All Access and Easy Trails in the San Francisco Bay Area
Bay area land management agencies have increased access to parks and preserves by installing all-access trails, and parking to accommodate handicapped vehicles. All (sometimes called full) access trails are appropriate for folks in wheelchairs, parents with strollers, or walkers looking for an easy trail experience. Some other trails in the bay area not specifically designated as all-access may be suitably gentle for hikers, but probably exceed the limits of wheelchairs; see the easy trails section below.
Discovery Trail, Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Creek Trail, Crane Creek Regional Park
Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail, Mount Diablo State Park (Almost half of this trail is paved and wheelchair accessible. However, when I visited in September 2002, bumpers were missing from some sections of the trail and the pavement had crumbled. As the dropoff is steep, use caution on this trail.)
Contra Costa Canal Trail, East Bay Regional Park District
Redwood Grove Loop Trail, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. An 0.8 mile circuit through lovely redwoods.
Alpine Pond Trail, Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
Ridge Trail (to Horseshoe Lake), Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
Chickadee Trail, Huddart County Park
Redwood Trail, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Los Alamitos Creek Trail, City of San Jose
Verna Dunshee Trail, Mount Tamalpais A .70 mile level paved path skirts Tam's east peak. Easy parking and access, plus restrooms and picnic area.
Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds Level trails edge along a marsh and past wildlife ponds.
Ragle Ranch Regional Park Gentle paths through a seasonal wetland and old ranch.
Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve Heathcliff Fire Road takes a rolling course along a grassy ridgetop in Tiburon. Time flies by on an out-and-back hike of about 1 mile, as views unfold of San Francisco, Angel Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge. No facilities.
Napa River Ecological Reserve Flat paths visit a flood plain. Good birding.
Ritchey Canyon Trail, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Bicentennial Bike Path, Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve
Santa Venetia Marsh Open Space Preserve
Santa Margarita Open Space Preserve
Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead, Point Reyes National Seashore
Rush Creek Open Space Preserve
Trail around Rodeo Lagoon, Rodeo Beach Trailhead, Marin Headlands
Indian Valley Fire Road, Indian Valley Open Space Preserve
Deer Island Open Space Preserve
Lagunitas Fire Road, Sky Oaks Trailhead, Mount Tamalpais
Tennessee Valley Trail, Tennessee Valley Trailhead, Marin Headlands
Pioneer Trail, Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Rush Ranch Open Space Preserve Two short and easy loops through marshland and an old pasture.
Hayward Regional Shoreline Perfectly flat trails wind through salt, brackish, and freshwater marshes on San Francisco Bay. Excellent bird watching and an interpretive center open on weekends.
Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area Nearly flat broad paths through old quarry ponds. A great place to birdwatch.
Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline The small park has a flat developed section around a lagoon, and a more primitive area with narrow trails that ascend to a ridgeline. The paved path is an ideal loop for parents with kids in strollers, and the entire lagoon area is wheelchair-accessible.
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline Not only are trails flat and paved, but Point Isabel permits dogs off leash. Easy parking, restrooms, and picnic tables keep the rest of the family happy.
Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve After a short climb, a broad trail runs along a grassy ridge. Lots of picnic tables sprinkled throughout the preserve, but no restrooms.
Stream Trail, Redwood Regional Park
Point Pinole Regional Shoreline
East Shore Trail, Del Valle Regional Park
East Shore Trail, Anthony Chabot Regional Park
Dry Creek Trail, Garin Regional Park
Trails through the marsh, Coyote Hills Regional Park
Bald Mountain Trail, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve Nearly level short 0.7 mile trail ends at a fabulous viewpoint. A good place for a picnic, but note that there are no facilities and very limited parking.
Bog Trail, San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. Gently graded 0.7 mile loop through coastal scrub and eucalyptus woods. No longer ADA compliant, but possibly accessible to wheelchair users.
Larry Lane Trail. This Portola Valley trail climbs easily into a pretty stretch of woods, where in clearings views stretch to the east. Total distance is about 1.7 miles. Scarce parking.
Coal Mine Ridge Easily graded trails make hiking nearly effortless at this small peninsula preserve. Nice mixture of woods, grassland, and oaks. Unfortunately, parking can be difficult.
Shoreline at Mountain View Flat trails, easy parking, and plenty of services, plus picnic grounds. Good bird watching.
Bair Island Levee paths along the edge of a marsh are flat and wide. The perimeter trail is exactly three miles, so this is a good spot for walking or jogging. Bair Island is a convenient destination, but the property is adjacent to Highway 101, and traffic noise is omnipresent.
Baylands Preserve All but a handful of trails here are absolutely flat. The Hilltop Trails climb very gently, and the other level trails at Baylands are appropriate for walking, jogging, and wheelchair travel. Excellent birdwatching.
Milagra Ridge Although there are no facilities and parking is very limited, Milagra Ridge is a great place for a short and easy hike. You can walk out-and-back on the paved trail, or use the small dirt paths. Excellent bird watching and nice views. The paved trail is suitable for wheelchairs or strollers, with assistance. Wheelchair users may have trouble squeezing around the gate at the trailhead.
Rancho San Antonio County Park/Open Space Preserve Flat paths wind from the parking lot about 1 mile to Deer Hollow Farm.
Sawyer Camp Trail Nearly flat paved path runs along San Francisco Watershed lands.
Junipero Serra County Park A network of trails runs throughout this small park. Good for beginning hikers, but beware of trailside poison oak.
Crystal Springs Trail to Pulgas Water Temple (Although Crystal Springs Trail is easy, the proximity to the road and prevalence of poison oak make it unsuitable for young children. Wheelchair users can park at the water temple and take the very short gravel path to the temple.)
Coyote Point Recreation Area and Coyote Point Museum A combined visit to the museum and the recreation area makes for a nice day outing, particularly with children. A limited trail system will not present any challenges to athletic adults.
Sequoia Nature Trail, Portola Redwoods State Park
Zinfandel Trail, Picchetti Ranch Area (becomes more difficult after junction with Orchard Loop Trail)
Ranch Road, Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park
Plaskon Nature Trail, San Pedro Valley Park
Weiler Ranch Road Trail, San Pedro Valley Park
Saddle Trail, San Bruno Mountain County and State Park
Thornewood Open Space Preserve
Corte Madera Trail, Arastradero Preserve
Wilbur's Watch An easy and short hike with incredible views near Pigeon Point.
The Trail Center has an excellent page on disabilities-accessible trails and parks on the San Francisco peninsula and south bay http://www.trailcenter.org/guides/disabilities/disabilities-pr.htm
San Francisco Bay Area Wheelchair Accessible Trails http://www.wheelchairtrails.net
On-the-Level San Francisco http://www.onthelevelSF.com
Access Northern California http://www.accessnca.com/
Adventures from a Wheelchair http://irishsea-mark-videos.blogspot.com/
The Wheelchair Rider's Guide to San Francisco Bay and the Nearby Coast, a Coastal Conservancy book