two people walking on a wooden boardwalk at sunrise

Preserve Info

Hiking
Biking
Wheelchair accessible
Good for Kids

Overview

The newest segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail is now open at Ravenswood Preserve! An easy-access paved pathway, bridge and a raised boardwalk with an overlook and interpretive signs now connect University Avenue directly to the preserve. Walkers and bicyclists can access the preserve via the new trailhead, parking is only available at the main preserve entrance on Bay Road.

Snap a picture or a selfie during your visit to Ravenswood Preserve and receive a free starter pack of collectible Midpen postcards! Just post your photo on social media with #RavenswoodBayTrail, tag @midpenopenspace and submit the photo to us online.


Temporary COVID-19 Restrictions

  • Face coverings are required when you can’t stay 6 feet away from persons you don’t live with. Many Midpen trails are narrow — wear a mask, bandanna or gaiter you can pull over your mouth and nose as needed.
  • Paper maps are not available at preserves. Please download a map before leaving home or snap a photo of the signboard map before you hike.

Located in the wetlands of the San Francisco Bay, this 376-acre preserve is a great location for birdwatching and family adventures. A flat, accessible pedestrian and bicycle trail runs along the levee surrounding the marsh. 

The area attracts a variety of migrating birds including sandpipers, dowitchers, and avocets. Great blue herons, white pelicans, and egrets are also common. Marshland vegetation provides protected habitat for the endangered Ridgway’s rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.


Ravenswood Bay Trail Virtual Opening Celebration

If you weren't able to join us for our opening celebration — you can watch it now!

Gallery

Features

  • A new trail segment on a raised boardwalk and bridge across the wetlands closed a long-standing gap to create 80 miles of contiguous San Francisco Bay Trail, running from Sunnyvale to Menlo Park and across the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay.
  • A 1.2-mile easy access trail runs along the marsh on a raised levee.
  • Overlook platforms are located at each end of the trail—a great location for birdwatching or watching the tide roll away.
  • A separate northern portion of the preserve is accessible from a separate entrance located off a frontage road near the Dumbarton Bridge approach. This location features a 0.7-mile easy access trail and roadside parking.
  • The nearby Cooley Landing Education Center, managed by the City of East Palo Alto, offers additional walking trails, picnic tables, educational signage and an outdoor amphitheater.

The larger southern area of the preserve, located near Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto, was funded by the Coastal Conservancy and made possible through a joint effort between San Mateo County and the District.

How to Get Here

Parking is available at the Bay Road trailhead (12 spaces) and at the adjacent Cooley Landing (30 spaces).

Bicycledirections_bike     Walk directions_walk     Transit directions_transit     Drive drive_eta

 

To reach the southern portion of the Preserve:

  • Take the University Avenue exit (toward East Palo Alto) from Highway 101. (From southbound Highway 101, turn right on University Avenue. From northbound Highway 101, turn left on Donohoe Street, then turn right on University Avenue.)
  • Continue on University Avenue (north) for about 3 long blocks.
  • Turn right on Bay Road. Follow Bay Road to the very end, continuing through gate RW01 (about 1 mile total). Note: Bay Road narrows and becomes a dirt road. The Preserve parking area is on the left.

Pedestrians and bicyclists can also enter the preserve from the trailhead on University Avenue, 500 feet north of Purdue Avenue. There is no parking available at this location.


A separate portion of the preserve is located along the south side of the Dumbarton Bridge off Highway 84. Parking at this location is available on the frontage road on the west side of the bridge. A 0.7-mile easy-access spur of the Bay Trail here does not connect across the wetlands to the rest of Ravenswood Preserve.

 

 

Trails

  • The newest section of the San Francisco Bay Trail linking the preserve to University Avenue opens on Friday, August 7.
  • There are approximately 1.5 miles of wheelchair accessible trail on levees at this bayfront preserve.
  • Overlook platforms and benches are destinations at both ends of this trail, offering a place for picnics, bird watching, or just enjoying the San Francisco Bay.
  • Ravenswood Trail - This out-and-back route will appeal to birders and is designated an "Easy Access Trail." The Trail and observation decks are accessible to visitors with wheelchairs or strollers. 

Trail Conditions

No trail conditions to report.

This information is updated as needed when trails are opened or closed, or when there is scheduled trail maintenance. Visit the full Trail Conditions page for more information.

History

Ravenswood Preserve takes its name from a gold rush-era town that once thrived on the shore of San Francisco Bay, near present-day East Palo Alto. In 1848, a 1,500-foot wharf was built here to access the relatively deep water. A few years later, a town was laid out with the hope it would become a shipping port for redwood lumber cut and milled in the nearby hills. Hopes that the Central Pacific Railroad would choose Ravenswood as a terminus for its line from Sacramento convinced Lester P. Cooley to buy a parcel of land that included the shipping wharf. Cooley's Landing, as it was then called, handled lumber, hay and dairy shipments to San Francisco. The railroad ultimately went to Oakland instead, and Redwood City, not Ravenswood, became San Mateo County's most important port. Eventually the Cooley’s Landing wharf fell into disrepair and the area was later used as a county dump site.

In the 1950s, the Leslie Salt Company turned the marsh into a salt production pond by surrounding it with levees to keep out the tides. Midpen purchased the property from the Leslie Salt Company in 1981 and opened Ravenswood Preserve to public access in 1989. Restoration of the marsh began in 2000, when Midpen broke open the old levees, allowing bay water to bring life back to the area.

Regulations

  • Hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
  • Bicycles: Are allowed on designated trails only (those shown on the map for bicycle use). Helmets are required. Observe the 15 mph trail speed limit (5 mph when passing). For more information visit the Bicycle Access page.
  • Equestrians: Horses are NOT allowed in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For information on preserves open to horses visit the Equestrian Access page.
  • Groups: For safety reasons, permits are required for all groups of 20 or more people.
  • Permits: A use permit is required for any activity or event which: may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR is advertised or noticed in any publication, poster, electronic posting or flyer; OR requests/requires a fee be paid for participation. Visit the Permit page for more information.
     
  • Fires: Fires are prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Weapons: All weapons are prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Plants & Wildlife: Please leave plants and animals undisturbed. If you encounter wildlife during a visit, do not approach, startle or feed it. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will run away, some wildlife can be dangerous. 
     
  • Water Areas: Swimming, wading or engaging in any water-contact activity is prohibited.

Download District Regulations and Ordinances

Overview

The newest segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail is now open at Ravenswood Preserve! An easy-access paved pathway, bridge and a raised boardwalk with an overlook and interpretive signs now connect University Avenue directly to the preserve. Walkers and bicyclists can access the preserve via the new trailhead, parking is only available at the main preserve entrance on Bay Road.

Snap a picture or a selfie during your visit to Ravenswood Preserve and receive a free starter pack of collectible Midpen postcards! Just post your photo on social media with #RavenswoodBayTrail, tag @midpenopenspace and submit the photo to us online.


Temporary COVID-19 Restrictions

  • Face coverings are required when you can’t stay 6 feet away from persons you don’t live with. Many Midpen trails are narrow — wear a mask, bandanna or gaiter you can pull over your mouth and nose as needed.
  • Paper maps are not available at preserves. Please download a map before leaving home or snap a photo of the signboard map before you hike.

Located in the wetlands of the San Francisco Bay, this 376-acre preserve is a great location for birdwatching and family adventures. A flat, accessible pedestrian and bicycle trail runs along the levee surrounding the marsh. 

The area attracts a variety of migrating birds including sandpipers, dowitchers, and avocets. Great blue herons, white pelicans, and egrets are also common. Marshland vegetation provides protected habitat for the endangered Ridgway’s rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.


Ravenswood Bay Trail Virtual Opening Celebration

If you weren't able to join us for our opening celebration — you can watch it now!

Features

  • A new trail segment on a raised boardwalk and bridge across the wetlands closed a long-standing gap to create 80 miles of contiguous San Francisco Bay Trail, running from Sunnyvale to Menlo Park and across the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay.
  • A 1.2-mile easy access trail runs along the marsh on a raised levee.
  • Overlook platforms are located at each end of the trail—a great location for birdwatching or watching the tide roll away.
  • A separate northern portion of the preserve is accessible from a separate entrance located off a frontage road near the Dumbarton Bridge approach. This location features a 0.7-mile easy access trail and roadside parking.
  • The nearby Cooley Landing Education Center, managed by the City of East Palo Alto, offers additional walking trails, picnic tables, educational signage and an outdoor amphitheater.

The larger southern area of the preserve, located near Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto, was funded by the Coastal Conservancy and made possible through a joint effort between San Mateo County and the District.

Parking is available at the Bay Road trailhead (12 spaces) and at the adjacent Cooley Landing (30 spaces).

Bicycledirections_bike     Walk directions_walk     Transit directions_transit     Drive drive_eta

 

To reach the southern portion of the Preserve:

  • Take the University Avenue exit (toward East Palo Alto) from Highway 101. (From southbound Highway 101, turn right on University Avenue. From northbound Highway 101, turn left on Donohoe Street, then turn right on University Avenue.)
  • Continue on University Avenue (north) for about 3 long blocks.
  • Turn right on Bay Road. Follow Bay Road to the very end, continuing through gate RW01 (about 1 mile total). Note: Bay Road narrows and becomes a dirt road. The Preserve parking area is on the left.

Pedestrians and bicyclists can also enter the preserve from the trailhead on University Avenue, 500 feet north of Purdue Avenue. There is no parking available at this location.


A separate portion of the preserve is located along the south side of the Dumbarton Bridge off Highway 84. Parking at this location is available on the frontage road on the west side of the bridge. A 0.7-mile easy-access spur of the Bay Trail here does not connect across the wetlands to the rest of Ravenswood Preserve.

 

 

Trails

  • The newest section of the San Francisco Bay Trail linking the preserve to University Avenue opens on Friday, August 7.
  • There are approximately 1.5 miles of wheelchair accessible trail on levees at this bayfront preserve.
  • Overlook platforms and benches are destinations at both ends of this trail, offering a place for picnics, bird watching, or just enjoying the San Francisco Bay.
  • Ravenswood Trail - This out-and-back route will appeal to birders and is designated an "Easy Access Trail." The Trail and observation decks are accessible to visitors with wheelchairs or strollers. 

Trail Conditions

No trail conditions to report.

This information is updated as needed when trails are opened or closed, or when there is scheduled trail maintenance. Visit the full Trail Conditions page for more information.

Ravenswood Preserve takes its name from a gold rush-era town that once thrived on the shore of San Francisco Bay, near present-day East Palo Alto. In 1848, a 1,500-foot wharf was built here to access the relatively deep water. A few years later, a town was laid out with the hope it would become a shipping port for redwood lumber cut and milled in the nearby hills. Hopes that the Central Pacific Railroad would choose Ravenswood as a terminus for its line from Sacramento convinced Lester P. Cooley to buy a parcel of land that included the shipping wharf. Cooley's Landing, as it was then called, handled lumber, hay and dairy shipments to San Francisco. The railroad ultimately went to Oakland instead, and Redwood City, not Ravenswood, became San Mateo County's most important port. Eventually the Cooley’s Landing wharf fell into disrepair and the area was later used as a county dump site.

In the 1950s, the Leslie Salt Company turned the marsh into a salt production pond by surrounding it with levees to keep out the tides. Midpen purchased the property from the Leslie Salt Company in 1981 and opened Ravenswood Preserve to public access in 1989. Restoration of the marsh began in 2000, when Midpen broke open the old levees, allowing bay water to bring life back to the area.

  • Hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
  • Bicycles: Are allowed on designated trails only (those shown on the map for bicycle use). Helmets are required. Observe the 15 mph trail speed limit (5 mph when passing). For more information visit the Bicycle Access page.
  • Equestrians: Horses are NOT allowed in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For information on preserves open to horses visit the Equestrian Access page.
  • Groups: For safety reasons, permits are required for all groups of 20 or more people.
  • Permits: A use permit is required for any activity or event which: may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR is advertised or noticed in any publication, poster, electronic posting or flyer; OR requests/requires a fee be paid for participation. Visit the Permit page for more information.
     
  • Fires: Fires are prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Weapons: All weapons are prohibited in preserves.
     
  • Plants & Wildlife: Please leave plants and animals undisturbed. If you encounter wildlife during a visit, do not approach, startle or feed it. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will run away, some wildlife can be dangerous. 
     
  • Water Areas: Swimming, wading or engaging in any water-contact activity is prohibited.

Download District Regulations and Ordinances

Download Preserve Map

Preserve Info

Hiking
Biking
Wheelchair accessible
Good for Kids

Hours

Preserves are open from one-half hour before official sunrise until one-half hour after official sunset.

Preserve Activities

There are no events scheduled at this preserve currently.