Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

  • Visitor center
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking


  • Visitor center
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking


752 County Road 99W, Willows, CA,
Sacramento Valley
Info: (530) 934-2801
Hours vary per activity. Check the website.
On leash
Last Visited:
February 2022
For thousands of years the Sacramento Valley, part of the Pacific Flyway, has provided a winter haven for migratory waterfowl. Today, over 90% of California's wetlands are gone because of development however, the birds continue to crowd into the remaining habitat. In 1937, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established to create and protect the remaining seasonal wetlands. Today the complex is made up of five Refuges that includes11,000 - acres of seasonal marsh, permanent ponds, and uplands in the heart of the Sacramento Valley.


Each refuge has varying accessibilty and offers a range of activities including hiking, auto tours, environmental education programs, and wildlife viewing. A good place to start to get an overview is Sacramento NWR in Willows––headquarters of the complex. Colusa is another option with goood access.

At the headquarters is a visitor center with wildlife exhibits, a bookstore and staff can provide information and direct you to the other units. (closed for remodel until fall 2022)


Trails and Pathways

Wetlands Walk
Time to Complete:
1 hr
Trailhead Location:
Adjacent to the visitor center
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Typical Terrain:
Trail Overview: This walk has a southern & northern loop divided by the park’s entry road. Only the northern loop is designated as accessible but in motorized wheelchairs we were able to follow a section on the south side before the setting sun made us turn back. To start your hike pick up a Wetlands Walk trail guide. The trail travels along marshes and riparian areas which on our early February visit provided plenty of birdwatching.

After you cross the road from the visitor center continue straight instead of taking the spur trail to the right; it quickly becomes impassable to wheelchair users. Although this northern loop is less than .5 miile you can spend a bit of time bird watching. The ponds on our February visit were teeming with snow geese and red-winged blackbirds were busy gathering nest material. Lots of raptors flew overhead and several ducks had us reaching for our bird id guide. For much of the route you can hear traffic from nearby Interstate 5 but lovely birdsong overshadows it. There isn’t much shade and a few benches line the trail.

After you complete this section you can return to the parking lot or continue on to the southern loop across the refuge's entry road. Because of the uneven trail conditions this section of trail is not a sdmooth ride. No benches are on the section.


More Info: The northern loop is compacted decomposed granite while the southern loop is firm dirt and grass. It’s not a smooth ride and will be muddy after rains.

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%

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – The restroom at the visitor center is closed until fall 2022 but there is an accessible portable unit in the parking lot. There is also one on the driving tour next to the ramped viewing deck. 

Accessible Visitor Center:

Other Things of Interest:
Peak waterfowl season is Oct. thru Feb. but the best viewing months are Nov. and Dec.




A five-mile auto tour is another way to explore the refuge. A ramped viewing platform along the route is a good place to linger. 

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