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 with Kids in Marin: Turtle Back Nature Trail in China Camp State Park

June 3, 2012

Turtle Back Nature Trail at China Camp State ParkFamilies looking for an easy, fun, and educational hike in Marin need look no further than Turtle Back Nature Trail in San Rafael's China Camp State Park. This 3/4-mile hike along a well-maintained and accessible loop trail offers sweeping vistas of San Pablo Bay, wildlife viewing, and the opportunity to learn a little bit about the natural communities that you'll find here.

Turtle Back Nature Trail winds its way around a small hill that resembles a turtle shell (hence the name). The path takes hikers through a variety of different natural environments, including open grasslands, salt marsh, and through a shady oak and bay laurel forest.

Look for birds like herons and egrets and other wildlife as you make your way along the trail.

Mountain Play Magic with the Music Man

May 30, 2012

The Music ManWhere can you see a colorful musical theater production with a professional cast in an idyllic outdoor setting with amazing panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay Area? The Mountain Play, of course! We had a chance last Sunday to catch this year's production (the 99th—it's been a Marin County tradition since 1913) of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, and it was a delight from beginning to end.

Marin musical favorite Susan Zelinsky was outstanding in the starring role of River City, Iowa librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo, while Robert Moorhead charmed as the smooth-talking yet ultimately good-hearted con man Harold Hill, who convinces the citizens of River City that the only way to keep their sons out of the billiard parlor and away from trouble (with a capital "T") is to get them into a boys' marching band.

Tickets are still available for the remaining Mountain Play performances, which take place on June 3, 10, 16, and 17. All shows begin at 2 pm.

Adventure Awaits at Point Bonita Lighthouse in the Marin Headlands

May 27, 2012

Point Bonita LighthousePoint Bonita Lighthouse stands sentinel over the Golden Gate, where it's warned ships of the hazards of the Marin's rugged coastline for over 150 years. The lighthouse is only reachable via a trail that passes through a rock-cut tunnel and over a swaying suspension bridge. The bridge was closed in 2010 due to structural stability problems, but the span was entirely rebuilt and is once again open to the public.

A trip to the Point Bonita Lighthouse is a fun family outing and a highlight of a visit to the Marin Headlands. It's also far easier to get to than Marin's other famous lighthouse in Point Reyes, but nearly as dramatic. It's also a great place to take out-of-town guests to check out a piece of San Francisco Bay Area history and take in some breathtaking views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a must-do outdoor adventure for families in Marin and the Bay Area!

Point Bonita Lighthouse was originally built in 1855 on the cliffs above the present site. The light proved difficult for mariners to see at this location, so the lighthouse was moved to its current location in 1877, which necessitated the creation of a 118-foot, hand-dug tunnel for access. The bridge was built in the 1950s, and was designed to reflect the design of its nearby bigger sibling, the Golden Gate Bridge. The lighthouse and fog horn are currently maintained and used by the United States Coast Guard, so it's still an actual functioning light station. Despite the presence of lighthouses at the Golden Gate, there were over 300 shipwrecks here in the 19th century.

The Insider's Guide to the 2012 Mountain Play: The Music Man

May 15, 2012

The Music Man at the 2011 Mountain PlayOne of Marin County's most beloved and unique events is the famous Mountain Play—an outdoor theater experience high on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais that's been going strong for nearly a century—99 years to be exact. 2012's Mountain Play production is Meredith Wilson's The Music Man, the musical tale of fast-talking and charming con man Harold Hill and his scheme to sell the citizens of River City, Iowa on a boys' marching band.

The Mountain Play's production of The Music Man features a professional cast including local singer/songwriter and children's performer Susan Zelinsky, AKA Susan Z, as in the starring role of River City's librarian Marian Paroo and Robert Moorhead as Harold Hill. This year's play is the 30th and final production for Marin County theater legend and Mountain Play veteran James Dunn, too.

Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 20 and 27, and June 3, 10, 16, and 17. General seating ticket prices range from $30–$40. New this year is half-price general seating admission ($15) for children ages 4–13, and children 3 and under are free. Reserved seats are available for Mountain Play Fan Club members (starting at $56); higher membership levels include perks like reserved parking and special shuttle passes. Order tickets online here or by phone at (415) 383-1100.

A Family That Eats Together: Campfire Pizza

May 14, 2012

Campfire pizzaMarin Mommies presents this week's guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike. Nicole is also the creator of the new Little Froglet line of children's activewear.

Nicole's meal plan for this week features her usual delicious dishes, but today she shares with us this tasty recipe for campfire pizzas—just in time for summer camping season!

We spent a glorious weekend camping under a canopy of Redwood trees. Just North of Boonville all the way up into Anderson Valley, the next up and coming Wine Country of Northern California, is a special little campground that lies along the Navarro River. As we do with all our camping trips, and we do A LOT of them, each family takes on a meal so that all the meals are shared. Our good friends surprised us with Campfire Pizzas. I had no idea how this was going to workout. I envisioned pizza dough dripping through the rusty grates left over the campfire, but our friend Bill had a trick up his sleeve. Campfire Pie Irons! Who knew? He had an antique I think, but it worked just fine and we ate warm oozy, goosy pizzas around the campfire with all the trimmings.

Finding good camping recipes is not always the easiest but this recipe is foolproof and simple. Each pizza pie is made individually so it is easy to set up for everyone to make their own pizza with their favorite toppings. This recipe can be easily adjusted for the amount of pizzas you need.

As an extra bonus, you can add your favorite canned pie filling to the bread and for dessert, make Campfire Pies! So easy!

Marin's Spectacular Muir Woods is Not Just for Tourists

May 1, 2012

Muir WoodsWhile Muir Woods National Monument is one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most visited tourist attractions, it also holds a lot of appeal for locals willing to brave the potential crowds. Popular with Marin residents and visitors alike for over 100 years, this spectacular stand of old growth coast redwoods offers some amazing views and a chance to see the wonders of nature up close. Muir Woods was declared a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and it's been a great spot for a fun and educational family outing ever since.

For locals, a visit here is still well worth the time, but you do have to keep in mind that it's one of the region's top tourist destinations. Parking at Muir Woods is limited, so get there as early as you can—it opens at 8 am most days so it'll be ready and waiting for you.

Also, try to go during the week if you can and avoid the weekend crowds. Needless to say, the summer months are also busier than other times of the year. While it's still an amazing place regardless of how many people are there, it's even more special when it's quiet and uncrowded. Even though the parking lot was full on our last visit, once we got into the park itself the crowds thinned out and it didn't seem nearly as busy as we had expected.

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