Just because your kids are too small to go on a hike doesn't mean you can't! Fortunately for outdoor-minded parents of babies and toddlers Marin County has many outdoor destinations that are perfectly suitable for a hike with your stroller.
When my kids were little, my husband and I must have racked up thousands of miles on our trusty Kelty jogging stroller, which we used on sidewalks, paths, and unpaved trails.
Many of these hikes are over paved trails, so they're suitable for just about any kind of stroller. Just because they are on more civilized paved surfaces doesn't mean they aren't in some of the most spectacular outdoors areas of Marin, so make sure you check them out.
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument near Mill Valley features majestic old-growth redwoods and has been one of Marin's top tourist attractions for over a century. Stop by during the week to avoid the crowds and take in the wonder of it all in relative peace and quiet. Take your stroller on the main trail loop through Cathedral Grove, it's paved or on a wooden boardwalk the entire way. Find out more here.
Spending time in the outdoors as a family this fall can be both fun and educational: get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks and open space preserves, take advantage of our often lovely fall weather, and learn about the natural wonders that can be found all around us. A fantastic and eye-opening way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.
The parks department's Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's many open space areas, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. The hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages, although they seem geared for kids ages 3 to 12.
While not as iconic, renowned, or tall as southern Marin's Mount Tamalpais, Novato's Mount Burdell offers its own kind of charm and appeal for families looking for an easy outdoor outing. Mount Burdell Open Space preserve boasts plenty of wide fire roads and trails that are perfect for a hike with small children. Those after more challenging treks can head uphill and look for the seasonal Hidden Lake, hike to the top of the 1,558-foot peak for amazing views of the San Francisco Bay Area, and even drop down into neighboring Olompali State Historic Park.
Wildflowers of all different colors are beginning to make an appearance, and seasonal streams burble and splash their way down the hilside. Keep an eye open for birds of all sorts, including red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, and wild turkeys, as well as a variety of colorful butterflies. Late winter and early spring is really a magical time of year here!
Spring in California is spectacular, with an abundance of wildflowers, seasonal waterfalls, and wildlife. With all the rain we've been getting this season, spring's wildflowers should be even more spectacular than usual! Before the summer heat bakes the green hillsides brown, get the family out on the trail at one of these great Marin hiking spots with wonderful spring wildflower displays.
These hikes are perfect for a family outing at almost any time of year, but of course are especially nice during March and April. All the trails mentioned here are easy enough for everyone in the family to tackle, too.
Tiburon, that "nearly perfect" Marin town on the end of its namesake peninsula, is a fantastic place for families to visit. Tiburon has long been a favorite of locals and tourists, and boasts amazing views of San Francisco, plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants, and lots for everyone to see and do. So pack up the kiddos this summer and head out to Tiburon for a day of fun!
You'll probably want to head straight for downtown Tiburon. We love to walk along the path in Shoreline park and watch the sailboats as they glide by on San Francisco Bay. Along the way, you'll find a fun and interesting museum that's perfect for kids, as well as grassy areas that are ideal for a picnic or just relaxing.
Introduce the kids to camping at Slide Ranch's Family Campouts at their spectacular seaside location. Photo: Slide Ranch
It's never too early to get the little ones introduced to camping and the outdoors, but let's face it—camping with small kids in tow isn't always easy, especially when you have gear to pack in and camp at a site that's lacking some expected creature comforts. With that in mind, we've put together this guide to perfect places for a first-time camping experience with the kiddos. All these are family friendly car camping spots where you can pull up to your campsite, set up your tent, and then have fun.
Many of these campgrounds are booked up for spring and summer weekends months in advance, but you can often find reservations during the week, and cancellations are common, too. California state parks, like Samuel P. Taylor and Sugarloaf Ridge accept reservations through the ReserveAmerica via their website or by calling 1(800) 274-7275.
One of the things I love most about winter in Marin is being able to hike to a beautiful waterfall, and when it rains families have many to choose from. The waterfalls in our list here all involve hikes of varying length, and all are perfect destinations for a family outdoor outing. There's something for hikers of every ability here.
All of these waterfalls are at their most spectacular after the big rainstorms we've been having this winter. This also means the trails will be pretty muddy, so make sure you put on the rain boots and dress the kiddos in something that you don't mind getting dirty. Here are four of our favorite Marin waterfall hikes, in order of difficulty (although all of them are family friendly). All but one of these hikes (Cataract Falls on Mt. Tamalpais) are on lands administered by Marin County Parks; visit their website for more info and to download printable trail maps for each preserve.
Photo: Coastal Camp in the Marin Headlands, courtesy NatureBridge
Living in Marin, you don't have to look far for a summer camp that takes advantage of some of the amazing natural resources we have right in our own backyard. Parents have several outstanding nature and outdoors oriented summer camps to choose from. Here is a selection of some of our favorite day camps in Marin that have an emphasis on the outdoors and the natural world around us for ages 4 to 18. To find more fantastic summer camps, visit our 2017 Marin Summer Camp Guide.
Audubon Youth Programs
Location: Richardson Bay Audubon Center, Tiburon
Dates: June 5–August 11
Cost: $320–$400 per week
Audubon Adventures Camp for kids in pre-K–3rd grade includes themes like Water Detectives, Living on the Bay, Shoreline Survivors, and Shark Week. Expedition Camp and On the Fly Camp are for children in grades 4–6, where campers deliver a little deeper into the varied habitats of Marin County and visit environments like the bay, ocean, redwood forest, and more. They also offer Youth Leaders for ages 11–17. Monday-Friday, 9 am–2 pm or 9 am–3 pm; extended hours untiil 5 pm are available for an additional cost. Register here.
Looking for something fun for the kids to do over the upcoming winter break? Check out some of the great winter day camps here in Marin and the Bay Area. All the camps listed below offer day camp or drop-in camps.
Andrew's Day Camp
400 Tamal Plaza, Corte Madera
Ages: kindergarten and up Andrew's Camp offers games, crafts, sports and more. Camps take place from 9 am–5 pm with extended care from 8–9 am and 5–6 pm. Bring lunch and snack. For more info,call(415) 446-8946 orvisit their website.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito
Ages: 4–8 The BADM is offering a Winter Discovery Camp that focuses on learning through project-based, hands-on activities designed to intentionally boost creativity, STEM skills, and critical thinking. Camps hours: 9 am–2 pm; extended care from 2–4 pm (extended care $50/per day). For more info, call (415) 339-3900 or visit www.baykidsmuseum.org.
N.Y. Broadway Training Programs 625 Arthur St., Novato High School
Broadway Camp includes classes in ballet, jazz, tap, theatre dance, hip hop, acting, voice, musical theatre, arts & crafts, fun & games, special events and workshops. Mini performance on the last hour on Friday. Pizza party. Daily snack. Register here. For more info, visit www.marissajoyganz.com.