Waterbird Regional Preserve,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Contra Costa County
In brief:
1.5 mile loop through grassland above a marsh, unfortunately across the highway from a refinery.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.5 mile loop hike is incredibly easy, with only about 130 feet in elevation change.

Full sun.

Trail traffic:

Trail surface:
Dirt fire road.

Hiking time:
1 hour or less.

Winter for best bird watching.

Getting there:
From CA 4 in Contra Costa County, exit Interstate 680 north (exit 12c). Drive north about 2 miles, then exit Marina Vista/Waterfront Road (exit 56). At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Waterfront Road. Drive about 1/4 mile, then turn right onto Waterbird Way. After about 1000 feet, turn right into the preserve.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 38 1'31.06"N
Longitude 122 5'52.54"W

(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants in Martinez. No camping.

Trailhead details:
No parking or entrance fees. Small gravel parking lot. There's no drinking water, but there is a restroom, and maps are available at an information signboard. One handicapped parking spot, and trail access is unobstructed to wheelchairs, although the trail is poorly suited to strollers and wheelchairs.

The preserve is open from 8 a.m. to dusk (unless otherwise posted). The single trail is multi-use. Dogs are not permitted.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Waterbird page

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD (download pdf)

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Little Waterbird Preserve Trailheadis a tiny preserve squeezed between Interstate 680 and industrial outskirts of Martinez. The dominating feature at Waterbird is the refinery right smack across the highway to the west. The proximity may seem strange, but Waterbird exists because the refinery spilled oil into Carquinez Strait in 1988, and was ordered to "restore, rehabilitate, and acquire the equivalent of the resources damaged in the spill." Thus hikers have a trail traversing a low grassy ridge overlooking a pretty marsh, where a variety of birds may be seen, from common ducks to hawks and shorebirds. View of the marsh and refinery from the trail
     Birdwatching is the premier activity here, but Waterbirds's solitary trail departs from the parking lot and heads slightly uphill, away from the marsh. The wide, multi-use trail ascends to a gate, then reaches a split at 0.14 miles. Bear left.
      Cattle graze here part of the year, through grassland dotted with fennel, where tarweeds bloom and dragonflies flit to and fro in summer. From Waterbird's highest hill there are views south to Mount Diablo, as well as to the surrounding semi-industrial area. Meadowlark Ridge LoopMeadowlark Ridge Loop begins to descend, then sweeps right near the preserve boundary and a gravel operation. Although the marsh is visible to the left, the trail still keeps its distance, and rises a bit back into the hills. A few cow paths and casual trails depart off to the left, where there are the best views downhill to the marsh. You'll return to the hike's first junction, at 1.09 miles. Bear left and return to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1.56 miles
Last hiked: September 16, 2003