Recreational Opportunities

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

image of observation deck at the Padilla Bay reserve

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 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.

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 trailhead. 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 wheelchair accessible. There is good 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 bikes are okay.

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

image of upland trail at the Padilla Bay reserve

Upland Trail

From our parking lot, head toward the barn and keep right, winding through the old hay fields and wood lot of the Breazeale dairy farm. The first half of the 0.8-mile trial is paved. 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. Stop at the numbered posts and read the appropriate text to learn about natural history. Different versions are available including botanical, children's activities, and general interest. (PDF about 1 MB.)

Please keep your dog on a leash.


Padilla Bay has great opportunities for boating, especially kayaking.

You must watch out for the 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. More detailed habitat map (2.5MB).

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.