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Las Gallinas Valley Ponds

Just north of the Marin County Civic Center, bordering McInnis Park on San Pablo Bay, four miles of hard-packed levee trails wind around more than 350 acres of fresh and saltwater marsh, irrigated pasture, and ponds. Don't be discouraged if you detect a smell of sulphur near the trailhead; this is the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District's Wastewater...
Just north of the Marin County Civic Center, bordering McInnis Park on San Pablo Bay, four miles of hard-packed levee trails wind around more than 350 acres of fresh and saltwater marsh, irrigated pasture, and ponds. Don't be discouraged if you detect a smell of sulphur near the trailhead; this is the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District's Wastewater Reclamation Project, and the parking area is close to the treatment plant. Keep on going and you will find yourself in a truly tranquil place where birdsong fills the air and dried grasses crackle in the wind during the dry seasons.

Two of the three ponds hold treated wastewater; the third is a freshwater pond with three islands that attract nesting birds. As you circle around the ponds on the trail network, you can see Mount Diablo to the east, Mount Tamalpais to the west, and all sorts of wildlife, including a fantastic array of waterfowl. On winter weekends, don't be surprised if you see flocks of birdwatchers toting cameras and binoculars.

Trail/Pathway Details

Las Gallinas

Trailhead: Just south of the parking lot

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Terrain: Moderately Firm

Obstacles: Thick weeds growing down the middle of some trail stretches may be difficult to negotiate.

Description

Next to the classroom building by the parking lot, a steep concrete path leads across a bridge to the main trail. Just past the bridge is an accessible picnic area, although the table has no roll-under space. Two loop trails soon branch off and circle the storage ponds. On one loop I saw mergansers and a cinnamon teal paddling around an island in one of the ponds, and egrets searching the nearshore waters for a meal. The trail can be rocky and rough in places, with a few steep dips and rises, and portions of it are overgrown by weeds. The main trail continues along the north edge of a broad marsh. Eventually it becomes hard-packed dirt with irrigated fields on the left; then it turns to a rough footpath, where I turned back.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Parking lot surface is hard-packed gravel

Accessible Restroom: Yes

An accessible restroom in the classroom building near the parking lot is open daily, 6:30 am-3 pm, but is frequently closed for maintenance. When the classroom building is locked, the closest accessible restroom is at nearby McInnis Park.

Accessible Picnic Tables: Limited Accessibility

Near the parking lot, just past the concrete bridge. Tables have no knee clearance.

Reviewed by Eileen Ecklund, March 15, 2013

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Pond with Mt. Tamalpais in the distance
Pond with Mt. Tamalpais in the distance (Eileen Ecklund)

Features icon key

  • hiking
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.lgvsd.org/
Managing Agency: Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District
Address: 300 Smith Ranch Rd.
Nearest City: San Rafael
Phone: (415) 472-1734
Hours: Daily, 4 am-10 pm
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
Public Transportation: Golden Gate Transit

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