Spring is in the air and we are turning a corner towards more sunny days. This is a great time of year to pack of the little hikers and set out on an adventure. With so many scenic spots all over the Bay Area, there are plenty that are perfect for the under 5 crew, whether they are walking or being ported in a stroller or carrier. We’ve picked our favorite few so that you have no excuse but to set out on an adventure today!
Photo courtesy of K.L via Yelp
The Presidio – San Francisco
This former military base offers tons of trails for exploring and amazing views of the San Francisco Bay. Before you go, download one of the adventure guides for kids (found here) for an interactive experience while hiking on the Ecology Trail or Anza Trail. The guides point out native plants and animals, talk about the history of The Presidio and help kids explore the area while hiking. Everyone will enjoy stopping at the Julius Kahn Playground before you head home.
China Camp State Park – San Rafael
For beautiful views of San Pablo Bay, park along San Pedro Road at the north end of China Camp and head to the Turtle Back Nature Trail. This wheelchair-accessible trail is perfect for young walkers and strollers as no bikes are allowed on the trail. Stop along the way to read the placards that provide information about the flora and fauna of the park. Full of wildflowers in the spring, this hike provides some shade for the hotter months.
Buena Vista Park – San Francisco
Looking for a little nature in the city? The oldest park in the city offers tons of shade on a hot, sunny day. Climb on the fallen down trees and make your way to the top of the park for views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The trails here are short and there are lots of stairs so strollers are not recommended. You can find parking at Upper Terrace and Buena Vista Ave East streets.
Mori Point – Pacifica
Stunning views are just a short walk away when you head to Mori Point. Park near the Moose Lodge on Bradford Way and Mori Point Road and a flat path takes you straight to the shore. Kids will enjoy the wetlands full of flowers and birds along the way. When you get to the coast, you can turn right and continue to walk along the water for a great view of the Pacific Ocean. Head to Mori Point in the spring and you may even be lucky enough to spot a whale off-shore.
Coyote Point – San Mateo
Right next to CuriOdyssey (a cool science and wildlife museum) you will find picturesque Coyote Point. Take the Marina Trail to see the boats docked in the marina and the planes landing at SFO nearby. Bluff and Promenade Trails follow the coast line through a eucalyptus forest down a moderate to steep slope. These trails are paved but can be more challenging on the return trip. Reward the kids by ending the hike at the Magic Mountain Playground.
McClellan Ranch Preserve – Cupertino
This 18-acre park in Cupertino offers a paved, flat path which is perfect for hiking with kids or pushing a stroller. Park near the barn at the McClellan Road entrance and you can peek in at the 4-H animals that live at the ranch before setting out on a walk. The paved path takes you next to Stevens Creek and there are even some designated spots to access the creek from the path. Just past the bocce ball and volleyball area you will find a little climbing structure right near Blackberry Farm (a community pool that’s open to the public in the summer). The path does not loop so you’ll have to turn around at some point but that means another chance to visit with the miniature horses and goats on your way to the car. The nature museum is open Fridays 3-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Alviso Marina County Park – San Jose
Explore the salt ponds and marshes of Alviso Marina County Park in San Jose. Young hikers can easily manage the flat pathways and boardwalks in the park. Birds and other wildlife are plentiful as this park is part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The 0.5 mile New Chicago Marsh Trail is perfect for little walkers and strollers. Stop in and check out the Environmental Education Center if it is open (hours Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) for some educational fun.
Coyote Lake Harvey Bear County Park – Gilroy
South on 101 from San Jose and past Morgan Hill will get you to this county park with a gorgeous lake that’s open for boating in the summer. Enter at the Coyote Lake entrance and you can hike the Lakeside Trail all the way to the dam. It’s nice and flat with lots of birds and butterflies to see along the way. If you want a shorter option, park at one of the picnic areas and hike to the dam. Kayaks that have been inspected by a ranger are allowed in the water when the water levels are high enough. The park also offers tons of more challenging hikes where you can see deer, wild turkeys and sometimes even a feral pig or two.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – Felton
This state park located right next to Roaring Camp Railroad can be found off highway 17 as you head south to Santa Cruz. The 0.8 mile Redwood Grove Loop trail is a favorite of little hikers as it offers some amazing trees along the way. Head to the Fremont Tree where you can literally walk inside this living redwood tree (grab a flashlight from the visitor’s center or use your smartphone’s flashlight app as it is very dark inside the tree). There are picnic tables along the way and if you are lucky you may spot a banana slug or two. Walk across the parking lot after you are done to check out the steam engine trains at Roaring Camp.
Photo courtesy of Joseph S. via Yelp
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve – Berkeley
With the promise of seeing some old remnants of volcanoes, you may be able to get the kids motivated to hike the 2 mile Overlook Trail at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Kids will love circling the rock labyrinths with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Diablo. Bring Fido with you as dogs are allowed on most of the trails here.
Sunol Regional Wilderness – Sunol
Head to the Old Green Barn Visitor’s Center (open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and grab a brochure for the self-guided tour of the Indian Joe Nature Trail. This one-mile hike is very flat and has beautiful landscape, a bridge over a creek and tons of wildlife to keep the young ones interested.
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness – San Ramon
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness offers over 5,000 acres of wilderness and trails for exploring. The Bolinger Creek Trail can be accessed by parking at the end of Bolinger Creek Road. This trail offers a lot of shade and a variety of landscapes to keep the hiking fun. It is a little hilly so it’s better for kids on foot or in a backpack rather than in the stroller. Head over to the stables after you finish your hike to visit with the horses.
Tilden Regional Park – Berkeley
A botanic garden, merry-go-round and the Little Farm are just a few of the features of this gorgeous park in Berkeley. Visitors looking for a nice walk with the under 5 crew will enjoy hiking around Jewel Lake. Park near the Little Farm and walk along the boardwalk through the marsh while you look for tadpoles, ducks and turtles. There are benches along the way for snack breaks. Be sure to save some time at the end of your hike to visit the cows, sheep, goats and pigs at the Little Farm (open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Where do your tots like to get their hike on? Let us know below!
– Kate Loweth
All photos by the author except where noted.