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A walk by the water — sea, lake, river, bay — is a balm for the overworked body and soul. Part of the magic is having no place to go: A walk on the beach can last as long as desired; a walk around the lakeshore is a circle; a walk along a stretch of the river can lead upstream or down, to the headwaters or not.

This meditative, nowhere-to-go mindset is in play on walks along San Francisco’s bayshore. If you’re goal-oriented, you can take on the challenge of hiking as much of the planned 500-mile-long San Francisco Bay Trail as possible (about 350 miles are currently in place). Or not. But it’s an option, given that the Bay Trail route piggybacks on the shorter walks described here and elsewhere around the bay (check out baytrail.org).

Another nice thing about bayshore walks: You don’t have to worry about the furies that sometimes enervate a seaside walk. The winds are generally less strong along the bayshore, and sneaker waves are not a worry. Tides affect waterlines, but these trails are all located above mean high water, so you don’t have to consult a tidal chart to time your trek.

Tiburon Linear Park

This urban walk, also called the Tiburon Historical Trail, shadows the shoreline of Richardson Bay and lies, for the most part, on the abandoned railbed of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which provided passenger and freight service throughout the North Bay from the 1870s into the 1930s. From a start at Blackies Pasture, head south on the paved path toward Tiburon, with vistas opening across the water onto Sausalito, the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge just peeking over the wooded ridgeline, and stretching southeast toward the San Francisco skyline. The 5.4-mile out-and-back trail, shared easily with cyclists and joggers, traces the shoreline past the soccer fields and open spaces of McKegney Green before hitching up to parallel Tiburon Boulevard, which is followed via sidewalk to the waterfront in downtown Tiburon. Walking back along the same route, Mount Tamalpais, Marin County’s sleeping lady, dominates the viewscape. The entire length is wheelchair- accessible. For more information visit www.tiburonpeninsulafoundation.org/historical-trail.php.

Wave Organ and the Municipal Pier

The classic San Francisco bayfront walk is along the Golden Gate Promenade at Crissy Field, a 9-mile out-and-back ramble that features classic views of the Golden Gate and easy access to East Beach and a grassy former airstrip. But you can break away from the crowds and take in a pair of different bayside attractions by heading east from the promenade. Beginning at the easternmost parking lots, walk inland past the St. Francis Yacht Club and harbor, enjoying classic views of the San Francisco skyline, and continue to the tip of the jetty that arcs into the bay, where you’ll find the Wave Organ. Built in 1986, the organ consists of pipes “played” by the waves; place an ear to a pipe to listen, keeping in mind that the music can’t always be heard above the crash of the surf. To continue, retrace your steps back to the yacht harbor and again head eastward, passing the scenic Marina Green, Gashouse Cove and Fort Mason with its galleries and eateries on sidewalks and paved paths. Head down toward the bay once you reach Van Ness Avenue, which dead-ends at the Municipal Pier. Closed to vehicle traffic and frequented by anglers, the pier curves out into the bay, where views open across the water to Angel Island, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate, and inland across Aquatic Park and the hilly waterfront neighborhoods of the City by the Bay. The walk totals about 5.5 miles out and back. For more information visit www.nps.gov/goga.

Hayward Shoreline Loop

A 3.4-mile double loop featuring boardwalks and bridges silvered by sun and wind explores the bayshore marshlands of the Hayward Regional Shoreline. The trail rides atop levees that once separated salt evaporation ponds from the open waters of the bay. Now reclaimed, the 200-acre tidal Cogswell Marsh and associated wetlands are home once again to pickleweed and shorebirds. The trail loops link Johnson and Hayward Landings, once used to accommodate ferry and industrial traffic between the East Bay and San Francisco. Both Johnson Landing, an arcing spit of eroding mud and rock on the south loop, and Hayward Landing on the north loop, offer great views across the shimmering bay to the San Francisco skyline, and south along the ramparts of the East Bay hills. Stretch the hike about a mile farther south to visit the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center (open Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or head north along the San Francisco Bay Trail to San Lorenzo Creek and beyond. For more information visit ebparks.org/parks/hayward.

Bayview Loop in Coyote Hills

The Bayview Trail begins inland, amid the gentle rolling grasslands of Fremont’s Coyote Hills Regional Park. Long home to the Ohlone people, the hills and shoreline are now the realm of a bonanza of shorebirds, including egrets and herons, raptors and red-winged blackbirds. The seasonal grasses pop with wildflowers in spring, but the main attraction of the 3-mile Bayview Loop is the bay itself. Circle to the west side of the hills and the trail skims above the quilted waters, overlooking the reclaimed salt evaporation ponds and protected tidal marshes of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The shadowy Coast Range rises to the west, and the Dumbarton Bridge spans the bay to the southwest. This gem of a park hosts other attractions as well, including seasonal marshlands, a former Nike missile site, a visitor center with exhibits focused on the Ohlone and their life ways, and guided tours of the 2,000-year-old Tuibun Ohlone Village site. For more information visit www.ebparks.org/parks/coyote_hills.

Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

This 5.2-mile out-and-back ramble on a wide, gravel trail curls out along the bayshore through the Baylands Nature Preserve. Though not far removed from suburbia—you can hear traffic humming on the 101 and views are sometimes filtered through power lines — the route winds among sloughs fringed with reeds and rushes that sing with birdcalls, and opens onto waterfront views. Begin by heading out toward Hook Island and the bay on the Marsh Front Trail, quickly picking up the Adobe Creek Trail. As it curls east and then south, the levee-top path is bordered by the bay on one side, and by Mayfield Slough and bordering wetlands on the other. Vistas open across the water toward the East Bay hills, and west toward the dark bulk of the Coast Range. When the path curves back westward toward the turnaround at the Terminal Boulevard trailhead, it passes between Charleston Slough and Adobe Creek, where marshlands provide habitat for great and snowy egrets, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, western grebes, American white pelicans and the occasional northern harrier. Return as you came. For more information and maps visit www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/csd/parks/preserves/baylands.asp.

Alviso Slough Trail

Boardwalks and levee tops make the walking easy on the Alviso Slough Trail, which begins in Alviso Marina County Park in San Jose. The trail is another gateway to the wonders of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, paralleling the slough and its sanctuary reeds and rushes, which support shorebirds, seabirds and songbirds in profusion. The wildlife refuge encompasses about 30,000 acres of tidal lands in the South and East bays: The region’s salt evaporation ponds have been reclaimed as habitat for birds and fish, and offer scenic respite for hikers and kayakers. You can follow the Alviso Slough Trail for as long or as short a distance as you please, with a long loop totaling nearly 6 miles as one option. A nice, 3-mile, out-and-back trek begins at the park picnic area and reaches out to a levee junction and turnaround at 1.5 miles. On the return, be sure to walk through the “door” into the marsh, which offers interpretation of the plant life that thrives in the wetlands. For more information and maps visit www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/AlvisoMarina.aspx. For more information on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/don_edwards_san_francisco_bay.

Tracy Salcedo is a Glen Ellen-based author of more than 20 guidebooks to destinations in California and Colorado, including Hiking Through History San Francisco. Her most recent book is Historic Yosemite National Park. For more information visit laughingwaterink.com.

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