Walk or Bike on the Bay Trail at Hamilton in Novato
The Bay Trail opened in the summer of 2014 in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, and it's one of our favorite Marin spots for short hike or bike ride with the kids. With easy access from several points in Hamilton and stunning views, this is a great place for families to head outdoors for an active outing.
The Hamilton section of the Bay Trail skirts the old runway of this former air force base, which has been returned to its original wetland state. The trail is flat and accessible, and welcomes walkers and cyclists to travel along the wetlands that border San Pablo Bay. It is, of course, ideal for walking with an sturdy stroller, too.
You'll find neat little lookout areas along the way, with benches and informative placards that tell you all about the bird life in the area and about the wetland restoration project. They even have stationary binoculars mounted in them so you can take a look at the wildlife out in the wetlands. The views are stunning, with Mt. Burdell to the north and Mt. Diablo to the east.
This particular stretch of the Bay Trail is 2.7 miles in length, but it's only part of a huge projected series of trails that will eventually encircle San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, and allow people to walk or cycle the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties (see map here).
You've probably already traveled on sections of the Bay Trail in Marin—it includes the walkway on the Golden Gate Bridge, the Tiburon Bike Path, the Mill Valley–Sausalito Bike Path, the Shoreline Trail at China Camp State Park, and trails at McInnis Park.
If You Go
The Hamilton Bay Trail is located in the Hamilton area of Novato, and can be accessed from a number of different places there, including near Airport Park at the end of Hangar Avenue, where you'll also find restrooms, drinking fountains, and plenty of parking. It's also a great park for playing and relaxing, and it's just down the hill from the wonderful Hamilton Pool. You can also access the trail from behind the hangars near the South Novato branch of the Marin County Free Library (off Hangar Avenue at 6 Hamilton Landing #140). There's plenty of parking here, too.
To get there, take Highway 101 to the Ignacio Boulevard/Bel Marin Keys exit. If you're coming from the south, turn right onto Nave Drive; from the north, cross the freeway overpass and then turn right onto Nave. Follow Nave Drive to Main Gate Drive where you'll turn left into Hamilton. Continue on Main Gate Drive which will become Palm Drive. Turn right on Hangar Drive and follow it to the end to get to airport park, or turn into Hamilton Landing. There's a parking area near the sports fields before the end of the road.
The trail opens a half hour before sunrise and closes a half hour after sunset. There's not a lot of shade here, so make sure you bring hats and apply sunscreen before you go. Dogs must be on a leash. Courtesy restrooms are available at the YMCA in Hangar 3.
For more information on the Bay Trail, including online maps and free interactive iPhone audio tours, visit www.baytrail.org.