By ,
Donor Communications Associate

Did you know that there is a trail in progress that will one day encircle the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays? Well, there is! Started in 1989, the San Francisco Bay Trail will eventually cover 500 miles, crossing through 47 cities and spanning seven toll bridges.

Today 350 miles of the trail are complete, giving visitors access to the Bay from multiple angles via foot, bike or wheelchair. It traverses over 130 parks and preserves, including at least 15 on the Peninsula and the South Bay, where POST is working to protect open space. With so many entry points to choose from, you can find a destination to fit your unique recreation needs, whether you want to gather with friends, hike, bike, jog, birdwatch or see the sights from your wheelchair.

These are a few of the South Bay and Peninsula Bay Trail locations I visit when I need to stretch my legs and smell some salt air! I invite you to check out some of these amazing trails as well.

My Favorite San Francisco Bay Trail Destinations

1. Bair Island in Redwood City

This gem was protected by POST in 1997 and opened to the public in 2015 following extensive restoration to convert it back to a wetland after many years of use for agriculture and salt farming. Bair Island is the largest island on the Peninsula at over 3,000 acres, all of it protected for the birds and wildlife that live on its marshy soil and for you to enjoy. To protect the wildlife, no dogs are allowed in this preserve.

This preserve offers:

  • A flat, gravel 1.7 mile out-and-back trail that runs parallel to highway 101, and then out to the Middle Island observation point.
  • A 0.4-mile flat jaunt one way on a gravel trail to the Inner Island observation platform.
  • Opportunities to observe rabbits, foxes and egrets as well as other birds. You may even see rays and leopard sharks in the water, so keep your eyes peeled!
  • Boat launch off Seaport Blvd in the Yacht Harbor near the Port of Redwood City.  You can float through the water in hopes of catching glimpses of critters you can’t spot from the main trails.

This beautiful area is part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Reserve and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which continues to work to restore the tidal marsh to its former glory.

Directions to the Bair Island parking area.

 

2. Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

This 1,940-acre preserve is one of the largest expanses of undisturbed marsh surrounding the San Francisco Bay. It encompasses Byxbee Park, with its public art pieces, but most locals call the entire area The Baylands. It’s a stopping point for birds on the Pacific Flyway, so you might want to check out this handy birding guide and pack your binoculars.

The San Francisco Bay Trail makes its way through much of the Baylands. I especially like this park because, in addition to being close to my home, it has multiple entrance points for a variety of experiences (maps here) and you can bring your dog along as long as they are on a leash!

Highlights of the Baylands include:

  • San Fransisquito Creek Trail, a flat, packed dirt trail near the duck pond and the interpretive center, which includes boardwalks to viewing areas that cross the marshy ground. The interpretive center is currently closed, but check out the eaves for swallows’ nests!
  • Baylands Sailing Station from which you can kayak to look for critters farther from the trail. This boat launch is part of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail. Access is from the farthest parking lot along the San Fransisquito Creek Trail.
  • Byxbee Park, reachable via a right turn at the main entrance, has trails covering a hilly area and includes art installations.
  • Marsh Loop Bay Trail, a five-mile flat, paved and packed dirt with gravel loop trail that is suitable for wheelchairs as well as running, walking and biking. The trail travels along Charleston Slough and is accessed from Byxbee Park or East Bayshore Rd. between Embarcadero Rd. and San Antonio Rd. It also has a spur that links to Shoreline at Mountain View.

Directions to the Palo Alto Baylands parking area.

 

3. Sunnyvale Baylands Park

Set on over 175 acres, Sunnyvale Baylands Park combines wetlands and a traditional park with family friendly attributes, although pets are not allowed. There is a $6 parking fee from March to October and Santa Clara County Park Passes are not valid (pedestrians and cyclists can enter for free).

The park’s features include:

  • Picnic areas for 60 – 325 people that can be reserved in advance for a fee.
  • Individual picnic tables available on a first come first serve basis.
  • Play area.
  • Large grass field where kite flying is prohibited, but the day I went there were people flying remote controlled planes! (you may want to verify the rules about this with the city before you go)
  • Walking trail around the perimeter of the park. The trail is flat, packed dirt and is appropriate to enjoy on foot, bikes, wheelchairs, or with strollers (see accessibility information). There is also a boardwalk that extends out over the marshy area and ends in a viewing platform.
  • 105 acres of wetlands with access to the San Francisco Bay Trail. The Sunnyvale segment of the Bay Trail is 9.5 miles one way, with access via a closed road on the southeast side of the park. Although most maps show an access road on the opposite side that would allow you to make a loop, that road has a gate that was locked when I was there on the weekend. So, you will want to check its status or just consider this an out-and-back portion of the trail, unless you are connecting to other parts of the Bay Trail.

As is the case for all walks along the Bay, it is often windy and/or chilly, even if it is warm in the vicinity, so be sure to dress in layers and hold onto your hat!

Directions to Sunnyvale Baylands Park.

 

4. Shoreline at Mountain View

This park encompasses 750 acres of land reclaimed for wildlife and recreation and does not allow dogs, although there is a dog park near the entrance. Its residents include Western Burrowing Owls, which are a Species of Special Concern, so keep an eye out but please do not disturb them. Barbeques, drones and fireworks are prohibited, as are large group events (except at the established facilities), but like the Palo Alto Baylands, it is a part of the Pacific Flyway, so it’s a great place to go birdwatching!

This park offers:

  • Shoreline Lake, which offers sailing, kayaking and wind surfing lessons and has on-site rentals.
  • Designated kite flying and children’s play areas.
  • The historic Rengstorff House.
  • American Bistro and Michael’s at Shoreline restaurants.
  • 18-hole golf course.
  • Open areas for picnicking.
  • 3-mile flat trail around the lake as well as 1.5 miles of trails on the 65-acre Vista Slope, with views all the way to the San Francisco skyline on clear days.
  • Over six miles of trails that are part of the Stevens Creek and Permanente Creek Trails, which also offer access to the park from public transportation and downtown Mountain View and pass by tidal marshes, salt ponds and a slough as well as the lake (see maps here).
  • Environmental docent-led walks for groups (pre-registration is required).

The main access to the park is from North Shoreline Blvd. Shoreline Amphitheatre sits next to, but is not a part of, the park. That means the traffic can get ugly when there is a concert, so be sure to plan ahead and check the schedule!

Directions to the Shoreline at Mountain View parking area.

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These trails and more beckon Bay Area residents to experience the beauty along the San Francisco Bay Trail. There are trails and activities for everyone to enjoy, the birds and wildlife are marvelous and the views are spectacular, so get out there and see the beauty for which our home is world renowned!

 

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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