Mare Island Walking Trails Southshore


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Our favorite Island walks

  1.   San Pablo Bay Walking Trail

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Our favorite nearby trails


Shoreline Preserve Historic Southshore Trai


This trail is closed through approximately December 2012 due to Navy munitions and environmental cleanup. Click here to link about the history, cleanup and restrictions.

The Mare Island Preserve Historic Southshore Trail is located in the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve, 167 O’Hara Ct. at Railroad Ave. on Mare Island in Vallejo, California.  The Trail starts at the main access point at the Bob Palmer Hut. It follows a paved road to a locked gate where a U.S. Navy escort accompanies the hike leader and group to the Historic Southshore area of the former Naval Ammunition Depot, the oldest in the Pacific, founded in 1857.  Vehicles displaying handicapped placards may also arrange access during the hike.

Sierra Club-Solano Group hike leader Kenn Browne has guided hikes along the south shore following the Napa River/Mare Island Strait to its convergence with San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait at Pier 35 for many years. In April 2011 Kenn guided his final walk to the Historic Southshore, as he and his wife Carmen moved to New York City to be close to young grandkids. Rest assured that Sierra Club will continue these wonderful walks given  at 9:30am on the 2nd Saturday of each month at least until the Historic Southshore is opened regularly as part of the Preserve as is planned.

On this hike you will walk under nests of great blue herons and ospreys perched high above on abandoned light poles and pass by the oldest munitions storage magazines on the Island, which celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2007. The route continues along the shoreline and munitions loading piers out to Pier 35, the most southerly point on the Island. The pier juts out into the Carquinez Strait through which more than 40 percent of California’s water flows into San Pablo Bay on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

The 4-mile roundtrip hike is on level paved and dirt roads in an area slated as part of the Preserve but not yet open to the the public. For more information call Brian Collett, Preserve naturalist and Sierra Club hike leader at 530-220-3121.

The hikes are scheduled to coincide with our Second Saturday Access Days. Although our faithful guide, Kenn has headed in an easterly direction, we are committed to ensuring your access to the Historic Southshore. Plan on a hike taking place with Brian and Myrna Hayes, both Sierra Club guides, accompanied by various expert guides and U.S. Navy escort. Meet at the “Palmer Hut” at the Visitor Center entrance through the gate at the south end of Railroad Ave.

Features and Difficulty: The route is flat so it is easy. In winter and spring it can be muddy. Wear sturdy shoes. Because the outing goes through gates that are locked, once you are in the group, you must stay with the group, so no turning back early. Because of proximity to the river and bay, weather can be unpredictable, so plan for all types of weather by dressing in layers, wear a hat and consider sunscreen and sunglasses because of glare from the river. Bring water and snacks and note that there are no restroom facilities once leaving the vicinity of Palmer’s Hut.

Wild neighbors: We often describe the Preserve as a place where “150 years of naval history has gone wild” and we also are fond of noting the “second nature” of the place. In other words, no matter how much the U.S. Navy worked to dominate and domesticate the wildness of the southern “original” island, wildness remains and is restoring on its own. We hope you will join us as good stewards of the wildlife habitat and the trail.

amenities: The trail starts at Bob Palmer’s Hut  from which you can also take the 1.3 mile (one-way) Scenic Vista Trail to the 284 ft. hilltop for panoramic vistas of 7 counties, Bay Area iconic mountains and hills and the Bay and Carquinez Bridges. Our Visitors Center is in a former bomb storage magazine in the field to the west of the main trailhead. We welcome you to learn some about the Preserve’s history and natural and scenic features and grab a snack or cold or hot drink. On the 2nd Saturday of each month we have special programs here and in August come to our annual Mare Faire with exhibits, presentations and guided outings.

Directions: To reach the trailhead, drive to the south end of Railroad Ave. through the gates that are normally closed when the Preserve is and park on the left side of the road along the fence.

Facilities: We have a group picnic site next to the cemetery on the old tennis court. There is just one handicapped accessible restroom, so come prepared! Be ready to pack your garbage out, too.

For more information: call 707-249-9633

For emergencies on the trail: call 911