Bay Area Hiker: Hiking with kids
Hiking with kids
These are kid-friendly parks and preserves. Some have restrooms with running water. If not indicated, expect more primitive toilet facilities. Be sure to check with the park or preserve before you go; nature centers and children-specific facilities are usually open only a few days a week, or may be closed in the winter.

South Bay
Rancho San Antonio County Park/Open Space Preserve
Rancho San Antonio's Deer Hollow Farm is one of the bay area's most popular family destinations. Visit on a summer weekend and be prepared for the crowds. For a quieter experience, go between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 10-acre working farm and educational center boasts an assortment of animals and an amazing garden. Programs for school groups and other organizations are available during the week. You must trek into the farm, a flat walk of about a mile from the Rancho San Antonio parking lot (groups can use a closer parking lot with prior permission). The park and open space preserve boast picnic grounds and restrooms.

Hidden Villa
A non-profit organization runs this organic farm and wilderness preserve. You'll find trails ranging from flat and easy to winding and tough, picnic tables, farm animals, a short nature path, and restrooms.

Coyote Point Museum and Recreation Area
Hiking is limited here by the small size of the recreation area and its proximity to urban sprawl. But Coyote Point makes a great day destination for families with young children. First visit the museum, where educational exhibits instruct on the bay area's environmental and nature issues. In the wildlife habitat area, you may see bobcat, grey fox, badger, and a host of birds. Afterwards, you can walk or drive to the recreation area's clusters of picnic tables, or sit on the beach and watch the windsurfers. Restrooms on site.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Easy beach access, picnic tables, restrooms, and extensive tidepools. A great educational destination.

Picchetti Ranch
Kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of the resident peacock. Restrooms on site. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, instead shorten the hike with an out-and-back trek on Zinfandel Trail. A few pear, plum, and walnut trees still bear fruit in an old orchard.

Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
The preserve offers a nature center and easy hiking around Alpine Pond, where children can look for crayfish, ducks, dragonflies, and birds. The level 0.4 mile semi-loop hike takes place on an all-access trail, appropriate for strollers.

San Bruno Mountain State and County Park
A large picnic area, as well as restrooms and gentle trails, make San Bruno a fine family destination. Saddle Loop and Bog Loop, on the park's north side, are the best trail choices.

Portola Redwoods State Park
Very educational and engaging visitor center, restrooms, picnic areas, and first-rate camping. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids; instead shorten it to a jaunt on the Sequoia Nature Trail.

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Redwood Trail, a 0.6 mile out-and-back all-access path, is lined with redwood, huckleberry, madrone, and tanoak. This is a good spot for nature study and plant identification, as there is virtually no poison oak. Picnic tables along the path make Redwood Trail a nice lunch stop.

San Pedro Valley Park
This Pacifica park has a nature center, picnic area, restrooms, and self-guided nature trail. Good choices are the Brooks Falls/Old Trout loop, and Valley View Loop.

Huddart County Park
The 0.75 mile all-access Chickadee Trail allows parents with children in strollers to hike through a magnificent display of bay area plants, including redwoods, chaparral, and oak. This trail is particularly enticing in late winter and early spring, when water gushes down a gorge visible from the trail.

Arastradero Preserve
Lovely gentle grassland climbs, but no real facilities. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike may be easy enough for older kids. Look for cottontail rabbits and quail on Corte Madera Trail and birds around Arastradero Lake.

Santa Teresa County Park
Picnic areas, restrooms, some trails with moderate elevation changes. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids; choose instead a loop on Mine and Hidden Springs Trail. Good wildflowers in the spring.

Calero County Park
Picnic area, some mostly level trails. The entire Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids; instead hike on Los Cerritos Trail until it turns away from the reservoir and begins to climb, then retrace your steps to the trailhead. Great wildflowers in the spring.

Edgewood Park and Preserve
Picnic area, restrooms. Moderate trails. Best suited for older kids. Small waterfalls in the winter on Sylvan Trail, great wildflowers in the springs. Watch for poison oak.

Junipero Serra County Park
Picnic area, restrooms, some playground equipment. Small park with "kid-sized" trails. Close to San Francisco, and so easy to get to from the city or upper peninsula, but Junipero Serra is also squeezed on all sides by residential neighborhoods and Highway 280. The Live Oak Nature Trail is worth a visit. Beware of poison oak; there's a lot throughout the park.

Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park
Picnic tables, level trail, but primitive facilities. Kids may enjoy the variety of plants (lots of berries), but watch out for stinging nettles and poison oak.

Los Alamitos Creek Trail
A flat paved out-and-back trail departs from Almaden Lake Park, where you can picnic and swim. A good summertime destination, complete with restrooms and drinking water.

Villa Montalvo County Park
Trails wander along creekbeds, a redwood canyon, and lead to a viewpoint with a sweeping view east. Watch out for poison oak along some trails.

North Bay
Mount Tamalpais/Sky Oaks Trailhead
This is one of the best family trailheads in the North Bay. Restrooms, picnic areas, and a selection of level, lakeside trails. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, instead try the loop around Lake Lagunitas. Lots of wildlife in the area; children may enjoy looking for animal prints on the trail.

Mount Tamalpais/Phoenix Lake
After a short climb, hike around Phoenix Lake. Picnic area near the parking lot. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids.

Mount Tamalpais/East Peak
Verna Dunshee Trail makes a flat 0.6 mile loop around East Peak and is paved. Easy parking and restrooms are a bonus.

Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
This park may be too long of a drive for a family with small kids, but it offers level paths through redwood groves, picnic areas, and restrooms. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, instead stick to the paths through the redwood groves.

China Camp State Park
A few level and easy trails, restrooms, historical displays. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but it can be cut short; from the junction with Shoreline and Miwok Trail, turn back and retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Olompali State Historic Park
Picnic tables, historical displays, some level trails. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but it can be shortened to an out-and-back hike to Miwok Village.

Shiloh Ranch Regional Park
This small park boasts a picnic area, restrooms, and a few miles of trails. A good spot for a picnic and family hike, very close to Highway 101.

GGNRA/Muir Beach
Beach access, and level trail that leads through Green Gulch Farm. A great place to show kids how food is grown. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but it can be shortened; take Green Gulch Trail to the edge of the farm section, then turn around and retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Point Reyes/Abbott's Lagoon
A mostly level trail leads to the beach. Restrooms on site.

Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds
Restrooms, picnic area, birdwatching, and flat trails along a marsh and past wildlife ponds.

Marin Headlands/Tennessee Valley
Beach access via a flat easy trail. Picnic tables. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, instead take an out-and-back hike to the ocean.

East Bay
Tilden Regional Park
The best park for young children in the bay area. Pony rides, steam trains, little farm, carousel, swimming beach are offered. Restrooms and picnic facilities available. Some easy short hiking trails surround the kid's area. The Bay Area Hiker featured hike will probably be too hard for kids, but visit EBRPD's website for more details about kid's activities at Tilden, and check their map for appropriate trails.

Joaquin Miller Park
This City of Oakland Park is easy to get to, and features lots of picnic areas, restrooms, and some flat trails. This is a good place to teach kids about trail etiquette, as there are usually lots of hikers, joggers, cyclists, and equestrians on the park's trails.

This small park features a paved path around a lagoon, plenty of parking, picnic areas, primitive restrooms, and easy stroller/wheelchair access. There are lots of ducks, geese, seagulls, and squirrels to watch, and pretty views of San Francisco Bay, Mount Tamalpais, San Francisco, and Angel Island.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline
Picnic areas, children's play area, shuttle bus to fishing pier, restrooms, flat trails.

Point Isabel Regional Shoreline
Picnic tables, restrooms, flat paved trails, dogs permitted off leash.

Briones Regional Park (Bear Creek Trailhead)
Picnic facilities, restroom, some flat trails. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike might be too tough for young kids, but Old Briones Road is nearly flat, and makes a nice out-and-back hike.

Coyote Hills Regional Park
Nature center, some flat trails, historical displays, picnic areas. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but check the map for easy, flat loop hikes through the marsh on Chochenyo, D.U.S.T., Muskrat, and Tuibin Trails.

Redwood Regional Park
Picnic areas, some flat trails. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but check the map for easy, flat out-and-back hikes along Redwood Creek. In the winter, you may come across large groups of ladybugs on Stream Trail.

Del Valle Regional Park
Swimming beaches, picnic areas, some flat trails, visitor center. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids, but check the map for out-and-back hikes on easy, flat lakeside paths.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Mostly flat trails, restrooms, interpretive geologic exhibits, labyrinths.

Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks
Visitor center, restrooms, kite field, some flat trails, picnic areas. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike will probably be too tough for young kids,
Anthony Chabot Regional Park
Family camping, picnic areas, restrooms, several easy trails. Bay Area Hiker's featured hike (departing from the Bort Meadow/Grass Valley Trailhead) will probably be too tough for young kids, but you can shorten it to a loop combining Grass Valley Trail and Brandon Trail. Also, check the Chabot map for picnic areas and easy, flat trails around Lake Chabot.

Mount Diablo State Park
Although much of Mount Diablo State Park is rugged terrain, the gentle Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail near the summit makes a fine family excursion. Visit the Summit Museum and Store, where you and your children can see nature exhibits and pick up a map to the intrepretive trail, then take an easy 0.7 mile loop stroll on the Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail. Fantastic views, great education on geology and local plants. Be alert to poison oak, and steep dropoffs in places. Restrooms available at the Summitt Museum, and picnic facilities are scattered throughout the park.

Paved trails for traditional strollers
San Francisco:
• Golden Gate Park (many paved paths)
• Lake Merced (loop around lake plus short paths in Harding Park)

Peninsula/South Bay:
Bay Trail (various locations, some of which are mentioned below)
Bayfront Park (various unnamed trails)
Palo Alto Baylands (sidewalks and paths on the western edge of the preserve)
Half Moon Bay State Beach (paved path from Blufftop Coastal Park to the state beach)
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (Redwood Grove Loop and Pipeline trails)
• Coyote Creek Parkway (15 mile paved trail along creek)
• Los Gatos Creek Trail (long paved trail along creek)
Los Alamitos Creek Trail (4.7 miles of pavement)
Milagra Ridge (unnamed paved old roads)
Sweeney Ridge (Sneath Lane Trail, paved but with a very steep uphill section)
Rancho San Antonio County Park/Open Space Preserve (paved path to Little Farm)
Old Guadalupe Trail, San Bruno Mountain County Park (0.8 mile)
Sawyer Camp Trail (5 miles of pavement, very popular)
Shoreline at Mountain View (sidewalk paths in the park)

East Bay:
• Alameda Creek Trail (12 miles near Union City/Fremont)
• Antioch-Oakley Regional Shoreline (short paths near shoreline)
Cesar Chavez/North Waterfront Park (paved paths on the waterfront)
• Contra Costa Canal Trail (13.8 miles near I-680)
• Contra Loma Regional Park (short shoreline paths)
Crown Memorial State Beach (paved path through the park and then sidewalk between the beach and road)
• Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area (short shoreline path)
• Delta de Anza Trail (15 miles in the Pittsburg area)
• Don Castro Regional Recreation Area (shoreline paths)
• Lafayette-Moraga Trail (7.6 miles)
Lafayette Reservoir (2.7 miles around the reservoir)
• Lake Chabot (paved shoreline trail)
• Marsh Creek Trail (6.5 miles between Oakley and Brentwood)
Martin Lurther King Jr. Regional Shoreline (paved paths along the edge of San Leandro Bay)
Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline (paved paths through developed part of this park)
Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline (paths along shoreline south of Oakland Airport)
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline (dog-friendly shoreline paths)
• Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area (short paved shoreline path)
Sycamore Grove Park (unnamed paved paths near Livermore)
Point Pinole Regional Shoreline (paved road through the middle of the park)
• Temescal Regional Recreation Area (paved shoreline paths)
• Tilden Botanic Gardens (network of paved paths through gorgeous garden)
• Tilden Regional Park (very popular 4 mile Nimitz Way)

North Bay:
• Perimeter Road, Angel Island State Park
Verna Dunshee Trail, Mount Tamalpais State Park
Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve
• Tennessee Valley Trail, Marin Headlands
• Corte Madera Creek Trail (from Bon Air to Lagunitas Road)
Sonoma Valley Regional Park (one paved trail)
• Old Lucas Valley Road and Mission Pass Bike Path, Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide (north)
• Shoreline Park (path along San Rafael Bay)
• Earthquake Trail, Point Reyes
• Cross Marin Trail, Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Flat or mildly graded unpaved trails for sport strollers
All of the above trails, plus:
San Francisco:
Crissy Field (flat trail and paved sidewalk)
• Lands End (out and back trail on bluff above coast)

Peninsula/South Bay:
Bair Island (all trails)
Ranch Road, Burleigh Murray State Park (1 mile, no possible connections)
Cowell Ranch Beach (out and back to beach overlook)
Chickadee Trail, Huddart County Park (0.7 mile, not perfectly flat, but easy)
Pillar Point (out and back to beach)
Saddle and Bog trails, San Bruno Mountain County Park (two loops, one little and one big)
Weiler Ranch Road, San Pedro Valley Park (out and back through a valley)

East Bay:
Coyote Hills Regional Park (marsh trails and Alameda Creek Trail)
Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks (trails around Jordan Pond)
Hayward Regional Shoreline (all trails)
Quarry Lakes Regional Shoreline (all trails, with connections to Alameda Creek Trail)
Redwood Regional Park (eastern section of Stream Trail)
Marsh Trail, Rush Ranch (short loop)

North Bay:
Armstrong Redwoods State Park (redwood grove trails)
Bear Valley Trail, Point Reyes (out and back, heavily used)
Abbotts Lagoon Trail, Point Reyes (out and back to sand dunes)
Olompali State Park (out and back to Miwok Village)
Maxwell Farms Regional Park (all trails)
Phoenix Lake, Mount Tamalpais/MMWD (uphill, out and back to lake)
Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds (all trails)
Rush Creek Open Space Preserve (all trails)
Tennessee Valley Trail, Marin Headlands (out and back to ocean, with the last stretch over loose sand)
Tubbs Island (all trails)
Santa Venetia Marsh Open Space Preserve (all trails)
Indian Valley Fire Road, Indian Valley Open Space Preserve (out and back, lots of foot traffic)

Note: unpaved paths are commonly muddy in winter and early spring

Tips for hiking with babies
• Make a list and check it each time before you head out.
• Don't forget sun protection for babies under 6 months, like a floppy hat, or a light blanket.
• Keep babies warm. Bring an extra blanket, as well as a jacket and hat.

Tips for hiking with kids

(with thanks to Dorothy Greco, mother of three)
• Be sure to educate about trail hazards (hydration, poison oak, rattlesnakes) before hitting the trails.
• A trip to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek ( or the Coyote Point Museum in Burlingame ( may be good introductions to bay area wildlife.
• Apply sunscreen, and supply a hat.
• Be sure to pack snacks and plenty of liquids. Avoid caffinated beverages. Salty treats will replenish liquids lost to sweat better than sweet things.
• Honor their limits. Rest when they need to. Turn back before you planned if necessary. Pushing a child beyond his/her physical limit will not be fun for anyone.
• Before you go, show them photos of plants and animals they might see along the way. Help them "see" acorns, leaves, flowers, and animal prints. Some kids might enjoy bringing a small pad of paper and pencils so they can draw what they see.
• Many children will be motivated by a special something at the end of the hike; a waterfall, unusual rock formation, or pretty picnic spot.
• Be alert to trail traffic. If possible, choose hiking-only trails to avoid conflicts with cyclists and equestrians. If you hike a multi-access trail, be sure your children are aquainted with trail etiquette.
• Before your trip, choose a strategy for bathroom needs. Bring soap and a towel to clean up.