Where do the wild things go? Well, if you’re a bird, you might head to Rush Creek Open Space in Novato. This 522-acre preserve just east of Highway 101 has one of the densest bird populations in the North Bay outside of Point Reyes. And the beautiful thing? Not very many people know about it. This 4-mile (round-trip) hike stays relatively flat as it starts out zigzagging on the Bahia Trail.
You’re right alongside the Black John Slough for the entire first half of the hike. Keep your eyes out for all variety of birds in this wetland that teems with waterfowl and shorebirds all winter. The big boys—herons and egrets—like to hang out here along with what seems like thousands of ducks. The midpoint of the hike is the lowly Cemetery Marsh, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. A series of unmarked trails explore the marsh. Return back on the quiet and rolling Bahia Ridge Fire Road (the unmarked turnoff is on the left, just when you reach Cemetery Marsh). You’ll hike up through blue oaks and manzanitas with lichen hanging from the branches and blowing in the breeze. This rush is quite relaxing.
Park at the end of the road on Bahia Dr. in Novato (map). The hike is 4 miles round-trip. Print out a map of the park before you go. You’ll finish the hike on Bahia Dr. a few minutes away from where you parked. Dog-friendly!