, brace yourself for The Shortcut! You immediately start heading uphill, and the salvage of some shade isn’t until you reach the top. My hiking partner thought it would be fun to time this section and see how quickly we could do it. They heard about a rumor that you should be able to finish this section in fewer minutes than your current age. I was confident that I’d be slow moving, so my goal was to finish the section without stopping. I am proud to say that I made it up in fewer minutes than my age ** and I made it the whole way without pausing. (** I barely made it up in the time, I was 25 during the hike and I made it up in 24 minutes.) At the top there is the most perfect bench inviting you to sit, rehydrate, and snack.

From here, follow the Blue Ridge Road and feel free to do the short turn off to the actual summit of Mount Sizer, it’s not as impressive as the ascent, but still worth seeing. Continue along Blue Ridge Road to the Jackass Trail. This is where you can see evidence of fire damage. Amongst the regrowth of wildflowers and brush was plenty of poison oak. I wore long sleeved shirts and pants for this reason, but the poison oak was super easy to avoid. The Jackass Trail leads to Poverty Flat Road. The grass was relatively tall, but fairly manageable, and the trail itself is still pretty evident. Poverty Flat road is clearly a misnomer because the trail is not at all flat, it’s about half the grade as The Shortcut, and so it’s pretty intense. After this climb, you get to the Manzanita Point Road junction. From here you have options as to how to get to the Corral Trail that leads back to the parking lot, either the Forest Trail or the Spring Trail. I went with the Spring Trail because it had shade and was a more clearly defined footpath. The Forest Trail has a self-guided option to look at various different markers, but it adds length to the hike. From the Spring Trail you meander along to the Corral Trail, which quickly opens up to the parking lot.

Other details:

Parking- The lot is small, I recommend starting early

Fees- Park entry fee of $8.00

Permits- No permit needed for the day hike, but you will need permits if you do an overnight backpacking trip

Restrooms- Flush toilets below and around the backside of the park HQ are available

Packing list- Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, hiking poles, and TechNu for poison oak

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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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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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