Wetlands & Works of Art!

Hiking Palo Alto's Baylands Nature Preserve

If the only bird you pay any attention to is the one you see on Twitter, then Palo Alto has an outdoor surprise for you. Baylands Nature Preserve is considered one of the best birding spots on the West Coast and gets bragging rights as one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland in the San Francisco Bay Area. So go see some seriously cool birds (and art installations) via 15 miles of interconnected trails between Baylands Nature Preserve and neighboring Byxbee Park. We’re talking over 100 different species of birds to spot.

The marshland trails are well defined, so after parking near the ranger station, make your way over to the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center (open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends). The center has loads of information about the area and a nice boardwalk over the mudflats. As you wander the marshland trails, keep an eye out for a prize sighting: glimpsing the endangered clapper rail … bird’s the word on that one! Be sure to follow the Marsh Front Trail to the Adobe Creek Loop Trail past Byxbee Park’s concrete fish bone “Overview” and “Pole Field” art installations.

Gallery image 1 of 4
Gallery image 2 of 4
Gallery image 3 of 4
Gallery image 4 of 4

After passing over a dam, walk a mile on the mixed-use trail to the pelican nest viewing location. Hundreds of pelicans flock to this area ever year to raise their young in the protected marsh. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for wading ducks, hunting egrets and herons, and the low-flying northern harrier hawk. Feather in your cap.

Birds spotted: burrowing owl, Anna’s hummingbird, black-necked stilt, American avocet, sanderling, greater yellowlegs, long-billed curlew, American coot, snowy egret, great egret, great blue heron, northern shoveler, northern pintail, gadwall, mallard, pied-billed grebe, American wigeon, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, marsh wren, greater and lesser scaup, ruddy duck, green-winged teal, bufflehead, Canada goose, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, American crow, common raven, double-crested cormorant, American white pelican, western meadowlark.

From San Francisco, take Hwy. 101 south, exiting east at Embarcadero Rd. in Palo Alto. Follow signs for Embarcadero Rd. and continue on Embarcadero about a mile and a half until it dead-ends at a stop sign. A left turn will lead you to the free Baylands Nature Preserve parking lot next to the park ranger station. Dog friendly!

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Opt for Oursan

    Hike the trail less traveled in the East Bay's Briones Regional Park. The Oursan Trail is pure serenity on a wide hiking path skirting the northern shores of Briones Reservoir.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Muir Woods Through the Backdoor

    A backdoor entrance into Muir Woods? Hike a tranquil trail that starts in Mount Tamalpais State Park and quietly leads into Muir Woods, letting you avoid the busyness of the main parking area.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Refreshingly Different

    Reno Tahoe is where America’s largest alpine lake meets the Biggest Little City in the World. Easily access the best ski resorts (and hot springs!) and have urban adventures at your fingertips.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Forest Bathe Under the Redwoods

    Giant Douglas firs and a peaceful madrone- and tanoak-studded forest make the hiking at Sanborn County Park sublime, but there’s an added majesty here thanks to the Todd Creek Redwoods Grove.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Get Outdoors In Sonoma County This Fall

    Sonoma County's great outdoors includes hike-in beaches, hidden redwoods, and a new zipline-to-treehouse stay. Here are 5 of the best ways to explore outdoors in Sonoma County.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    GOAT Coastal Hike + Sunset

    GOAT (greatest of all time) Sonoma Coast experience? Hike the Kortum Trail, wine taste on a patio overlooking the Russian River, and catch a sensational sunset at, yep, Goat Rock Beach.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Seed the Day!

    Redwoods in Orange County? It's true! Find them on this 2-mile loop hike in Brea's Carbon Canyon Regional Park, home to 241 Sequoia sempervirens specimens. The tallest is nearly 100 feet!

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Park it Here

    Do a 2.5-mile scenic hike from Point Fermin Park to Angels Gate Park in Los Angeles. It’s got big trees, big ocean views, and one big SoCal surprise. It's also got a food and beer bonus!

    View