First national park? Yellowstone. First state park? Big Basin. First urban national wildlife refuge? You’ll have to be a bird nerd to know the answer to this one. So spread your wings and impress a date or your friends by knowing Fremont’s 30,000-acre Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge—yes, the first urban national wildlife refuge established in the U.S. The habitat is considered a gem along the San Francisco Bay Trail and is home to over 280 resident birds. (It’s also a fall rest stop for feathered friends flying south for the winter.) Stroll the 5-mile Newark Slough Loop Trail, circling salt ponds filled with favorites like the great blue heron and the endangered California clapper rail. November regulars include migrating golden-crowned sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers. Binoculars are available for loan in the visitor center for primo viewing. Nerd’s the bird word!
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 1 Marshlands Rd. in Fremont. Park at the free lot just past the visitor center on your left-hand side. Follow signs for the Learning Center. Veer right after a few hundred feet toward the Tidelands Trail. Continue over a footbridge until you meet the signed Newark Slough Loop Trail after 0.25 mile. The visitor center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Starting September 1, the visitor center is open Wednesday through Sunday.) Dog-friendly!