On the eastern edge of Padilla Bay, there’s a walking trail where you can breathe fresh marine air and enjoy lovely views of ever-changing waterways and the Salish Sea. If you are looking for a perfect place to take a walk in Skagit County, check out the Padilla Bay Shore Trail (PBST). It is accessible for just about everyone.

Peoples Bank LogoThe Well-Maintained Surface

If you can’t take on the gnarly hills and rocks you used to climb, or you’re recovering from an injury or illness, this flat trail is perfect for you. It’s not paved, but the hard-packed surface is actually quite smooth and hazard-free. Opened in 1990, the PBST was made possible through “an interlocal agreement allowing recreation on dike district #12 property,” says Brian Adams, Skagit County Parks and Recreation director. The dike district owns the property, and the county maintains it for public enjoyment.

This trail is an ideal place to start a fitness routine too. It’s 2 1/8 miles long, end to end, and you can walk or jog as far and as fast as you like. You can keep track of progress using the mile markers the county has placed at regular intervals, and there are several benches alongside the path in case you need a rest.

A Dog’s Dream

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Charlie and Dickens (the dog) come from Linden to walk the Padilla Bay Shore Trail when they have time. Photo credit: Cathleen Enns

Picture your dog’s nose in the air, catching all the scents the sloughs and mud flats send out on the breeze. Or, imagine your best friend with her muzzle to the ground, sniffing out evidence of other animals passing by. There may be no better doggie slice of heaven than the Padilla Bay Shore Trail. It even sports shoulders of low growing grass most of the way for dogs who tend to get sore feet.

The trail welcomes leashed canines with poop bag dispensers at both ends. Your pup will almost certainly make new dog friends along the way.

Kids and Bikes

It’s a good bet that hundreds of local kids have polished their bike riding skills on the PBST. Anacortes mom Liz Chong Schaarschmidt remembers taking her boys and their bicycles out there in her minivan about 30 years ago. Joel and Zach could just about “ride well enough not to go off the dike road,” she says. “I liked the flat, traffic free road, plus places to stop and picnic and explore.”

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This weathered stump on the Padilla Bay Shore Trail is a photographer favorite. You can see the refineries of Anacortes in the distance. Photo credit: Cathleen Enns

There’s much to enjoy for kids even without a bike along. Ernie, a youngster from Bellingham, recently walked the trail with the rest of his family. He enjoys messing around with mud and driftwood, and he has been known to “rename” nearby islands—one became Boot Island when Ernie discovered an old boot there. Another island was re-christened Shark Island because, well, kids are obsessed with sharks.

Wildlife Fans

Wildlife admirers—and who isn’t one?—frequent Padilla Bay Shore Trail with cameras and binoculars. Skagit County’s website for visitors notes that the estuary of the Skagit River, where the PBST is located, “is the most diverse, least disturbed, and most biologically productive of all major estuaries on Puget Sound.” The site says that one of the largest known populations of peregrine falcons in North America spends wintertime here, and that other raptors visit the area as well.

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Ducks, grebes and dozens of other species of shorebirds feed on the mudflats alongside the Padilla Bay Shore Trail. Photo credit: Dennis Law

Snow geese frequent the agricultural fields on the east side of the PBST. Jennifer Jenkins, who has lived in the Skagit Valley all her life, is one of many locals who love to see the beautifully marked birds. Noting that the trail is “a perfect place to meet our Skagit Valley friends for an outdoor visit and excursion,” Catherine Usibelli reports having seen otters, herons and hawks, and “once a coyote hunting in the fields on the eastern side.”

More Reasons to Discover the Trail

Finally, the Padilla Bay Shore Trail can be a place of healing too. Regan Anne Robertson, who lives in Anacortes, shares that when she was going through a rough patch in her teens, she used to walk the path by the bay after work. A friend, Jason, suggested they head out there one evening “because he had heard there was a meteor shower, and it was crystal clear outside that night,” Regan recalls. “We enjoyed the quiet, the meteor shower and peace it brought. That trail and his friendship help me get through a tough time so I could get back into the good times!”

Before You Go

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A much-photographed old barn on Little Indian Slough by the Padilla Bay Shore Trail. Photo credit: Cathleen Enns

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Take water—there’s no drinking water available on the trail
  • Lock your car when you park—people have reported a few break ins
  • A breezy day in town can be quite windy out on the dikes

To access the trail at its southern end, take Bayview Edison Road north from Highway 20. In less than a mile, you’ll see a parking area and the trailhead on the left. If there’s no parking available, continue on the road north to Bay View. There’s more parking on 2nd Street in town, and you can walk back down the street, then cross Bayview Edison Road to catch the northern end of the trailhead. There are toilets in both parking areas.

Visit the Skagit County Parks and Recreation site to learn more about the Padilla Bay Shore Trail.

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