Recreation at Padilla Bay

We welcome you to visit the Padilla Bay Reserve and enjoy the trails, bird watch, or just sit on the observation deck and take in the beauty of the bay. Learn about birding and special events, trails, and boating opportunities at the Reserve. Our trails and parking lot are always open.

Birding and special events

Binoculars and bird identification guides can be checked out at the front desk. Please have a driver's license available for check out.

Recreation and Trails

Observation Deck

This paved trail is only a few hundred yards long with a slight downhill grade leading from the front door of the interpretive center. Entirely ADA wheelchair accessible, a tunnel takes you under the road to a deck that looks out over Padilla Bay.

From there, a spiral staircase provides access to the beach. If your dog visits the Reserve and beach, please keep your dog on a leash and clean up their messes.

Shore Trail

This trail is located about a mile south of the interpretive center. There is a large parking lot on Second Street, just north of the trail head. This trail follows the top of a dike for 2.25 miles. It is fascinating to see how the dikes and tide gates work. It is flat and paved with hard packed fine gravel.

A key to unlock the gate can be checked out from the interpretive center making this trail ADA wheelchair accessible. There is handicapped parking at the south end of the trail.

  • Dogs are allowed if on a leash. Please clean up after your dog.
  • Duck hunting is allowed on this trail so be knowledgeable about hunting season.
  • Motorized vehicles and horses are not allowed on this trail but bicycles are okay.

This trail is managed and maintained by Skagit County and the Reserve.

Upland Trail

From our parking lot, head toward the barn and keep right. This trail will wind you through the old hay fields and wood lot of the Breazeale dairy farm.

The first half of the 0.8-mile trial is paved and ADA accessible. The rest is gravel or hard ground. It can get a little soggy in the winter. Trail guides are available to borrow from the front desk.

We have interpretive sites along the trail. Download the following PDFs for a guide through the trail. Stop at the numbered posts and read natural history facts and explore activities assigned to post:

Please keep your dog on a leash and clean up after them.


Padilla Bay has great opportunities for boating, especially kayaking.

Watch out for tides!

The entire bay is intertidal. That means it's flooded at high tide with an average depth of 8 feet, but exposed mud flats at low tide. The green and brown colored portion of the habitat map is entirely intertidal.  See our more detailed habitat map.

Any tide less than +3.0 will begin to expose mud flats around the edges. Any tide less than zero empties the bay. To find out what the tide is doing during your visit contact the Reserve or go to the tide predictor.