Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve
Autumn is a bountiful time for exploring the San Mateo Coast. Just 15 miles south of pumpkin-crazed Half Moon Bay, Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is a feast for the eyes in plant- and bird-life—including some feathered favorites. The 600-acre marsh adjacent to sprawling Pescadero State Beach is the largest between San Francisco and Monterey Bay. It’s easy to spend an hour or so exploring this low wetland that’s home to two striking long-legged birds: great blue herons and egrets. September and October mark the return of the great blue heron to its rookery in the eucalyptus trees on the northern side of the marsh; keep your eye at about 50 feet off the ground to spy their nests. Several easy trails weave through the preserve, but the short Sequoia Audubon Trail gets right to the heart of things, passing by Butano and Pescadero creeks, the two main freshwater sources. Stroll through a menagerie of plants like yarrow, mustard, sticky flower, and bulrush. You can also join a docent on the first or third Sunday of each month. They lead hikers to the “talking tree,” but you’ll have to find out for yourself if it whispers sweet nothings to you. Afterward, relax at adjoining Pescadero Beach, a wide and long swatch of sand with driftwood décor. Marsh mellow.

Free docent-led tours are offered on the first Sunday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and the third Sunday of each month from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Groups meet at the main parking area for Pescadero State Beach. From Hwy. 1, turn into the second parking area for Pescadero State Beach, just south of the bridge. To reach the Sequoia Audubon Trail, walk north, back across the bridge, and down the beach to the riverbed. Walk under the bridge and follow the trail signs. No dogs.