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Wildcat Marsh & Landfill Loop Trail

A visit to Wildcat Marsh and the Landfill Loop Trail will give you a close-up look at where our trash goes (the "garbage mountain"), where our gasoline comes from (the Chevron refinery), and maybe where our energy could come from (a field of giant solar collectors). Thanks to the work of tireless Bay Trail advocates, this area is...
A visit to Wildcat Marsh and the Landfill Loop Trail will give you a close-up look at where our trash goes (the "garbage mountain"), where our gasoline comes from (the Chevron refinery), and maybe where our energy could come from (a field of giant solar collectors). Thanks to the work of tireless Bay Trail advocates, this area is open to the public.

Birdwatching is plentiful along the two trails here, Wildcat Marsh Trail and the 2.8-mile Landfill Loop Trail, which angles across Wildcat Marsh, then travels between the riprapped shore of San Pablo Bay and the slopes of "garbage mountain," just north of the marsh. Nearly 60 years' worth of trash here is now sealed and cloaked with topsoil. Though pipes for monitoring containment protrude from the ground, and trees are not permitted as their roots might breach the landfill's seal, grasses and feral garden plants populate the slopes, and you may see lizards, rabbits, and even deer. There are trailside benches and interpretive displays, and fine views across San Pablo Bay.

Trail/Pathway Details

Landfill Loop Trail

Trailhead: Foot of Parr Blvd.

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

A few short stretches have gentle grades. Just north of the trailhead, the paved path from the parking area may be a little steeper than 1/12.

Terrain: Moderately Firm

Most of the surface is well-graded fine gravel, very firm and smooth, except for a stretch along garbage mountain just north of Wildcat Marsh, which has large gravel and uneven terrain.

Description

The Loop Trail is little frequented, but not entirely quiet. Loaded dump trucks prowl the mountain; the roar of machinery comes from methane-powered generators and the nearby Chevron refinery, while battlefield sound effects sometimes drift in from a rifle range two miles north. Still, here where the Bay Trail leaves city streets and follows the water's edge, you can pause to meditate on how nature hangs on, even cheek-by-jowl with civilization's less appealing consequences. Part of the trail crosses the pickleweed marsh on levees, among foraging shorebirds and diving swallows.

After about a mile the main trail curves north, or you can follow a little spur trail for .2 miles that affords a closer view of any waterfowl; at high tide here, you feel like you’re out in the Bay. Continuing north, after a third of a mile you can opt to take Upper Trail, which runs parallel to the main route while climbing garbage mountain, but it is steep and has a very soft surface. While it's possible to navigate in a motorized wheelchair, it offers little reward for the effort.

On the last section of the loop, San Pablo Creek is visible, with the tidal marsh at its mouth. Depending on the time of year, the marsh is covered in large growths of orange-colored dodder, a harmless parasite.

Wildcat Marsh Trail

Trailhead: Southbound Richmond Pkwy., just after Pittsburg Ave. There’s no entry from the northbound lane.

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Two short stretches may exceed a 1:12 slope

Terrain: Moderately Firm

Mostly very smooth gravel, but there are a few rough patches

Description

The Wildcat Marsh Trail starts about a mile south of the Landfill Loop Trail and leads to its trailhead. The first quarter-mile, alongside Wildcat Creek, has some natural appeal, with views of the willowy marsh and likely sightings of waterbirds. But when the trail turns north it runs for almost a mile between cyclone fences, close to acres of solar collectors that power equipment at the West County Wastewater District's treatment plant—admirable, but not very scenic.

Accessibility Details

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

At Landfill Loop (watch out for oddly placed curbs) and Wildcat Creek trailheads

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Porta-potty's at Landfill Loop Trailhead and Wildcat Marsh Trailhead
A few tables are by the Wildcat Creek trailhead parking lot and another about .25 miles along the trail, at a raised viewing platform; the slope to reach it may exceed 1:12. Another picnic area is midway around the Landfill Loop Trail. It is about 75 feet off the trail and you must travel across medium-size gravel. None of the tables offer an appealing setting.

Reviewed by Ann Sieck, October 11, 2014

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Mt. Tamalpais in the distance and Garbage Mountain in the foreground
Mt. Tamalpais in the distance and Garbage Mountain in the foreground (Dan Hill)

Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • hiking
  • picnic
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

Website: www.wcwd.org/
Managing Agency: West County Wastewater District
Address: 1 Parr Blvd.
Nearest City: Richmond
Phone: (510) 262-1660
Hours: Landfill Loop: 8:30 am-4 pm. Closed New Years Day, Easter, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Wildcat Marsh: Dawn to dusk.
Fees: None
Dogs: Not allowed
Public Transportation: AC Transit
Useful Links: San Francisco Bay Trail Project, East Bay Regional Park District


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