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.
Levee trails, sometimes overgrown.
February through July.
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
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* 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.
$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
Grizzly Island page
Map Choices/More Information:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from CDFG (pdf)
Island in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
don't have to hike far to experience the wild beauty
of Grizzly Island. 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.
Some 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
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. 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
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. The 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.
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. It 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. I 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
Total distance: 3.08 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, March 21, 2002