Rush Creek Novato
Not all rush hours should be avoided. Novato's Rush Creek is a wetland preserve that's home to the largest stand of blue oaks in the country. See the storybook surroundings on a 5.5-mile (out-and-back) bike ride that departs along the Pinheiro fire road. You'll pedal through the shadowy cover of California bay, buckeyes, and black oak and through the open Rush Creek shores. Cattails and tall grasses sway in the breeze while wild radish and saffron suncups color the landscape. Continue past Cemetery Marsh and veer left over a footbridge and along the unmarked Rush Creek fire road. Ride between a giant buckeye decked in spring's pink blossoms and an artful blue oak stretching its crooked, leafless limbs in every direction. When the path splits into three, take the middle one and steer up and through the oak-cover bordering the Petaluma River Marsh Wildlife Area. To the east you're likely to spot swans, Canada geese, and sandpipers preening in the water. Other "birds" often spied in these parts are low-flying small planes from the nearby Marin County Airport at Gnoss Field. When you reach the Bahia Trail, turn around and head back the way you came.

BONUS: Post-ride, swing by Marvin's Restaurant in Novato and grab a curbside table along with one of their notable staples: a hash omelet or a full stack of straight-up buttermilk pancakes.

The Rush Creek trailhead is located in Novato on Binford Rd., just east of the Atherton Ave. exit off the 101. Street parking is free and abundant. Download a map before your trip. Dog-friendly! Call ahead to rent a bike from Old Town Sports, 871 Grant Ave. in downtown Novato. It's two blocks from Marvin's Restaurant (1112 Grant Ave.; Monday–Friday, 6:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., Saturday 6:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and Sunday 7:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m). Dog-friendly outdoor seating!