Winding along the top of a dike through the 11,000-acre Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, this level biking and pedestrian path leads through one of the most diverse and biologically productive estuaries on the Puget Sound. It’s no wonder that birders and photographers come from all over to witness such abundant wildlife in action. The scenery alone is enough to make your day, with the North Cascades rising above active farmlands to the east and bayside views out to the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains to the west.
Both ends of the 2.25-mile Padilla Bay Shore Trail have trailheads, and although the north parking area is located 0.15 miles up the road from the bay, it is much more spacious than the south. A few steps along the level path and you will be able to see whether the tide is high or low. During low tide the bay is void of water, appearing as a barren land of mud flats and tidal puddles. In this case, keep your eyes peeled for great blue herons snacking on the exposed sea life. In colder months, you may chance upon some of the wintering raptor residents, including the peregrine and merlin falcons, or even a snowy owl.
Near the halfway point, Big Indian Slough curves into the bay below a nice pullout with interpretive signs and benches. The Tesoro and Shell oil refineries puff away on the opposite land at March Point, and Fidalgo Island and Mount Eerie provide a backdrop. Further along, the path passes a rustic barn and heads due east away from the bay. This last stretch to the south trailhead delivers some awesome sights of some of the finest peaks in the North Cascades: Mount Baker, Whitehorse Mountain and Three Fingers.