When the sun is shining, the open road beckons. Or at the very least, the open bike path does. Little pedal pushers are ready to show what they can do, whether they’re scooting on a balance bike or shifting gears astride a 21-speeder. Following are some of our favorite Bay Area family-friendly trails. Let’s ride!
Photo: Carol Shoaff via Flickr
Mission Creek Park
With views of AT&T Park in the background, this approximately half-mile-long tiled straightaway is ideal, with a wide pathway and ample room for your little tike to coast away. The path runs along Mission Creek in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighborhood. Make your way down this scenic esplanade and follow the windy paved path and rolling green grass, taking in the sights of this urban oasis. Bonus: This park boasts some of the city’s cleanest public restrooms.
Getting There: Access Mission Creek from Channel or Berry Street between 4th and 5th streets. Check out a map and get more info at missionbayparks.com.
Golden Gate Park
It may seem obvious, but the jewel of the city has some of the best bicycle paths for the littles, with just a few mild gradients. On Sundays and holidays, John F. Kennedy Drive is closed to car traffic from Stanyan Street—where the Panhandle begins—to 20th Avenue. That leaves it free and clear for bicycles, skaters and pedestrians. If you want to continue exploring, the trail leaves JFK Drive near Lloyd Lake, veering southwest, passing near the Polo Field. You’ll eventually cross Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and end up near Lincoln Way at the Great Highway—just across from Ocean Beach.
Getting There: If you’re driving, car parking in and around Golden Gate Park can be tough on the weekends, but not impossible. Many Muni buses accommodate bicycles with racks on the bus exterior. Visit https://www.sfmta.com
Good to Know: Bike in the shop with a blown tube? Several bicycle rental companies are located just outside the park. For more information, visit https://goldengatepark.com/biking.html
Photo: Kate McCarthy via Flickr
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city! Fabulous views and a sea-breeze await you and your little explorers on Angel Island. Hit the Perimeter Road, a six-mile, partially paved path that casually loops around the island. The perfect trail for families, Bay Area Rides describes the route as “the best ride for all ages in California”. With plenty of opportunities for Instagram-worthy pitstops, the circuitous road boasts a 360-degree panorama of the entire San Francisco Bay. The best bit? No cars are allowed on the Island so little riders can let off steam, while moms and dads can hang back and soak up the view.
Getting There: The ferry, of course! Catch it in Tiburon on the Marin side and at Pier 41 in San Francisco. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Angel Island Tiburon Ferry and the Blue & Gold Fleet for San Francisco tickets.
A short drive from downtown Fairfax in the North Bay, you’ll find Lake Lagunitas, a two-mile lakeside loop perfect for little scooters and bikers alike. The smallest lake in the Mount Tamalpais watershed, Lake Lagunitas is ideal for new riders with its wide pathway and no major uphills or downhills to navigate. Bring your hats, sunglasses and drinks galore for you and your minis, as the Lake can be a sun-trap in warmer weather.
Getting There: Find detailed driving directions to Lake Lagunitas at marinwater.org.
Good to Know: Be sure to have cash on hand for the $8 park entrance fee.
Photo: Yannina Pacis
Another fantastic family ride, this almost-flat (most of the way), trail is great for a full day trip or for more adventurous older riders. It’s a 3.4-mile roundtrip from the parking area. Cruise your way through a valley that’s replete with wildflowers like lupine, California poppies and buttercups in the spring, and sticky monkey flowers and sagebrush in the summer. When you arrive at the ocean, lock up and head over to the pretty, secluded Tennessee Cove for a well-deserved picnic on the beach.
Getting There: Tennessee Valley Road is not far from the junction to Stinson Beach and Mill Valley. For directions, visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area site.
Good to Know: Leave Fido at home as no four-legged friends are allowed on the main Tennessee Valley Trail.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Nestled in the wooded hills of Marin, Samuel P. Taylor State Park boasts a partly paved, 3-mile bike trail, the Cross Marin Trail. It’s conveniently close to the campgrounds, and also welcomes well-behaved pooches. Following the former Northwest Pacific Railroad right-of-way, the trail is almost level, making it excellent for new riders. Kids will enjoy listening to the sound of the bubbling Lagunitas Creek and pointing out some wildlife along the way.
Getting There: The park is on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, 30 minutes west of San Rafael. For driving directions. visit parks.ca.gov.
Good to Know: Be sure to bring $8 for day-use parking. Also, take a peek at their website parks.ca.gov, before you go for the latest on any trail closures.
Redwood Regional Park
Tucked inside Oakland’s Redwood Regional Park, you and your kiddos will enjoy this one-mile paved, flat trail through a magical redwood forest. With plenty of room for little legs to pedal or run, both open meadow and trail provide a nature-rich adventure for all ages. Great for families with little and bigger cyclists, the Stream Trail is paved far enough along the route for a decent bicycle or tricycle ride and there’s a children’s play structure about one-quarter mile down the path. Bonus! Pack a snack and a trail map, and let those wheels rip.
Getting There: The main entrance, Redwood Gate, is on Redwood Road in Oakland about two miles east of Skyline Blvd. See ebparks.org for more info.
Good to Know: Some trails may be closed for maintenance, due to slides from the heavy winter rains. Be sure to check the website before you go.
Photo: Amy P. via Yelp
Contra Costa Canal Trail
This picturesque paved path is perfect for little cyclists who might still have the wobbles and don’t want to deal with hills. Running along the Contra Costa Canal, the trail is popular with joggers and horseback riders, too. Since it runs nearly 14 miles in a rough horseshoe, riders can pick it up in several different staging areas and ride a portion of it—or the whole kit and kaboodle. Along the way, parents can talk with kids about how the Canal provides drinking water to Martinez and other cities, pumped in from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. The landscape is diverse, including forested areas as well as more open spaces.
Getting There: Pick up the trail in in Concord at Lime Ridge, in Pleasant Hill at La Juntas Park, or in Walnut Creek at Heather Farm Park or Larkey Park. The trail passes right between the Contra Costa Country Club and Diablo Valley College. For more information, visit the East Bay Regional Parks site.
Good to Know: It’s easy to pick up the trail near the Pleasant Hill BART station. If you drive, finding street parking is fairly easy.
Bay Farm Island Loop Trail
The neighborhood of Bay Farm is a charming little enclave of Alameda. With wildflowers aplenty in the spring and a nice flat grade, this 6-mile paved loop is ideal for getting those newbie pedal-pushers some serious practice in a pretty setting. The trail goes through Shoreline Park at the northern end, and around the Chuck Corica Municipal Golf Complex. If you need to make a pit stop, Shoreline Park has several restrooms.
Getting There: The Harbor Bay Isle Ferry Terminal serves the Alameda Bay Harbor Ferry. From land, the island can be reached on the Bay Farm Island Bridge, which boasts its own bicycle lane. For more information, visit alamedaca.gov
Good to Know: Download this handy map, and you’re on your way!
Photo: Jayson Lorenzen via Flickr
Coyote Point Recreation Area Trails
Nice and flat, this scenic section of the larger San Francisco Bay Trail is the perfect place to introduce new cyclists to two-wheeled action, or get those training wheels off—finally! Several paved pathways connect to a variety of different areas of the park. Just be sure to observe all posted speed limits and be aware of those out for a stroll. Bicycles should also stay on the designated paths—bonus that they’re all paved! When your little riders need a break, they can head to Magic Mountain Playground with its signature dragon and castle slides and play structures. Bring a picnic—there are several picnic tables and grassy areas for noshing.
Getting There: For directions, contact info, and hours, go to the County of San Mateo Parks site.
Good to Know: New automated pay stations mean you don’t have to carry cash for the $6 entry/parking fee. The machines accept debit and credit cards, too. Be sure to leave your proof of payment stub on the driver’s side dashboard of your car when you park. One machine is located at the entrance, and the other at the Beach Group parking area.
Saddle Loop Trail
Got older kids? Check out Saddle Loop Trail, a two-mile gravel loop that passes through a eucalyptus grove and mature cypress trees up on top of San Bruno Mountain. Zip along the satisfyingly crunchy limestone and breathe in that sweet eucalyptus scent all while taking in killer views of the Bay, San Francisco Skyline and Sutro Tower.
Getting There: Access the Trail from the Main Parking Lot and stay south of Guadalupe Canyon Road. You can get directions here.
Good to Know: You might see some horseback riders and hikers along the trail, but no dogs are allowed in the park. For more information, visit the County of San Mateo Parks site.
Photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr
Los Alamitos Creek Trail
Beginning at Almaden Lake Park in south San Jose, the Los Alamitos Creek Trail is yet another fantastically easy beginner ride. One long paved straightaway that’s shaded by trees makes this one a great choice for a hot day. Feeling more ambitious? Why not go whole-hog and tackle the full 4.7-mile length? The Trail connects to the Almaden Creek Trail. The whole trail runs along the creek from Los Alamitos Park and Lake Almaden south to McKean Road. With no undulations, it should be a breeze for everyone in the family.
Getting There: The trail is located off Winfield Boulevard. For more information, visit the sanjoseca.gov website.
Good to Know: Scan your route with a trail map, found here. Parking can be limited, so plan ahead.
What are some of your favorite bike trails for a family ride? Share with us!