A duck cleans itself at the Palo Alto Baylands.

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