Bay Trail Walk at Old Air Base

We visited the old Hamilton Air Base in Novato last week (June 2016), this time after appreciating the updated observation post, we headed north.


As part of the wetland restoration, the dike was breached in April 2014. Now water is everywhere. We saw a few birds. June and late morning is probably not the best bird viewing time, but I’m sure they’ll be frequent visits to the vast rich area.

We walked a mile north, with other walkers, dog walkers and bicyclists enjoying the morning. There are a few benches, but we didn’t need them this time. This could be a fine place to sit and birdwatch.

Hamilton bird watch

This is not my usual tree lined favored path, but when it’s not hot, I love the subtle colors of this kind of landscape.

Hamilton wetland colors

We walked to the bend in the trail – one could continue to Bel Marin Keys or to the Bay Trail proper.

Hamilton wetland

Bay Trail Map. A mere 500 mile trip around the San Francisco Bay.

Hamilton trial map north

Walking the Old Air Base – posted April 2014

Back for another piece of the Bay Trail, we started in Novato at Reservoir Hill Vista Trail. It’s on Hamilton Parkway and next door to reborn buildings of the old Hamilton Air Force Base.
Reservoir Hill Trailhead

I thought we could do this hill. Some of the locals were taking the shortcut (seen in the two ruts), we took the switchbacks. Reservoir Hill has some beautiful oaks and on the bay side some coyote bushes.

Reservoir Hill up

Being one to stop and catch my breath, I took this picture looking back from where we came in a few switchbacks.

View back from Reservoir Hill

Because, this is what was ahead.

Paved uphill Hamilton

Around the curve of the hill was a gorgeous meadow with lupines and johnny jump-ups. Bright orange poppies shone in bunches. Blue-eyed grass hid out.

Reservoir Hill Meadow

The view, the other way, was of the airbase hangars, the San Pablo Bay and mountains in the distance.

View over ex-Hamilton airbase

At the vista part of Vista Trail is this view of the remnants of the reservoir and the wetlands that surround the bay.

View to exReservoir & wetlands

This view is to the north towards Bel Marin Keys. The path down was steep and gravelly. It flattens out near some houses. (Access here and limited parking, but we were glad for the views.)

View to Bel Marin Keys

At the bottom of the trail, there is a new perfectly flat packed sand trail that leads north (left) to Bel Marin Keys.

Path split Reservoir Hill to trail North

We went the other way. In a short distance, we had a choice of the sand trail or the gravel one. We took the one nearer the water.

Trail split heading south

Waterway to Bay

This new trail is still being improved. This looks like a future observation platform. Hopefully, with some benches. At this point, there are no benches. (Several on Reservoir Hill.)

New viewing platform

We could see plantings in this inhospitable looking land. Restoration of the wetland is underway.

New plantings

Where the last part of the currently completed trail turns, we had this look to what might be some more trail. Trucks were hauling dirt and bulldozers were pushing and lifting it around. The breach to the bay is to happen in April or May – now a few culverts bring bay water to the land.

More future trail

At the last turn in the path and where we turned around, we had this gorgeous view back to the famous Mt. Tamalpais. This mountain always grounds us in our movements around the bay.

View to Mt Tam

We noticed as we went by the airbase buildings that we could access a flat return route. So rather than going over Reservoir Hill again, we scooted over the wall and went through this parking lot. We’ll start between Hangars 5 and 7 next time. Many buildings are renovated with businesses and the public library – and some are currently under construction.

Hamilton ex-airtower

Past some Hamilton Villas (former barracks), we found Hamilton Parkway and our car.

Hamilton Villas

This section of the Bay Trail, needs to be explored again. Here’s more information for you.

Distance: As we did the walk, about 3 miles, up and over Reservoir Hill about 70 ft. You can walk more and new trails are being added, click Bay Trail.

Benches: Currently (may change) only on Reservoir Hill. No picnic tables.

Bathrooms: None. Make friends at the library or at one of the businesses.

Wheelchair: Accessible from ramp near Hangar 7.

Dogs: On leash.

History: For information from the National Parks, click Hamilton Base. Or from Wikipedia, Hamilton Air Force Base.

Current Day: City of Novato: Arts Center, pool, and of course the wetland restoration.

In any large wetland restoration project there are many to thank, Coastal Conservancy, Bay Trail, and Conservation Corps North Bay to name a few.

See you on the trail!

Words by Lynn Millar, photos by Lynn and Mike Millar


Lizard at Reservoir Hill



Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

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