A Unique Trail

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail is a growing network of boat launching and landing sites, or “trailheads,” around the San Francisco Bay. The Water Trail’s network of sites encourages awareness of facilities, programs, rental concessions,  and other information to help non-motorized small boaters and boardsailors have safe enjoyable days on the Bay.

The Water Trail is unique among the trails found in the Bay Area. It is not a linear trail, but a network of launching and landing sites that can take you to iconic and incredible destinations on the San Francisco Bay and its major tributaries – the San Joaquin River, the Napa River, and the Petaluma River.

Some locations offer nature and solitude with opportunities to see a huge variety of birds and wildlife, others offer dynamic urban waterfronts with incredible sights and views. Each trailhead enables non-motorized small boat users to enjoy the historic, scenic, cultural, and environmental richness of San Francisco Bay and its nearby tributary waters.  With over 500-square miles of navigable waters, the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries are the Bay Area’s largest open space. The possibilities are limitless.

The Water Trail program continues to grow with the support and input from the boating community and an advisory committee representing a broad range of interests and expertise. We invite you to safely explore the different types of experiences that can be found on the Bay.

Water Trail Program Goals

  • Create a coordinated set of access locations allowing for single point, multiple point, and multi-day excursions
  • Improve existing boat launch facilities and develop more overnight facilities, including camping
  • Promote safe boating practices for non-motorized small boat users
  • Reduce impacts to sensitive wildlife and habitat and other resources through education
  • Foster stewardship of the Bay and of trailhead facilities
  • Increase opportunities to recreate close to home and use public transportation rather than private vehicles
  • Reduce user conflicts among recreational users of launch sites through planning and facility design
  • Develop design guidelines for  non-motorized small boat facilities that address the shoreline topography of San Francisco Bay and serve non-motorized small boat users with disabilities
  • Provide funding, publicity, and, indirectly, possible economic growth to site owners/managers through a variety of business opportunities related to water-oriented recreation (boat storage, rental concessions, nearby restaurants and hotels)

Program History and Management

The vision of the Water Trail Program began with Bay Access, a non-profit group working to ensure future access for non-motorized small boat users on the Bay, and planning support from the National Park Service. This vision became law in 2005 with the passage of the Water Trail Act by the California Legislature (Hancock, AB 1296).

Today, this regional, nine-county program is being implemented under the leadership of the State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy) in close collaboration with the Association of Bay Area Governments / Metropolitan Transportation Commission (ABAG/MTC), the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating), plus an advisory committee representing a broad range of interests and expertise.

To find out more about the Water Trail’s history, please visit the State Coastal Conservancy – Water Trail website. Documents from the planning phase led by BCDC may be found on their website.

Coastal Conservancy LogoABAG logoState Division of Boating and Waterways logoBay Conservation and Development Commission logo