Grizzly Island Wildlife Area,
California Department of Fish and Game,
Solano County
In brief:
3.1 mile loop over levee trails, in an area with extensive wildlife viewing. Trails can be overgrown.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.1 mile loop hike is easy. The levee and slough trails are flat, but many are usually muddy and/or lumpy.

Full sun throughout.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Levee trails, sometimes overgrown.

Hiking time
1 hour.

February through July.

Getting there:
From Interstate 80 in Solano County, exit CA 12 east (exit 43). Drive about 4 miles east on 12, then turn right onto Grizzly Island Road. Drive about 9 miles on Grizzly Island Road, to the park office on the left side of the road. Stop and register, then continue on Grizzly Island Road (which fades into gravel) about 5 miles, to parking area #3, on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 38 6'40.16"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants back in Suisun City, at the junction of Grizzly Island Road and 12. No camping.

Trailhead details:
$4.32 day use fee (self register in front of park office). A simple map is available at the park office, which is only open Monday-Friday 8:00-4:30. No drinking water. There are a few portable toilets in the wildlife area; generally there's one at each parking area. There's a pay phone at the park office. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are flat, but not well-suited to wheelchairs during wet months.

Hiking and nature viewing are permitted from February through July, and at the end of September. Don't cheat on the dates; hunting is scheduled on and off from August to February. Call to check dates. Dogs are permitted some times during the year; check with the park office.

The Official Story:
Park office 707-425-3828
CDFG's Grizzly Island page

Map Choices/More Information:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from CDFG (pdf)

Grizzly Island in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

You don't have to hike far to experience the wild beauty of Grizzly Island. Trailhead In fact, you can have a wonderful nature expedition just driving the length of Grizzly Island Road. The adventure begins as you turn south from CA 12 in Solano County. Within seconds, the tilt-up buildings and fast food restaurants of Suisun City shrink in the rearview mirror, and you enter Suisun Marsh, the largest contiguous estuarine marsh in America. Grizzly Island and Suisun Marsh may have once of the greatest populations of wild creatures in the bay area, and you'll likely see hawks, harriers, and kites soaring above fields and marshes, and if you're lucky you'll catch a glimpse of a golden or bald eagle. As you delve further into Suisun Marsh the wildlife becomes more concentrated and varied. By the time you get to the middle of Grizzly Island, it can feel like walking through a zoo.I saw two ring-neck pheasants along the side of the road, and half a dozen hawks in 10 minutes. Footbridge over Grizzly SloughSome people see wild pig, river otter, and tule elk from the road, but you stand a better chance of viewing these wild creatures from the levee trails.
     The wildlife area is open for nature study and hiking from approximately February through July and then again at the end of September. When Grizzly Island is closed to hiking it is open to hunting and dog training, so it's a good idea to check with Department of Fish and Game staff before planning a visit early or late in the hiking season. Late winter and early spring are pretty both in and around the preserve -- that's when the surrounding Potrero Hills are lush and green, and in Grizzly Island a new season of tender aquatic and marsh plants sprout and grow. Some trails at Grizzly Island cut through fields, but most are paths along levees, and everything is likely to be muddy during the wet months, and also overgrown with tangles of wild radish and thistles.One of the unnamed levee trails  You can start a hike at one of nine staging areas, and roam for miles through marshes and fields. Check the back of the DFG map for descriptions of the areas around each parking lot. The map is simple, but since trails are mostly unsigned, essential. I chose staging area 3 because it is close to the middle of the Grizzly Island, and the parking lot is marked with a large eucalyptus tree. Wherever I was I reoriented myself by scanning the horizon for that tree. Bring binoculars, for the wildlife at Grizzly Island is shy, and you will likely not get close enough for an unaided look.
      Start at parking lot 3. Cross the road and then cross the slough on a footbridge. Walk a few feet right, then turn left on an unsigned levee trail.When I hiked here in March, this (minor) trail was carpeted with grass, and lined with wild radish, fennel, and poison hemlock. River otterThe path is level but somewhat lumpy. Ducks and marsh birds populate the water on both sides of the trail, but scan the distance to the west, where I saw two separate herds of elk, 14 in total. In the distance to the south there's a great view of Mount Diablo if it's a clear day. At 0.65 mile, you'll reach an unsigned junction. Turn left.
     In March the wild radish and thistle brushed my knees as I trudged through a few feet of overgrown vegetation. Back on the cleared levee trail I noticed a flash of brown, conspicuous on a bit of flattened grass at the pointed tip of a knob, surrounded on two sides by water. As I crept forward to geta better look, I was startled by a loud splash in the water to my left. A river otter swam my way, making funny snuffling hissing noises. The other otter on the bank woke up, rolled over revealing a whitish belly, and scampered into the water. The hissing otter kept me company for awhile. Levee TrailIt paddled along the levee diving occasionally, then swam back toward me, sometimes sticking its head way out of the water for a good look. We continued traveling this way until we reached another confluence of two waterways, another obvious otter hangout. Then the otter got up on the bank and scuttled around, kind of like an excitable puppy. I watched for awhile, and finally tore myself away, leaving the otter to its domain. It was a memorable wildlife experience! Back on the levee trail, I saw a bunch of ducks, redwing blackbirds, and other marsh birds. Often I would get too close for the birds' comfort, and an entire flock of ducks or birds would rise en masse into the air, with an awesome flapping noise. You may see shotgun shells in the dirt, left over from the waterfowl hunting season. The trail winds through Howard Slough, gradually turning back toward the north. At 2.36 miles you'll reach an unsigned junction near a yellow gate and Grizzly Island Road. Returning toward the trailhead along Grizzly SloughI intended to hike back to the trailhead via a trail on the other side of the road, but when I got over there the levee was totally choked with thigh-high thistles and wild radish. No fun at all, so I turned back. Turn left onto the wide trail along Grizzly Slough.
      A line of coyote brush and fennel runs along the waterway, but wild rose is also amazingly prolific; look for dense thickets of it on the left. Poison hemlock and wild radish grow here as well. Since the trail offers access to Grizzly Slough it is well trampled, and I found it offered the easiest walking of my visit. At 3.06 miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction, with parking area 3 visible to the right. Turn right, cross the bridge, and return to the trailhead.

Total distance: 3.08 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, March 21, 2002