Outdoor Activities

Hiking, nature walks, beaches, and more.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

November 13, 2016

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

Hiking with children is a great way to get them into the outdoors and introduce them to nature, but it can be a bit of a challenge. Small legs seem to tire out faster than larger ones, and when they outgrow both the stroller and the backpack it's best to seek out some shorter hikes with few hills or elevation changes that the whole family can enjoy with a minumum of complaining. One of our favorite easy family hikes can be found at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, on the northern end of Novato.

This 552-acre preserve features wide and gentle trails that are perfect for families. They're easily manageable with an off-road capable jogging stroller, and kids' bikes should be able to tackle the fire roads with ease. You'll share the trails with plenty of hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, as well as birders checking out the countless shorebirds and waterfowl that make their homes in the adjacent wetlands.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Tennessee Valley Trail

October 23, 2016

Tennessee Valley

Tennessee Valley near Mill Valley is one of the most popular hiking and outdoor recreation spots in all of Marin County, and for good reason—it has a combination of easy walks, dramatic views, and a spectacular beach at the end of the trail. Tennessee Valley Trail, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a perfect hike for families, and can be easily managed with an offroad-capable stroller. With few hills, the 3.4-mile round trip hike out to the beach at Tennessee Cove and back is easy for hikers (and mountain bikers, too) of all ages. Fall is the perfect time to tackle this hike, since the weather at the coast is often clear, sunny, and spectacular.

Truckee Is Perfect for a Fall Family Getaway

September 15, 2016

Donner Lake Truckee

While winter and summer are the most popular times to visit Truckee and the Lake Tahoe area, fall can be a fantastic time for a family trip up the mountains. The weather is often beautiful, fall color abounds, summer’s tourists and winter’s skiers are absent, and there’s still plenty to do in an amazing place. And it’s not too far away, either.

We love events like the annual Fall Festival at Tahoe Donner, a mountain community and ski area just outside town. This laid-back autumn event, which takes place this year on October 8, features family fun like pumpkin carving, arts and crafts, food, pony rides, archery, a petting zoo, and much more.

While many of Tahoe Donner’s summer programs close in the fall, the community still boasts some great restaurants and other upcoming fall events, including their free Light Up the Night holiday kick-off event in late November. Tahoe Donner offers great family winter sports opportunities, too, including cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even fat biking at their Alder Creek Adventure Center.

Explore Spectacular Slide Ranch in Muir Beach

September 13, 2016

Slide Ranch

Muir Beach's Slide Ranch is one of Marin's favorite family destinations for educational programs, camps, and more. But did you know you can visit the ranch's spectacular grounds any time you like? Since Slide Ranch is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it's open to the public every day, with no admission fee.

It's truly an amazing place, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, hiking trails, tidepools, a farm to explore, and one of the most amazing picnic areas we've ever encountered. It's a great place to visit even if there are no programs going on. Pack up the kids and a picnic and make a day of it!

Outdoor Outings for Kids: Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes

September 4, 2016

Bear Valley Visitor Center Point Reyes National Seashore

Our go-to spot for family hikes and outdoor excurisions in Marin is the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore. Home to the park's main visitor center and headquarters, it's a wonderful place for kids and adults alike to learn about nature and local history and explore the outdoors. It has so much to offer: picnics, hikes, views, and wildlife.

Bear Valley Visitor Center Point Reyes National Seashore

The visitor center itself is always our first stop. With interesting dioramas and displays about the wildlife around Point Reyes, free audio-visual programs, and an information desk manned by helpful rangers and volunteers, the visitor center is a great place to learn about Point Reyes and its amazing natural history. You can also learn about the human history of the area, too, through exhibits on the Miwok Indians who once inhabited Point Reyes, the visit of English seafarer Sir Francis Drake in the 16th century (look for the cool cutaway model of Drake's ship The Golden Hinde in the center's auditorium), and the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Explore the Giants at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

August 30, 2016

 Armstrong Redwoods Guerneville

When people say coast redwoods, Marin's Muir Woods usually comes to mind, but the Bay Area boasts plenty of other great places to go see these towering trees, but without the tourist crowds and parking hassles at Marin's popular redwood hotspot. Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, located just outside of the Russian River town of Guerneville, has plenty of majestic old-growth redwoods, as well as easy hiking trails, picnic areas, and a small nature center. It's definitely worth taking a mini road trip through Sebastopol up to the river!

Armstrong Redwoods was set aside as a nature preserve in the 1870s by logging baron Colonel James Armstrong. Several miles of trails wind through the park, offering opportunities for a wide range of hikes. The Pioneer and Discovery trails are short trails that are ideal for hikes with kids, and they're both navigable with a sturdy stroller.

Get Away to Amazing Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe

July 31, 2016

Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of California's premier vacation destinations and for us, there's no place that showcases the area's natural beauty more than Emerald Bay. Located off Highway 89 about 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay offers stunning views and outdoor activities for the whole family, including hiking, swimming, kayaking, and more.

The focus point of Emerald Bay State Park is centered on the area around Vikingsholm, a Scandanvian-style mansion built back in the 1920s. To get there, park in the lot and then, after taking in the view at the scenic overlook, hike down to the beach. The hike is about one mile with a 500-foot elevation change; while the trip down is easy, the hike back can be a bit of a challenge. We saw plenty of families with small kids tackling it, though, and it's not that tough if you take it in stages.

Outdoor Family Fun at Marin's China Camp State Park

July 28, 2016

China Camp State Park San Rafael One of Marin's underrated treasures is China Camp State Park, located east of San Rafael. It's not as famous or flashy as other local outdoors spots like Mt. Tam, Muir Woods, or Point Reyes, but it has a charm all its own and offers plenty for families to do and see.

Situated on the shores of San Pablo Bay, China Camp State Park offers stunning views, plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails, walk-in camp sites, picnic areas, beaches, and a historic 19th-century Chinese fishing village. Topography ranges from oak woodland to grassland to salt marsh, with even some redwoods thrown in for good measure.

Explore Nature and Science with Half Acre Woods

July 20, 2016

Half Acre WoodsMarin Mommies presents a sponsored article from Half Acre Woods, a new outdoor enrichment class for kids ages 2 to 7 in Marin.

Bugs, birds, seeds, and science make up the wonderful world of Half Acre Woods! We are a new outdoor enrichment class designed to engage kids, from the ages of two through seven, in the skills and practice of science. Exploring the world with our senses we smell bay leaves and mint, listen to the crackling of madrone bark, watch for woodpeckers and fence lizards, and touch anything we can get our hands on! (Except for poison oak that is.) Based on the new Next Generation Science Standards that California adopted in 2013, we strive to provide a strong basis for success with science in the classroom while enjoying all the benefits of outdoor education.

The majority of our day is spent observing natural phenomena, like quail families scurrying along in a line, and discussing our findings as we explore. Our approach focuses on the fundamentals of observation, evidence based argument, and construction of explanations. Our dedication to science practice and skills is steeped in a deep understanding and appreciation for positive social emotional development. As we explore we discover opportunities to practice sharing, volunteering, and considerate communication as well as working to build an understanding of the connections between our feelings, our actions, and the natural world.

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