Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
Shoreline at Mountain View to Palo Alto Baylands

Shoreline Lake Shoreline Amphitheatre
Shoreline Lake at Shoreline Park Shoreline Amphitheatre Tents

Shoreline at Mountain View Park is a beautiful 700-acre park with a saltwater lake, golf course, rolling grassy hills, and bay trails. It's hard to believe it's built on mountains of trash. For 13 years, starting in 1968, 500 acres of the land near the bay was used here as a landfill for trash from the city of San Francisco. In 1983, Mountain View closed the dump and began turning it into a park. There are still active landfills just to the north in Palo Alto and to the south in Sunnyvale, but they will be turned into parks also someday. Next to Shoreline Park are the towering tent peaks, the largest in the world, of the Shoreline Amphitheatre. The park's 50-acre lake is popular with wind surfers, and small boaters. The strong bay winds make the park a favorite place for stunt kite flying. The park has 10 miles of trails, some paved, some dirt. Paved trails lead past the golf course, around the lake, and along the tidal marshes and salt ponds. Some trails lead northwest to Palo Alto's Baylands Nature Preserve. Others lead southeast to the Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Study Area and the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The trails here are long, but flat. The proximity to the bay provides fresh (but not necessarily fresh-smelling), cool air and close contact with the bay environment. Here is a map of the bay trails in this area.

Stevens Creek Nature Study Area
Stevens Creek Nature Study Area

East of the main entrance to Shoreline at Mountain View at Shoreline Blvd. is a paved multi-use trail that runs next to a huge overflow parking lot for Shoreline Amphitheatre and ends at Stevens Creek. The creek ends its 20-mile run from the slopes of Black Mountain in the Santa Cruz Mountains to flow into San Francisco Bay here. Part of the creek's wetlands near the bay belong to the Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Study Area, administered by the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District.

Stevens Creek Trail by Whisman Slough Stevens Creek Trail at Whisman Park
East end of Stevens Creek Trail at Whisman Slough West end of Stevens Creek Trail at Whisman Park

The paved Stevens Creek Trail follows the west bank of Stevens Creek inland. The tree-lined creek trail is a work in-progress. Currently it only runs a couple of miles from near Moffett Field to Whisman Park in Mountain View, but additions are under construction. Someday when it's longer, I may give it a Web page of its own. The Stevens Creek Trail crosses over Stevens Creek just past the buildings at Ames. Trails lead along both banks of the creek.

Moffett wetlands and Moffett Field hangars NASA Ames wind tunnel across from Stevens Creek
Moffett Wetlands and Moffett Field hangars Stevens Creek and NASA wind tunnel

East of Stevens Creek are the Moffett Wetlands. These are part of Moffett Federal Air Field and NASA Ames Research Center. Particularly prominent here are the giant hangars, including the monstrous 21-story tall dirigible hangar, Hangar 1, at Moffett Field and the largest wind tunnel in the world at NASA Ames.

Egret on Stevens Creek and Moffett Hangar 1
Stevens Creek with egret, Moffett Hangar 1 in background
Because the surrounding lands are so flat, these landmarks can be seen from miles away, all over the Bay Area. If you continue north on the east bank of Stevens Creek, you come to the end of the nature study area. A tiny stop sign indicates that the lands past the sign are private property. However, there are no fences or "No Trespassing" signs. This is another one of those trails with ambiguous access rights. You can see people out riding or running around the levees, however. Occasionally you'll see vehicles parked way out on the levees near the bay. These may be duck hunters. Scattered around the outer salt ponds are numerous duck blinds, and you may hear shotgun blasts. If so, it's probably not a good idea to venture out there.
Stevens Creek Estuary
Estuary near Stevens Creek

The west side of Stevens Creek is part of Shoreline at Mountain View Park. The trail runs on both sides of a triangular-shaped tidal estuary. A wooden bridge crosses the south end of the estuary. A wooden viewing platform extends over the estuary on its east shore near where a drainage channel flows into Stevens Creek to the east. The trail along the west bank of Stevens Creek ends at a locked gate, so you have to turn west along the south bank of Whisman Slough. It meets the paved trail that runs along the west bank of the triangular estuary, which continues west between Whisman Slough and reclaimed landfill hills. This is part of the Bay Trail. This trail then intersects the main Shoreline Park trail.

The main trail through the park starts at the park's main entrance at Shoreline Blvd., just past Shoreline Amphitheatre. Since the amphitheatre can hold 20,000 fans and hosts big-name acts, don't go here if there's a major concert going on, or you may hit solid traffic. (On the other hand, taking a bike is the best way to get around the traffic to get to Shoreline Amphitheatre during a major concert.) If you park by the entrance and ride in, you can avoid the parking fee at the lake parking lot. The multi-use path starts near the park entrance next to a kite-flying field and the overflow parking lot for the amphitheatre. The path curves to the left and parallels the golf course, with marshes and the waters of Whisman Slough to the right. The path crosses a bridge over Permanente Creek and enters the lake area, which is the recreational heart of the park.

Shoreline Lake at sunset Shoreline Lake building
Shoreline Lake at sunset Shoreline Lake dock area

A large modern building on the lake shore houses the boat rental office, sports shop, sailing club, restrooms, and cafe. The cafe has outdoor tables with views of the lake and wind-surfing beach. The restored historic Victorian Rengstorff House, originally built in 1867, is near the lake and is open for docent-led tours, weddings, and parties. Lawn-covered hills surround the lake and provide picnic and play areas. The paved path circles halfway around the north shore of the lake. At a fence near the north end of the lake, the path continues, but is open to foot traffic only. Branches lead out to the right towards the bay.

Coast Casey Forebay, Shoreline at Mountain View Charleston Slough
Coast Casey Forebay, Shoreline Lake in background Charleston Slough
A long paved trail follows along the south shore of Mountain View Slough. After it passes Shoreline Lake, it passes by and around the marsh of Coast Casey Forebay to the south. A fenced-off levee, leased by Cargill salt to a duckhunting club, separates Mountain View Slough from Charleston Slough. The paved trail intersects a smooth, wide dirt levee trail at the southwest corner of Charleston Slough, on the east bank of Adobe Creek.
Mountain View Slough Trail Levee trail at Palo Alto Baylands
Bay Trail along Mountain View Slough Levee Trail along Adobe Creek, Palo Alto Baylands

There is a complex network of marshes and waterways here. This is an extremely rich natural environment. Pickleweed and cordgrass are the dominant plant forms. Waterfowl and marsh birds abound, including pelicans, egrets, great blue herons, coots, ducks, Canada geese, and sandpipers. Small mammals, like jackrabbits and squirrels, can sometimes be seen. The muddy shores teem with marine life, mostly snails.

Pelicans and other birds at Palo Alto Baylands
Pelican and other shorebirds at Palo Alto Baylands, with Dumbarton Bridge in back

The trail on the levee between Charleston Slough and Adobe Creek, is the Marsh Loop of the Bay Trail. The long, wide, curving levee trail eventually touches San Francisco Bay itself and curves to the west. After passing the island of Hooks Point, the trail enters Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto. It crosses over a dam on Matadero Creek. The sailing station boat launching dock is visible on the opposite shore of the channel at the mouth of the former Palo Alto Yacht Harbor. Baylands Nature Preserve surrounds what used to be the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor, now a silted-in mud flat and reed-filled marsh. It's a shelter for tremendous numbers and varieties of birds.

Byxbee Park
Byxbee Park mounds, overlooking Matadero Creek

In the surrounding area are Byxbee Park,  Byxbee Park is a unique place, built on hills comprising a former landfill (an active landfill is adjacent). It's a combination of nature and landscape art. The park is sandwiched between Matadero Creek and the marsh next to the former yacht harbor.  Paths covered with crushed oystershells wind up the grass-covered hills. On one side is a field of telephone poles of varying heights, following the hill contours. They are reminiscent of the pier pilings in the bay. Small hillocks (see above) resemble Indian shell mounds. A path leads along Matadero Creek, but is currently closed off at the end of the park. Past Byxbee Park, a bike path leads along Embarcadero Road to Palo Alto Airport, Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, and the Palo Alto Duck Pond. Embarcadero Road ends at a parking lot near the boat launching ramp.

Walkway at Lucy Evans Nature Center, Palo Alto
Boardwalk at Lucy Evans Nature Interpretive Center

Within the park is the Lucy Evans Nature Interpretive Center. It sits on piers over the edge of the marsh. A long, straight wooden boardwalk extends deep into the marsh towards the Bay. Crossing it are narrow PG&E catwalks, which are fenced off and off-limits. At the end of the boardwalk is an observation platform near the shore of the bay.

Bicycle trails lead around the levees and connect to Embarcadero Road, which hits East Bayshore Road. East Bayshore Road is a frontage road to Hwy 101. Bike lanes are along the sides of the road. You can take this road back to Shoreline Park. A path leads into the northwestern edge of the park. Farther north is the Menlo Park Bay Trail and Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. (For more information see  Ravenswood to Palo Alto: Sanfrancisco.Sidewalk).

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 11/27/98, update 2/20/99