Palo Alto Baylands Preserve

  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Boating
  • Bicycling

Features

  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Boating
  • Bicycling

Information

Website:
visit link
Address:
2500 Embarcadero Rd.
Region:
San Francisco Bay Area
Phone:
Info: 650-617-3156
Hours:
Trails: Daily, 8 am-sunset. Interpretive center: Wed.-Thurs., 1-4 pm; Sun., noon-4 pm.
Dogs:
On leash
Leashed dogs are allowed, unless signs posted in special bird nesting areas indicate otherwise.
Last Visited:
November 2014
The Baylands Nature Preserve, said to be the largest salt marsh preserve on the Bay, encompasses nearly 2,000 acres protected for wildlife, including the endangered clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. The preserve contains a duck pond (formerly a saltwater swimming pool); tidal and freshwater marshes; a sailing station for windsurfers and hand-carried, non-motorized boats; and almost 15 miles of trails, all of which have some wheelchair access. Although quite a few of the trails are along roads or in built-up areas, many are close to attractive sloughs where a wide variety of birds can be seen even without binoculars, and some are out in the marshlands, where a flock of sandpipers or a lonely blue heron may be your only company.

Jackrabbits are frequently seen in the restored wildlands above the high-water line, where gray foxes and burrowing owls are said to breed. But within the preserve you'll also find a sewage treatment plant, an airport, and a former landfill for the city of San Francisco, which is now a grassy garbage mountain named the Bixby Art Hill, home to several very understated pieces of public art. Highway 101 is nearby, as is Palo Alto's golf course.

Visitor center: A quarter-mile down the road from the duck pond is the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center. Inside are displays about the wildlife you might see at the preserve and an ecology laboratory where visitors can prepare their own slides and examine them under microscopes. The microscopes are on a 25-inch-high shelf, but a video microscope that projects slides onto a monitor permits easier viewing. The center also offers videos, nature walks, and a variety of natural history programs for children and adults. On the wooden deck surrounding the nature center, use the low-mounted telescope to zoom in on shorebirds and waterfowl. A long boardwalk extending from the center across Harriet Mundy Marsh is closed for major renovations. Located at 2775 Embarcadero Road, 650-329-2506. 

Trails and Pathways

Trail:
Adobe Creek Trail (Bixby Art Hill to Shoreline Lake Park)
Time to Complete:
1.5 hours
Trailhead Location:
Parking area closest to Bixby Art Hill
Trail Length:
Over 4 total miles
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: This is a nice trail--actually a service road on a levee--offering choice birdwatching over nearly 3 miles, with sloughs on both sides and a great sense of peaceful isolation, far from human activity. However, the poorly graded surface makes the 6 miles out and back rough riding in a wheelchair. The best birdwatching is along the mile-long section between Charleston Slough and Adobe Creek, just before the trail reaches Shoreline Park, so if the distance seems too great, starting from there may be a good choice. Consider the weather when planning a visit: There is no shade, but breezes off the water may be chilly. Also take tides into account; you'll see a lot of mud at low tide, but wading birds will be active then. Plenty of benches are provided. If you do start at the Bixby Art Hill, notice the workers spreading topsoil over the landfill mountain to your right, and the public sculptures on the slopes.
More Info: There are long stretches that are not smoothly graded and can be uncomfortable in a wheelchair.
Trail:
Adobe Creek Trail along Mayfield Slough
Trailhead Location:
Parking area closest to the Bixby Art Hill: Go .3 miles to Mayfield Slough and turn right.
Trail Length:
2-4 total miles
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: For some reason, Adobe Creek Trail has two branches; this one runs south along Mayfield Slough and Matadero Creek all the way to Highway 101, skirting the garbage mountain and providing a view of more Bixby art. It is fairly accessible, but it's not a very interesting walk unless you want to see the hillside art. Depending on the wind, you may smell the landfill or possibly the sewage treatment plant. Benches are provided frequently along the first half-mile, but they are placed down from the trail by the water and so are difficult for people with mobility disabilities to use.
More Info: The hard, fine gravel is not well graded over the entire distance.
Trail:
San Francisquito Creek Trail
Trailhead Location:
The sailing station or the nature center
Trail Length:
2-4 total miles
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: From the nature center you can take a 3.2-mile loop beginning on the San Francisquito Creek Trail, which leads out along a levee toward the Palo Alto Airport and the municipal golf course. About .25 miles out, the surface becomes rough and small rocks slow your travel. Three-quarters of a mile farther, near the north end of the airport runway, the air traffic overhead can be startling. The trail climbs a short, moderate incline just before it turns inland along San Francisquito Creek. Past the airport, it intersects with the paved Baylands Bike Trail (still referred to as San Francisquito Creek Trail). Turn left and continue past the golf course for .5 miles to the Baylands Athletic Center.
More Info: The crushed-rock surface is dusty but firm in dry weather; during the rainy season parts of the trail may become impassable.
Trail:
Duck Pond Loop
Trailhead Location:
Duck pond
Trail Length:
Less than .5 mile
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: This short loop trail around a small pond busy with ducks and geese might be pleasant after a picnic, but for about half the distance it wanders away to overlook a nameless slough that had little bird activity when we visited. Though signs prohibit feeding wildlife, near the pond, ducks and geese approach visitors hopefully. Bird droppings make the area hazardous.
Trail:
Marsh Front Trail
Trailhead Location:
Any parking area in the preserve
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: The trail parallels the north side of Embarcadero Road between Bixby Art Hill and the sailing station for about half a mile, with views across the slough and a pickleweed marsh. Interpretive panels provide information along the way. Traffic on the road is light and slow-moving, and you will never be far from a restroom. The trail has some access problems, including a soft surface in places and some small hills, but a bike lane next to the level road can serve as an alternate route if the trail poses a problem.
More Info: Opposite the duck pond, this trail has a very rough section with a couple of small rises and some soft surfaces. In some places the surface is dirt and likely to be muddy in wet weather.
Trail:
Bixby Art Hill Trails
Trailhead Location:
Access points are along the first half-mile of the Adobe Creek Trail and its Mayfield Slough route.
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Steep
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: This maze of trails, artistically surfaced with oyster shells, meanders over the garbage mountain; all are considerably steeper than 1:12 but may be manageable in a good power chair. In addition to the sense of accomplishment if you make it to the top, you can get a closer look at the art pieces installed by landscape architects.

Accessibility Features

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%;

The most popular lot is at the Adobe Creek trailhead, where the one designated space is very likely to be occupied. Each of the several small lots along Embarcadero Rd. has a van-accessible space, and at the sailing station, a gravel lot has several van-accessible spaces.


Accessible Restroom:
Yes – Restrooms with running water are at the nature center (open only when the center is) and Bixby Art Park parking area; porta-potties are at the duck pond and sailing station.

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance; Several tables are by the duck pond; all are near the parking lot on firm grass or dirt, and two have shortened benches to provide integrated seating for at least two wheelchairs each.

Accessible Visitor Center:
Yes

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