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.

The Mountain Play is Alive with the Sound of Music!

May 20, 2013

The Sound of Music at the Mountain Play 2013The Mountain Play makes musical magic once again in its 100th anniversary production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. Featuring classic songs that you surely know by heart, including Do-Re-Mi, My Favorite Things, Climb Ev'ry Mountain, and Edelweiss, this year's play is directed by Bay Area theater veteran Jay Manley and features a superb cast, especially the local kids in the roles of the Von Trapp children.

The Sound of Music tells the familiar story of Maria Rainer, sent from Salzburg's Nonnberg Abbey as governess to the seven children of widowed naval officer Georg von Trapp, all under the shadows of the 1938 Nazi takeover of Austria. The Sound of Music is probably most familiar in its 1965 movie form, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Great tickets are still available for Mountain Play performances on May 26 and June 2, 8, 9, and 16. All shows begin at 2 pm.

The Insider's Guide to the 2013 Mountain Play: The Sound of Music

May 13, 2013

Sound of MusicOne 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 a century! This year's 100th-anniversary Mountain Play production is Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, the unforgettable story of spirited young governess Maria Rainer, Captain von Trapp and his seven children, and Austria on the eve of the Nazi takeover.

Featuring classic songs like Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, and My Favorite Things, the Mountain Play's production of The Sound of Music is directed by Jay Manley, and features Heather Buck as Maria, Ryan Drummond as Georg von Trapp, and Susan Zelinsky (Marin Paroo in last year's production of The Music Man) as Else Schraeder. Musical direction is by Mountain Play veteran Debra Chambliss.

Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 19 and 26, and June 2, 8, 9, and 16. General seating ticket prices range from $20–$40., 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.

Family Hike at Phoenix Lake

April 13, 2013

Phoenix LakeLike Tennessee Valley further to the south, Phoenix Lake is one of Marin's most popular spots for outdoor recreation. Located on Marin Municipal Water District watershed lands, Phoenix Lake sits at the base of Mt. Tamalpais near the town of Ross. It's a great place for a family hike or bike ride with small children, as the trails that lead to the lake and ring it have gentle slopes and relatively short distances that are manageable by most. There are also numerous more challenging trails accessible from Phoenix lake that are sure to please more advanced hikers or mountain bikers. You'll see a lot of people running and walking dogs (on-leash dogs are allowed on trails) as well as hiking and mountain biking.

Nature and Outdoor Fun at Audubon Canyon Ranch's Martin Griffin Preserve

March 26, 2013

Martin Griffin Preserve at Audubon Canyon RanchThis spring and summer, experience some of Marin's natural wonders at the spectacular Martin Griffin Preserve. Run by Audubon Canyon Ranch, Martin Griffin Preserve is a 1,000-acre preserve near Stinson Beach and Bolinas that's home to one of the West Coast's most important nesting sites for Great Egrets. These large and majestic wading birds nest in the redwood trees that surround the preserve, and can be observed every year from mid-March through mid-July.

While on our last visit the birds still hadn't arrived yet (they're due there any day now), there's still plenty for families to do. It's a fun place to spend a Saturday or Sunday, and you'll find hiking trails, scenic overlooks and observation points, ponds, a display hall, a bird hide, a picnic area, and plenty of enthusiastic and knowledgable volunteers who are happy to help children and parents and answer questions.

Waterfalls Await on Mt. Tamalpais' Cataract Trail

January 13, 2013

Cataract Falls on Mt. TamalpaisDuring winter and early spring, and especially after a rainstorm, a family hike along on Mount Tamalpais's cataract trail will reward you with stunning scenery and a series of spectacular waterfalls. This out-and-back hike is about 2.6 miles round trip, and should be manageable by most kids—we saw plenty of families on the trail during out last trek.

The trail is on the Mt. Tam lands administered by the Marin Municipal Water District, and follows Cataract Creek as it flows gently downhill. You'll pass through a magical forest of Douglas firs, oaks, ferns, and moss-covered rocks on the way to Laurel Dell picnic area. Pass through Laurel Dell and the trail heads downhill to the first in a series of waterfalls.

The easiest approach to the Cataract Trail for families is from the Rock Spring trailhead, which is at the junction of East and West Ridgecrest Boulevards. Park here and head out onto the Cataract Trail, the beginning of which you'll find off the center of the parking area. There is an alternate approach from Bolinas–Fairfax Road, near Alpine Dam, but the trail here is largely uphill, and parking along the road can be difficult.

Watching the Salmon of Lagunitas Creek

January 2, 2013

Salmon crossing on Lagunitas Creek While many think of heading out to Point Reyes for whale watching in the winter, it's also possible to get a glimpse of another fascinating aquatic creature in Marin County: the coho salmon. Winter, from approximately late November through February, is spawning season for the endangered coho salmon, and West Marin's Lagunitas Creek is home to one of the largest populations of wild coho in California. There are several places along the creek where you can view these magnificent fish on their final journey upstream.

January is one of the best times to go look for coho in Lagunitas Creek, especially a few days after a rainstorm. Salmon can range in size from two to three feet, and the spawning males turn a bright red color and develop a hooked upper jaw called a "kype." Spawning female coho are a darker, more muted red with a white tail. Salmon fresh from the Pacific which haven't yet developed their spawning colors are a gray or olive color. You may also see steelhead trout in the creek; both male and female steelheads are silver with black-spotted backs and pink stripe down the side.

Coho salmon spend the majority of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, but travel back to the freshwater streams where they were born to spawn. After spawning, the adult salmon die and the life cycle begins again. Young coho hatch in the fresh water, where they live for about a year until they make their trip downstream to the ocean.

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