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.
When it rains, we love to head outdoors and take a waterfall hike! Hikes with the family are especially fun when there's something exciting to see at the end of the trail, like a rushing waterfall. Marin's waterfalls are some of the county's hidden treasures, and are best appreciated when they're running full force in winter and spring. The Fairway Waterfall, also known as Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall, is a seasonal waterfall that can be found on a trail at the end of Fairway Drive, in Novato's Country Club neighborhood.
The trail to the Fairway waterfall is short and easy and the trailhead is conveniently located, so it's a perfect hike for kids. So bundle up, put on those puddle stompers and raincoats, and head outdoors for a waterfall hike! After our recent winter storms, the waterfall is flowing in full force, so you will not be disappointed.
Just north of Novato, on the eastern slopes of Mount Burdell, lies Olompali State Historic Park. This gem of a local resource is often overlooked by families as they drive by on Highway 101, but it's well worth a visit. With miles of hiking trails, historic sites spanning 8,000 years of human habitation, and sweeping views of the Petaluma River Valley, Olompali has much to offer for visitors of all ages.
The story of Olompali starts with the Coast Miwoks, who lived on the site for thousands of years. Olompali was one of the primary Miwok settlements in Northern California until the 1850s. At the park, you'll find evidence of their presence here in the form of a "Kitchen Rock", a large stone used as a mortar by the Miwok people to grind acorns and seeds, and a reconstructed village with redwood bark and tule reed kotchas—traditional Coast Miwok dwellings. There's also a native plant garden with educational panels describing how the Miwok used each plant for food or medicinal purposes.
When the rains comes down like it has recently, it's time to gather up the kids, put on the rain boots, and hike to a waterfall in Marin. One of our favorite local waterfall hikes is the Waterfall Trail at Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Novato, a short and easy hike that almost anyone can manage. We've even seen sturdy offroad strollers on the trail.
To get there, take the Indian Valley Fire Road from either of College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus or the Indian Valley Road trailhead to where it meets the aptly named Waterfall Trail. On they way you'll be accompanied by a rushing stream that runs along the trail. Cross over a little wooden bridge into the woods and follow the trail—you'll hear the waterfall before you can see it.
Registration is now open for Marin's popular Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp, with sessions taking place from June 12 through August 18, 2017 at their spectacular seaside location in Muir Beach. Camps at Slide Ranch give kids a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience on a working farm and also explore the natural world surrounding the ranch.
Slide Ranch offers 10 nature-based camps geared for all different age groups including Ranch Rangers (ages 5 to 13), Slide Explorers (ages 5 to 8), and Junior Farmers (ages 8 to 13). Slide Ranch also offers three Junior Camp Counselor weeks for teens ages 14–18, where they attend and help teach at the camp.
Taking the kiddos along for a hike on one of Marin's many fantastic trails is fun and rewarding. It can be a bit of a challenge though when they want to tackle the trail on their own but can't really go that far. Then there's the fact that toddlers and preschoolers don't always have the greatest of attention spans, which means that it's great to have something to see and do along the way.
We've put together a list of our favorite hiking spots in Marin County for families with kids in preschool or younger. They're all relatively short and easy to hike—and you can take along the off-road stroller for backup, just in case. (If you're looking for hikes that are perfect for strollers but maybe a little longer than these, check out our guide to stroller hikes in Marin County.)
This weekend, we paid another visit one of our favorite outdoors spots in the Bay Area, Jack London State Historic Park. Located in the small Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen, it's about a 45-minute drive north from Marin and a great destination for a family outing.
The park is made up of land that was at one time the Beauty Ranch owned by renowned writer, social reformer, early sustainable agriculture advocate, and rabble-rouser Jack London (1876–1916), author of classic adventure tales like The Sea Wolf,The Call of the Wild, and White Fang. Jack London State Historic Park is always a destination for us in winter and early spring—the wildflowers are in bloom, the weather is cool and clear, and it's breathtakingly beautiful.