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What you need to know

  • Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
  • 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • No Fee

Location Activities

  • Hiking
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Fishing
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Handicap Accessibility
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Photo Op
  • Redwood
  • Waterfall
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Refuge Information

Everyone can enjoy Bair Island's natural setting. Its flat trail, perfect for all levels, offers views of the bay and the cornucopia of wildlife that call this place home.

Just east of Redwood City, this complex mosaic of twisted tidal channels was protected by POST in 1997 — forever safeguarding it as a refuge for wildlife and as a place for you to explore.

Watch for:

Endangered Ridgway's rails and salt marsh harvest mice. Also cottontail rabbits, peregrine falcons, pelicans, egrets, terns and stilts. Large rays and small leopard sharks can be seen in the sloughs at the farther reaches of the island.

Our Favorite Walks at Bair Island

Distance: 0.8 miles round trip to the closer observation platform, or 3.4 to the farther one (see map below)

Elevation change: N/A

Hiking time: 1 – 2 hours, depending on your route

Trail surface: Gravel

Best season: All year

Parking lot location: Click here for directions

Midpen Logo-TransparentThough we try to keep this page accurate, please see this website before visiting for the latest information.



From the main parking area, follow the flat, exposed trail for 1.7 miles to the Middle Bair Island observation deck. Or, for something shorter, stay right and head to the Inner Island observation deck, less than a half mile from the trailhead (see map below).

Make sure to bring your binoculars and look out for birds like the Ridgway’s rail and western snowy plover, two endangered species that use this marshy habitat. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot for both of these walks.

The Backstory

In the early 20th century, Bair Island was used for ranching, farming and salt production. Levees were built to prevent the flow of tidal waters around the island. At one point, a massive housing development was proposed for the island. Without the support of concerned local citizens, this special habitat could have been lost.

In 1997, POST bought and protected 1,623 acres of Bair Island. Shortly after, we began work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited to restore the island with the goal of removing the levees and returning the landscape to a more natural ecological state. It took some time, and in December of 2015, the final levee was breached and the life-rich waters of the Bay came rushing back to nourish the land and reshape it over time.

Though portions of the island are owned by the State of California, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the entire area since 1998 as part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They continue to restore Bair Island back to tidal marsh and revitalize it with the help of restoration funds from POST.

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