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.

Have a Family Picnic This Labor Day Weekend

August 28, 2013

Labor Day PicnicLabor Day Weekend, that final chance to enjoy summer vacation (even though many kids in Marin are back in school already). While a backyard barbeque is a Labor Day tradition, why not plan a picnic with friends and family? It's fun, you don't have to clean up the house either before or after, and there are plenty of awesome picnic spots in Marin and the North Bay. (This weekend's weather is supposed to be nice, too.)

Here are a few tips for planning a picnic:

  • Have every family bring a different dish, but still don't forget to pack plenty of food and drink. It’s always better to have more than less!
  • Make a checklist for all the things you’ll need to bring, like folding chairs, picnic blankets, games, food, drink, etc.
  • Plenty of active games and outdoor toys will keep the kids occupied while the grownups relax.
  • Get to your picnic spot early to find a good place, especially on a holiday weekend. I always look for a spot with a little bit of shade and some sun, too, that won’t be in total shade later on the day.

Birds, Beaches, and Boats in Bodega Bay

August 27, 2013

Birds at Salmon Creek BeachWhen I was a kid, I thought that Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was one of the scariest movies ever. Not only was the idea of thousands of birds randomly attacking people frightening, but the fact that it all took place in the small Sonoma County coastal town of Bodega Bay, just north of Marin County, made it hit pretty close to home.

Of course now I know that Bodega Bay is great place to visit (and that a mass bird attack is really pretty unlikely). Since it's the 50th anniversary of The Birds, it's a great time to visit to check out locations from the movies and to have some family fun, too. It's one of our favorite places to visit.

Unlike the relatively unspoiled wilderness of Point Reyes National Seashore, Bodega Bay and its surrounding areas are more developed and commercialized, and have much more of that "classic beach town" atmosphere. You'll find kite shops, salt water taffy and ice cream stands, and restaurants in abundance, and many of the restaurants in Bodega Bay get their seafood from the fishing boats that tie up right alongside them.

Bodega Bay Beaches

You'll find several stretches of beach in Bodega Bay. When we're there, we like to visit Salmon Creek Beach. Part of the Sonoma Coast State Park, it's located about five minutes north of town. (Look for the sign and the parking area.) Located where Salmon Creek spills into the Pacific Ocean, this broad expanse of beach is popular with families. It's also a great place to look for shells and sand dollars, especially at low tide. Salmon Creek Beach can get really busy on weekends, so be prepared to scamble for a parking spot.

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.

Javascript is required to view this map.