New Sonoma County hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay

Sonoma County’s newest hiking trail officially opened Sunday just a few hundred yards from the often backed up and typically frustrating Highway 37.

The Eliot Trail, located at the edge of tidal wetlands near where Lakeville Highway meets Highway 37, gives travelers an experience opposite to the nearby roadway.

The two-and-a-half mile trail offers walkers, joggers and cyclists a tranquil view of Mount Tamalpais and the skyscrapers of San Francisco as they traverse the flank of the new northern border of San Pablo Bay.

“It is such nice place to take a run,” said Julian Meisler, the Baylands program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “For Sonoma County, this is one of the best access points we have to the bay.”

Jim Jackson of Sonoma said he was impressed with the extremely flat trail after doing the round-trip five-mile hike with his wife, Sharon.

“You get great views of the entire bay. It’s extremely peaceful and quiet out there. You can hear the water lapping by you,” Jackson said. “You realize how quickly you are away from 37.”

Sharon Jackson said the loudest noise on the trail was the hundreds of red-winged blackbirds they encountered on the hike.

“You can just hear them. They were all in the trees, in the grass. They were beautiful,” she said.

Indeed, the birdwatching will be a big draw. The trail has informational signs on the types of birds that make the wetlands area part of their habitat.

The Sonoma Land Trust will offer a new docent program featuring interpretive talks and bird walks at the trail from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday, starting this coming weekend. The trail also features a spot where kayakers can launch their boats the water.

The Eliot Trail - named after Wendy Eliot, the conservation director for Sonoma Land Trust - is the newest part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a planned 500-mile walking and cycling path around the entire bay.

The trail now has 350 miles of walkable trails with the opening of the Eliot segment.

“You can see where the nexus of trails is starting to expand and really become an impressive resource,” said Matt Maguire of Petaluma, who also hiked the trail on Sunday.

“I can see going down to the end it would be great to get across the creek ... and over to Tubbs Island. That opens up a whole new area to walk,” Maguire said.

The trail flanks the tidal wetlands at Sears Point, a massive restoration project to turn 1,000 acres of oat hayfields back into a saltwater marsh. In October, the Sonoma Land Trust broke a levee to begin the reclamation.

It is expected to take 25 years for wildlife and vegetation to completely settle in the area.

The fields had been diked off from the rest of the bay for 140 years.

“The trail is kind of the icing on the cake,” Meisler said. “You get to come out and look over 1,000 acres that has been newly restored and is going to change day to day until it finally grows into marsh.”

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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