5.9 mile loop skirting salt ponds south of the Dumbarton Bridge.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5.9 mile loop hike, like all hikes here, is very easy. Trail
elevation ranges from sea level to about 135 feet. Total elevation change
for this hike is about 170 feet.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
2 1/2 hours.
Any time is nice.
From CA 84 in Alameda County, exit Paseo Padre Parkway/Thornton Avenue (this
is exit 36, the first exit after the toll plaza, traveling east). Drive
south on Thornton about 0.8 mile, then turn right into the refuge. Continue
about 0.5 mile, and turn left into the parking lot at the end of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 4'22.99"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
There are no services in the immediate area: gas, stores, and restaurants
in Newark. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Lots of parking in a paved lot. There are designated
handicapped parking spots, and wheelchairs should be able to travel short
distances in the refuge. The park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Drinking
water, maps, and restrooms available at the Visitor Center (now located on Marshlands Road before you get to the main parking lot). Pay phone at
edge of parking lot. This park is accessible by public transit. Visit 511.org
Trails are open to hikers and cyclists. Dogs are permitted on leash only,
only on Tidelands Trail.
The Official Story:
Department of Fish and Game's Don
Park office 510-792-0222.
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder,
and Frances Spangle (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and a suggested hike.
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and a featured hike.
Edwards Wildlife Refuge in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide
to the featured hike.
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, with
over 23,000 acres, proclaims itself the largest urban wildlife refuge
in the country. Most of the refuge stretches along the marshy shoreline
north and south of the Dumbarton Bridge, but Bair Island, in San Mateo
County, is also part of the system. The refuge's headquarters are located
at the edge of industrial Newark, and some of its wetlands are salt ponds
managed by Cargill Salt. From the Visitor Center two trails depart: one
a short and easy self-guided loop, and the other a 5 mile flat circuit
around the salt ponds. The two can easily be strung together for a 6+
mile tour, perfect for a daily run or easy walk.
Start at the edge of the parking lot
and begin walking up the paved trail. After
a few steps a gravel path veers off to the right. Turn right. The path soon ends at a paved road and signed
junction. Cross the road and go straight. After about 350 feet you'll reach a signed junction just
before an interpretive display. Turn right, toward Tidelands Trail
and Pavilion. The gravel path descends a bit, then turns sharply left
(a path to the Learning Center breaks off to the right). A tangle
of blackberry vines sprawls on the right and fennel is common all around.
The trail transitions to an elevated boardwalk above a sea of pickleweed.
When the boardwalk passes over Newark Slough, look in the water for
snowy and great egrets. A little red building on the right serves as a
picnic shelter. At 0.25 mile, the boardwalk ends at a signed T junction.
Newark Slough Loop Trail begins a long
circuit around a series of salt ponds. Depending on the season and the
stage of salt development, the water may range from green to mauve. When
in late June these ponds echoed the colors of a sunset; violet in the
deepest water and burnt orange at the shoreline, with a thick crust
of salt encircling them like a rimmed margarita glass. Avocets, stilts,
terns, and swallows were all common on my early summer hike, and according
to the refuge's bird checklist, a variety of other birds can be spotted,
from the endangered clapper rail to white pelicans to kites, hawks, ospreys,
and eagles. Trailside vegetation is sparse, and consists mostly of salt-loving
ground cover like pickleweed and alkali heath, which boasts tiny purple
flowers in summer. The initial miles of Newark Slough Trail run between
the slough and salt ponds, with nice views north to Coyote
Hills, and west to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Unfortunately traffic
noise from CA
84 is noisy and constant, although as the trail bends south you'll enter
a quieter area of the refuge. The trail remains perfectly flat. When I
visited the southernmost shoreline was the saltiest, and even the trail
surface was coated in places with a thick layer of crystals that crunched
underfoot. Walking east you'll have good views of Mission Peak and Walpert
Ridge, home to Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Park.
Near some Cargill Salt buildings the trail passes around a gate and takes
a sharp turn left. On the right a depressingly barren field buffers noise
from Thornton Avenue. At 4.32 miles Newark Slough Loop Trail heads left,
while a dirt road veers right. You'll pass around another gate and return
to a more peaceful area, once more traveling between Newark Slough and
the salt ponds. At 5.04 miles you'll reach a signed junction near a picnic table. Turn right onto Tidelands Trail.
A bridge passes over Newark Slough, then
return to solid ground. Ignore a few shortcut trails and follow Tidelands
Trail to the left as it climbs easily through grassland dotted with buckwheat,
California poppy, horehound, and mustard.At 5.17 miles you'll reach an
interpretive display and a junction. Stay to the right on Tidelands
The trail ascends slightly, passes a
closed trail on the left, then curves left and drops through an area with
nonnative vegetation including century plant. Squirrels are common in
this part of the refuge. At 5.37 miles a spur trail heads right from a
signed junction. Stay to the left on Tidelands Trail. As the broad
trail ascends, you might notice toyon mixed through the grassland, along
with coyote brush and a few acacia trees. At 5.44 miles Harrier Trail
slips off to the right. Continue straight on Tidelands Trail. Persisting
uphill at an easy grade, the trail features interpretive displays every
so often. In summer look for butterflies feeding on buckwheat plants.
At 5.62 miles trails depart to the left and right, but continue straight
a few steps further, to the hilltop. Take a short flight of steps uphill
on the left, where at about 5.68 miles you'll reach a lookout and
the refuge's highest elevation. When you're ready go back down the
stairs, then turn left.
Tidelands Trail descends, with sagebrush
common along the trail. At 5.74 miles stay to the right as another
trail feeds in from the left. The trail shifts from dirt to pavement just
before the Refuge Headquarters (the old visitor center). Follow the pavement back downhill to a junction
at 5.90 miles. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 5.93 miles
Last hiked: Friday, June 28, 2002