There are days for scaling mountains—and then there are days for just taking a walk. Padilla Bay is a place for the latter, as the level gravel trail meanders along the shallow bay. This walking trail winds along a dike constructed by early farmers in the Skagit Valley. The trail makes its way through the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and is a great place for birdwatching in this unique environment.
Padilla Bay is so shallow that near Hat Island, the bay is only 12 feet deep. The perfect environment for eel grass, the area is an important ecological feature of the region. Eel grass beds are like nurseries for young marine life including salmon, and crabs. At low tide, the bay becomes a mudflat, full of plenty of crawly creatures, which shore birds and heron make a tasty meal out of.
To the east of the dike stretches the pasture and farmland of Skagit Valley. In the winter months, the green fields play vacation home to snow geese and trumpeter swans, flocks looking like snow drifts. Bring binoculars for a closer look at these birds. On clear days, views of Baker and the Cascades peak over the foothills. Westward, the views are of the San Juan Islands and Fidalgo Island.
At only 4.5 miles roundtrip, allow for around an hour each way. The path snakes, as the dike cross over multiple sloughs with colorful names like “Big Indian” and “No Name” Slough. Expect a peaceful stroll, with plenty of benches to take a moment and breathe in the serenity. The only real landmark on the trail is an old barn, weathered grey, rusted tools half sunk into the mud.
Parking is limited at the southern end of the trail, but a parking lot is located up the street from the northern trailhead. From this parking lot, head down Second Street to Bay View-Edison Road. Even on cold and rainy days, the path would be a good option to cure cabin fever as it is level, and the gravel well maintained. Bring a snack and a friend to share with.
For additional information on Padilla Bay, including how to pronounce Padilla, check out the following:
Washington State Department of Ecology
Washington Trails Association