Menlo Park

View of Flood Slough and the Bayfront Park hills from the park entrance
Flood Slough and Bayfront Park Hills

Access Information
Bay Trail to Hwy 84
Bayfront Park Bay Trail
Bayfront Park Hill Trails and Views


The City of Menlo Park, population 34,600, is a small city in San Mateo County, lying along the Bay between Redwood City and East Palo Alto.  The Bay Trail in Menlo Park runs from Bayfront Park to Hwy 84. Bayfront Park was built on the site of a former landfill. The landfill has been turned into natural-looking hills covered with grasses, bushes, and scattered eucalyptus and pine trees. A complex network of paths cover the hills. They range from old paved landfill roads, to new smooth gravel bikepaths, to narrow rugged footpaths. Surrounding the hills are salt ponds, salt marshes, and sloughs. Along the park road are several parking lots and a restroom.

Near the end of the park road, a trail leads into the hills, with a map and brochures on the "Great Spirit Path Sculpture." This project was designed by Menlo Park artist S.C. Dunlap. Over a 3/4-mile trail are 53 rock sculptures, inspired by American Indian pictographs. 892 rough natural stones weighing a total of over 505 tons were used to make this sculpture, the largest of its kind in the world. Each rock cluster represents a phrase in a poem written by the artist. Brochures are available throughout the park which show which lines of the poem each cluster represents. The clusters are numbered, corresponding to numbers in the brochure, indicating what the clusters mean. A few clusters are unnumbered and not in the brochure.

The Bay Trail route wraps around the outer edges of Bayfront Park near salt ponds and sloughs. It then heads south from the entrance of the park. It parallels Bayfront Expressway, running next to salt ponds and channels. It skirts around the periphery of the Sun Microsystems campus next to Ravenswood Slough. It then hits Hwy 84. From there, it heads east over the Dumbarton Bridge or south to Ravenswood Open Space Preserve.

Access Information

To reach the northern end of the Bay Trail at Bayfront Park, take the Marsh Road exit in Menlo Park from Hwy 101 and head towards the bay. At the end of the road, past Bayfront Expressway, is the entrance to Bayfront Park.

The southern end of this segment is off Hwy 84 westbound. It is easiest to reach from the East Bay. Cross over the Dumbarton Bridge, go past University Avenue another 0.4 miles, and exit at the entrance to Sun Microsystems. There is a small parking lot on the right at the trailhead. From the Peninsula or the South Bay, take the University Avenue exit from Hwy 101 and head north. Turn left onto Hwy 84, then turn right by the Sun entrance as above.

The next completed segment of the Bay Trail to the north is a short, isolated segment at the Port of Redwood City along Seaport Blvd. There is no off-road route connecting it to Bayfront Park. Haven Avenue and East Bayshore Road can be taken to reach it, but they are industrial roads with no views of the Bay and are not pedestrian or bicycle-friendly. Between Bayfront Park and Redwood City are salt ponds, but they are on private property, and their levees are not open to the public.

Click on the following pictures to see a larger version. Hold your cursor over the pictures to read the captions. The pictures were taken on different days and in different seasons. Note that the mileage readings below were taken from a bicycle odometer. Your mileage may vary. Trail conditions and accessibility are subject to change.

Bay Trail to Hwy 84

This section describes the Bay Trail route from the entrance of Bayfront Park to Hwy 84 and University Avenue.

Bay Trail start by Bayfront Park entrance A paved segment of the Bay Trail begins next to the entrance to Bayfront Park. It heads east, paralleling Bayfront Expressway.

Narrow channel next to Bay Trail To the north of the trail is a long, narrow channel. Farther north are the salt ponds and sloughs at Bayfront Park.

Bay Trail heading east Grassy strips dotted with springtime flowers, separate the Bay Trail from the narrow channel and Bayfront Expressway.

End of 1st salt pond At 0.2 miles, the Bay Trail passes the intersection of Chrysler Drive to the south. To the north, the first salt pond ends.

Water inlet on channel by 2nd salt pond A water inlet occasionally drains into the small channel next to the trail, while to the north a large salt pond begins.

End of Bayfront Park hills across salt pond At 0.6 miles, the trail passes the intersection of Chilco Street to the right. To the left, across the salt pond, the end of the Bayfront Park hills can be seen.

Looking towards end of narrow channel The end of the narrow channel to the left of the trail can be seen ahead.

Big salt pond At 0.7 miles, the narrow channel dead ends, and a huge salt pond begins.

Dirt trail next to big salt pond A dirt trail running parallel to and north of the paved trail follows close to the shore of the salt pond.

Wildflowers between the Bay Trail and Bayfront Expressway In the springtime, wildflowers color the grassy strip between Bayfront Expressway and the Bay Trail.

Brine shrimp scooper Brine shrimp thrive in the salt pond. A scooping rig, which is used to harvest the brine shrimp, may be docked at the corner of the pond.

Start of marsh next to Sun The trail passes the end of a marsh that runs between the salt pond and the Sun Microsystems campus. This is the beginning of Ravenswood Slough.

Start of trail next to Sun At 1.6 miles, the trail hits the intersection of Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway at the entrance to the Sun Microsystems campus. The Bay Trail turns left to the north to skirt the edge of the Sun campus, whose many buildings and landscaped grounds are beyond the fence to the right.

Log Bench by Sun To the left of the trail is the marsh of Ravenswood Slough. At 1.8 miles is a log bench by the marsh. The hills of Bayfront Park can be seen across the salt ponds.

Bench along Bay Trail, looking west across salt pond At 1.9 miles, the trail makes a right turn. At the corner is a rest spot. A line of poles marches across the salt pond to the west. The hills of Bayfront Park can also be seen to the west across the salt pond.

Path on north side of Sun The trail continues along the outside of Sun's property as it heads closer to the Dumbarton Bridge. Ravenswood Slough and marsh still remain to the left of the trail.

Path leading up small hill observation point At 2.2 miles, the trail turns right again. A short spur leads up to an observation point on a small hill.

View from small hill, looking towards Dumbarton Bridge On top of the hill, there are good views of the Dumbarton Bridge and the area around Ravenswood Slough.

Parking Lot by end of trail near Hwy 84 At 2.3 miles, the trail ends at a paved parking lot in front of the northeast entrance to Sun Microsystems, just off Hwy 84. The parking lot is only accessible by public road from westbound 84.

Feeder channel from under Hwy 84 into Ravenswood Slough To the east, a large channel that feeds into Ravenswood slough emerges from an outlet under Hwy 84.

Ravenswood Slough by Sun Microsystems The trail begins again just past the parking lot to the left, crossing the large feeder channel to Ravenswood Slough and heading along the westside of Hwy 84.

Pond by Hwy 84 before the Dumbarton Bridge A 2.5 miles, a small pond begins on the left. Wildflowers and pickleweed rim the pond. The Dumbarton Bridge can be seen ahead.

Trail along Hwy 84 to Dumbarton Bridge The trail reaches the intersection of Hwy 84 and University Avenue at 2.7 miles. After crossing Hwy 84, one branch of the Bay Trail heads over the Dumbarton Bridge to Newark. Another branch follows along the side of Unversity Avenue into East Palo Alto, heading for Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. This latter section is not yet complete, so travel along city streets is necessary. Backtrack along the trail to return to Bayfront Park.

Bayfront Park Bay Trail

sMap of Bayfront Park Here is a map of Bayfront Park. It shows that the park has a complex network of trails running around and through the hills. The Bay Trail around the perimeter runs for about 2.5 miles. This tour describes this route.

Red pumphouse building  The trail around the periphery of the park starts near the park entrance just past an old red wooden tide pumphouse building. The pumphouse and nearby inlet pipes control the flow of brine from salt ponds to the north to the large salt pond complex to the south.

Beginning of Bay Trail around park between 2 ponds The trail is on a graded levee that runs between 2 ponds. The pond to the south is a salt pond. This pond is highly saline, with little plant life along its edges.

Park hill with pond west of it The pond to the north is below the landfill hills of the park. It is a tidal pond, fed by waters of Flood Slough by a pipe under the park road. It is a rich haven and feeding ground for water birds. Three small islands provide shelter and nesting areas. Cordgrass line the edges of the pond, with pickleweed higher up.

Southwest corner of trail between 2 salt ponds At 0.2 miles, the trail meets a junction. The main trail turns to the left around the end of the tidal pond near the hills. (To the right at the trail junctions, a narrow footpath leads along a levee between 2 salt ponds, but this path dead ends at a channel joining the salt ponds.)

View west along north pond and hill At 0.3 miles, a path leading along the east edge of the pond below the hills intersects the main trail. The main trail continues on straight ahead. It runs along the edge of a large salt pond to the right, with the park hills to the left.

1st northeast corner by 2nd salt pond At 0.4 miles, the trail turns right at a corner of the salt pond. A closed levee runs diagonally across the pond. Here is a low meadow area between the park hills. Trails lead into this area and up into the park hills.

Flowers by side of salt pond near southeast corner of park The trail runs straight along the edge of the salt pond. Bright planted flowers line the edge of the trail. Inland along the hillsides is a protected owl habitat.

Pond 2 levee w/break, looking south from southeast corner At 0.7 miles, the trail reaches the end of the salt pond. To the right is a breached salt pond levee and the start of another salt pond. The trail turns to the left to follow along the hills.

Flowers on hillside near side of pond 3 In the springtime these hills are covered with flowers.

Big rock on side of hill, looking towards hill trail, trees More trails can be seen crossing the hills. Paths leads up into the hills from here.

View of southeast corner of park from hill At 1.2 miles, the trail reaches the end of the salt pond and turns left at a corner. A trail leads up from the trail corner and provides excellent views from the hills. The levee along the salt pond leading off to the northeast is fenced off, blocking access to the Bay. Running north of the salt pond is Westpoint Slough. The slough empties into San Francisco Bay to the northeast. To the north of the slough is the southern end of Greco Island

Dumbarton Bridge across big pond, from park hill To the east, the Dumbarton Bridge can be seen across the huge salt pond below.

View from hill of Westpoint Slough and Greco Island north of hill Westpoint Slough makes a gentle arc along the edge of the park. The trail follows along the edge of the slough.

Greco Island with San Mateo Bridge in back, Westpoint Slough in front Greco Island is a huge expanse of pickleweed-covered marshland, extending far to the northwest to Redwood Creek..

White flowers on side of hill by Westpoint Slough The northeast slopes of the hills are lush green and wildflower-covered in the spring. The hills are unirrigated. In the summer, the grasses turn brown and drought-tolerant plants take over.

Port of Redwood City across slough and ponds At 1.4 miles, the trail turns left and heads south. It departs from the slough, which continues to the northwest. It begins to branch and widen. Across the marshlands, the Port of Redwood City can be seen, often with large ocean-going ships docked there.

View of gas plant from below by sewer pond Ahead is the city of Menlo Park's Methane Recovery Plant, whose loud roar can be heard from the middle of the park. The plant processes the methane gas generated by the decaying matter under the landfill hills. The gas is burned to generate electricity. The trail turns right past the plant. It continues past a retired sewage treatment plant. It then passes a fenced-off pond that is part of the West Bay Sanitary District Flow Equalization Facility. At 1.8 miles, the trail reaches the end of the park's wide paved main road. The main road runs along the edge of Flood Slough, which meets Westpoint Slough north of the sewage treatment plant. Beyond Flood Slough are the broad expanses of salt ponds that stretch all the way to Seaport Blvd.

Paved trail up hill The end of the main park road is closed to unauthorized vehicles. At 2.0 miles, the road runs through a gate which marks the boundary of public vehicle access. There is a parking lot here. From here, a variety of trails lead up into the hills. One paved path leads up the hill paralleling the main park road to the north.

Wooden park map on hill Nearby is a box holding The Great Spirit Path Sculpture Guides. On a carved wooden sign is a map of the park near the start of the gravel path, which is the sculpture trail. Other wider gravel-surfaced paths lead to other parts of the hills. Another graded gravel path runs alongside the main park road and provides an alternative route for bicycles and pedestrians to taking the park road. A little farther along, at 2.1 miles are the park's restrooms and another large parking lot.

Trail along south edge of hills by pond At 2.3 miles, to the left is the trail along the south side of the hills next to the pond seen at the start of the tour. Other trails lead back up into the hills. Just beyond the pond is the start of the trail loop.

Bayfront Park Hill Trails and Views

The park's many trails through the hills are mostly mapped, but unsigned. They invite random exploration and discovery. The hilltops provide panoramic views of the Bay and surrounding areas. Below are some views from the park's hills:

View from hills, looking towards west parking lot, restrooms, Redwood City and salt ponds View from the hills, looking down towards the parking lot and restrooms, with salt ponds and the Redwood City seaport in the background.

Salt ponds west of park Salt ponds north of the park, with the port of Redwood city behind them.

View from hill towards northwest corner View looking up towards the hills in the northwest corner.

View from top of hill at northwest corner of park towards southeast View from the top of the hill at the northwest corner of the park, looking southwest.

Circle Trail Circle trail in the center of the park.

Rock circles Rock circle sculptures. The one in the foreground is unnumbered. The one in the background is the one below.

Geese grazing in front of rock circle sculpture Geese grazing on grass in front of the largest and last rock circle sculpture symbolizing the phrase, "to the Great Spirit everywhere." This is arranged like a native American medicine wheel.

Rock sculpture with antenna on hill in background An unnumbered rock sculpture on the side of a hill, with a hill topped by an antenna in the background.

Big rock sculpture with small rocks on top A rock sculpture consisting of a big boulder with small rocks on top, illustrating the phrase "or hill."

View of water treatment ponds, salt ponds, Bay View from the northwest corner of the park, looking northwest towards the water treatment ponds, salt ponds, Flood Slough, Westpoint Slough, and the San Mateo Bridge.

View of gas recycling plant, marsh, Bay View of the gas recycling plant, with Greco Island in back.

View of Westpoint Slough near northeast corner of park, Dumbarton Bridge in back View of Westpoint Slough near its mouth on San Francisco Bay, with the Dumbarton Bridge in the background.

Go to the Dumbarton Bridge Tour.
Return to Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours page.

Developed: 6/11/2000 by Ronald Horii
Information and opinions here are the responsibility of the author.