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.

Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp 2012

February 15, 2012

Goat at Slide RanchMarin's ever popular Slide Ranch once again holds its 2012 summer day camp, with sessions taking place from June through August. Slide Ranch features programs geared for all different age groups, from the Ranch Rangers (ages 5–8), Junior Farmers (ages 8–12), and Junior Camp Counselors (ages 13–18). The Ranch Rangers program will allow 9–12-year-olds to enroll the week of July 2–6, August 6–10 and August 13–17.

Program hours are 9 am to 1:30 pm for Ranch Rangers, 9 am to 3 pm for Junior Farmers, and 8:45 am to 2 pm for Junior Camp Counselors (aftercare is available until 5 pm for an hourly rate). Fees range from $150 to $420 per week.

Slide Ranch, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area near Muir Beach, is extremely popular and offers limited enrollment, so it's important to register early. All there programs usually sell out! You can find out more information about their summer day camps, including full schedules, and download a registration form at www.slideranch.org.

Top Ten Winter Break Activities for Marin Families

December 19, 2011

Windmills at Cornerstone Place in SonomaPresenting our opinionated top ten list of fun things to do with the family during Winter Break (in no particular order):

Got your own top ten list, or additions to ours (who says it has to be only ten)? Let us know by posting a comment! Don't forget to check out our event calendar for other great ideas for Winter Break fun.

Hiking with Kids: Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District

December 12, 2011

Las Gallinas pondsI know it sounds a little strange, but a great hike that's perfect for kids can be found on the grounds of the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District in northern San Rafael. It's a complex of trails and fire roads near the district's treatment plants off of Smith Ranch Road, near McInnis Park. The gravel trails are wide and flat, and are excellent for use with off-road capable strollers and bikes. The paths wind atop levees through the wetlands bordering San Pablo Bay.

A wide variety of birds make their homes out here; we've seen white pelicans, plenty of Canada geese, mallards, cormorants, turkey vultures, several kinds of egrets, black-crowned night herons, red-wing blackbirds, and others. It's kind of a "who's who" of local avian wildlife, so make sure you bring your binoculars.

We hadn't been out here for a while, so we took the opportunity to take a family hike out here this past weekend. It's really a beautfiul and peaceful place to go, no matter what time of year.

Ride, Walk, and Play along the Tiburon Bike Path

August 22, 2011

Meandering along the Bay from Blackie's Pasture to downtown Tiburon, the Tiburon Bike Path is a worthwhile family outing on almost any day. Last week I packed up our bikes and a picnic and headed down to Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon's Trestle Glen neighborhood. I absolutely love this spot, and it's been a favorite place of mine since I was a child growing up in Marin. There's something about riding your bikes along the water on a clear day that makes you remember how lucky you are to live here.

Tiburon Bike Path, also known as Tiburon Linear Park and Tiburon Historical Trail, is a popular spot with bicyclists, joggers, and walkers of all ages. Along the way you'll find breathtaking vistas, sports fields, playgrounds, and a series of trail markers that highlight the Tiburon peninsula's gritty blue-collar past. That's right—this now exclusive enclave used to be known mainly as a railroad hub back in the days of steam engines. And did you know that swanky Belvedere was home to the McCollom Fish Company's cod processing facility in the 1860s?

Shhh… Don't Tell Anyone About Chicken Ranch Beach

July 10, 2011

Chicken Ranch Beach near Inverness in West MarinWhen the weather gets warm, it's time to think about going to the beach. Good, safe swimming beaches with warm weather can be hard to come by in Marin and Northern California, but they're out there if you know where to look. Some of them are hidden gems known only to locals and other insiders. Chicken Ranch Beach, located on Tomales Bay just outside the West Marin town of Inverness, is one of those well kept secrets. (So don't tell anyone about it, OK?)

Like Heart's Desire Beach up the road a bit in Tomales Bay State Park, Chicken Ranch Beach sits on the shallow, relatively warm waters of Tomales Bay. It's a popular place for families, with a gentle, sandy beach and no surf to speak of, only ripples that lap gently on the shore. Kids can wade, swim, play in the sand, and run to their hearts' content. Chicken Ranch Beach is a fabulous place to raise your beach umbrella, spread out a blanket or two, and spend the day relaxing in the sun. Since it's on the opposite side of Inverness Ridge from the ocean, the summer fog often burns back for a pleasant sunny day tempered by cool breezes from the mouth of Tomales Bay a few miles away. The West Marin vistas from the beach are spectacular, too. Unlike the beaches at Tomales Bay State Park, there's no entry fee here—it's free, if you can find it.

Picnics, Nature and Play at Stafford Lake Park

July 6, 2011

Stafford Lake County ParkStafford Lake, the reservoir that provides the town of Novato with much of its drinking water, is also the site of one of Marin's favorite outdoor recreation spots: Stafford Lake County Park. There are so many activities to do at this 139-acre park, and I'm surprised my family and I don't come here more often, especially since it's literally just around the corner from our house. If you haven't been there, you've certainly passed it on Novato Boulevard on your way out to the Cheese Factory or Point Reyes. You owe it to yourself to stop by and see what Stafford Lake has to offer.

One of the things that Stafford Lake offers in abundance is physical beauty—a sparkling blue lake surrounded by hills, trees, and bucolic dairy farms. Wildlife abounds, and we saw plenty of deer and of course a whole flock of the ubiquitous Canada geese that seem to inhabit every park in Northern California. We packed a picnic lunch and ate at one of the many tables scattered throughout the parks shady picnic area. Tables have charcoal BBQ grills, and group areas can accommodate up to 500 people. My kids loved the huge play structure, which seemed to be in like new condition. In fact, the whole park was extremely clean and well kept up.

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