Lace up those hiking boots and get your gear together... it's time to hit the trail! Marin County is a paradise for families who love the outdoors, with over 50% of the county's land dedicated as protected open space. The Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, and the Golden Gate National Recreation area are only a few of the outstanding natural resources that we have right in out own backyard. It's a great way to both educate children about nature and the environment and to get some exercise.

On this page, we've collected all our posts on family-friendly hikes, walks, beaches, and other outdoor activities and resources. If you have a favorite hike or place you'd like to share, or if you'd like to submit an outdoors-related post as a guest contributor, please contact us.

Hiking, History, and Nature at Olompali State Historic Park in Novato

August 11, 2014

Olompali Miwok VillageJust 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.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Tennessee Valley Trail

July 29, 2014

Tennessee ValleyTennessee 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.

Tennessee Valley Trail is also quit popular with equestrians. Miwok Livery Stables is actually located on-site, so expect to see horses pretty often.

Tennessee Valley Trail winds through the coastal hills to the beach at Tennessee Cove, and offers spectacular scenery along the way. At the end of the trail is a sandy beach where you can relax, have a picnic, and let the kids play in the sand. Like many beaches on the Northern California coast, this one is unsafe for swimming and wading with rough surf and dangerous rip currents, so heed the posted warnings and keep clear of the water.

Explore Family Friendly Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

July 27, 2014

Limantour BeachDuring the summer, one surefire way to cool off in Marin is to head out to the beach. One family favorite in Marin is Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour boasts gentle surf, stunning views, and miles of sandy beach and is a great place to visit at any time of year.

Named after a French merchant shipwrecked here in the 1840s, Limantour Beach is located along Drake's Bay, and is close to Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore park headquarters on Bear Valley Road. As you drive over Inverness Ridge, you'll see evidence of the devastating 1995 Mt. Vision fire that swept through this area in the form of the young fir and pine trees that line the roadway.

Along the way, you'll find trailheads and parking areas for several popular trails, including Sky and Muddy Hollow trails, as well as a youth hostel and the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center. There are also several scenic overlooks that afford stunning vistas of Tomales Bay and the Limantour Estero.

Late Summer Means Blackberries

July 26, 2014

BlackberriesIn late July you start to see people stopped by the side of the road, poking around in the bushes. No, they're not doing anything strange—they're picking wild blackberries! Late summer is definitely blackberry season in Northern California. And what's best is that these sweet little fruits can be had for free just about anywhere, if you're willing to risk stained clothing from all that blackberry juice, as well as the occasional wound from blackberry thorns.

There is a native variety of wild blackberry, the California or Pacific blackberry (rubus ursinus), but that's hard to find these days, having been supplanted by a non-native species, the domesticated Himalayan or Armenian blackberry (rubus armeniacus). This variety, fast-growing, invasive, and considered a pest by many, was introduced as a commercial cultivar in California in the late 19th century, but like so many non-native species prevalent in the state today, it got loose and spread all over the place. An easy way to tell the difference between the two varieties is to look on the underside of the leaves. The California variety is green, whereas the Himalayan is white.

Even though blackberry bushes are often considered pesky and unwelcome, the berries are delicious, and many people take advantage of the fact that they're readily available for the taking. While they're not necessarily great to have in your backyard, they're a welcome sight along the backroads or on the trail, especially since they're a wild fruit you know is safe to eat. Free trail snacks are always welcome! On walks and hikes we can never just pass by a bush full of ripe blackberries without stopping to pick a few—more than a few, really, as the children go crazy over them.

Hit the Trail at Indian Valley Open Space Preserve

July 24, 2014

Indian Valley Open Space PreserveOne of the great things about living in Marin is the amount of easily accessible open space. Almost everyone has at least one trailhead right around the corner, so there's no excuse not to take the family on an outdoor excursion whenever possible. One of the most popular areas for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and more in northern Marin is Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Novato.

Located adjacent to the College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus, this 885-acre preserve is criss-crossed by a wide variety of trails, most shaded by oaks and California bay laurels, making it a pleasant place to go for a hike on a hot day. During various times of the year you can find a waterfall, wildflowers, and peaceful Pacheco pond, which is often teeming with wildlife like toads, frogs, fish, and newts. It's a popular destination for school groups studying our ecosystem.

The main trail is Indian Valley Fire Road. It's flat, wide, and well maintained, and it's a great place for walking, a bike ride, and even a hike with an off-road stroller. You'll often find horses and their riders as well as dog-walkers here. (Dogs can be walked off-leash on the fire road, but must be on-leash on all other trails.) Other trails that branch off from the fire road include Pacheco Pond Trail, the wonderfully named Buzzard Burn Trail (named after what happens to unfortunate birds that land on the nearby power lines), and the Waterfall Trail. Some of these involve pretty easy elevation changes.

Explore Berkeley's Tilden Park for Family Fun and Adventure

July 22, 2014

Tilden Park Little FarmFor a fun family day out this summer (or any time of year, actually), head east over the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge and up into the Berkeley hills, where you'll find Tilden Park, a 2,000-acre playground where there's literally something for everyone. Part of the East Bay Regional Parks system, Tilden is so big and there's so much to do here, that it really bears repeat visits!

From hiking trails and campgrounds to a historic carousel and scale steam trains, you'll find a lot to do here. Best of all, many of the attractions are free or very inexpensive. Here are our favorite things to do when visiting Tilden.

Tilden Nature Area and Little Farm

One of the busiest areas of Tilden Park is the Nature Area, and for good reason. This part of the park is home to the Little Farm, the Environmental Education Center, and numerous family friendly hiking trails, as well as group campgrounds, picnic areas, and a playground. It's located right off Canon Drive at the north end of the park.

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