Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
Discover what all the flap's about at Palo Alto's Baylands Nature Preserve. The 2,000-acre industrial marshland—the largest tract of undisturbed marshes in the Bay Area—features over 150 species of birds. With nearly 15-miles of flat, multi-use trails unwinding directly beneath the Pacific flyway, this preserve offers excellent chances at spotting rare birds, including the star attraction, the endangered Clapper Rail—identified by its cinnamon-coloring, white flanks, and pale curved beak. Embark from Byxbee parking lot for a leisurely 4.9-mile (round-trip) walk along the wide dirt trail of the Adobe Creek Loop to Charleston Slough. Stroll the first half-mile to the marsh's edge and gander the American avocets, black-necked stilts, pelicans, and ducks paddling up a winter pool party in the high tides of the brackish marshes. Before turning back, pause at the rails on the southernmost end of Charleston Slough to gaze at the grass reeds bordering Adobe Creek, and soak up views stretching from Loma Prieta to Mount Hamilton. Nearing the trailhead on the return journey, take an easy, quarter-mile detour up through the park's pole field, a quirky art instillation of telephone poles in varying heights. Make a beeline for Baylands!

From San Francisco, take Highway 101 South, exiting 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 right will lead you to the free Byxbee parking lot. Dog friendly!