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.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Mt. Tamalpais' East Peak

August 14, 2012

Mount Tamalpais East Peak Verna Dunshee TrailI grew up hiking on the trails of Mt. Tam with my family, and have fond memories of walking around the summit of the mountain and marveling at the fantastic views. The East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais is a great place to go for families looking to take a hike with small children, and it also offers what are arguably the most spectacular views of any hike in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it's a great spot to take out-of-town visitors, too.

The easy, paved, .7-mile Verna Dunshee Trail that circles the mountaintop is accessible and perfect for strollers, too, and it's recently been repaved and upgraded. In addition to panoramic views of the Bay Area, the East Peak has a small visitor center and gift shop, as well as a seasonal snack bar offering candy, hot dogs, ice cream, and sodas. It's always a great place to stop for a treat after a family hike.

You'll also find the Gravity Car Barn and Museum near the snack bar. Open to the public on weekends from noon to 4 pm, the Gravity Car Barn pays tribute to the long gone Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway, an excursion railroad that from 1896 to 1930 transported visitors up to the summit of Mt. Tam via steam train, and back down to Mill Valley by means of a free-wheeling gravity car, a replica of which is housed inside the gravity car barn and is rolled out when the museum is open.

Hiking with Kids: Bear Valley Trail

July 9, 2012

Bear Valley TrailOne of our favorite places for a hike with the family is Bear Valley Trail. Located at the Point Reyes National Seashore's Bear Valley Visitor Center near Olema, this trail is for many reasons one of the most popular in Marin, and a great spot for novice hikers and children. It's flat, wide, and sheltered from the wind and sun. While there's a slight uphill on sections both ways, it's not too challenging.

Starting at the end of the parking lot, Bear Valley Trail follows Bear Valley Creek all the way to the Pacific Ocean, if you're willing to go that far—it's approximately 8.2 miles round trip. A more manageable destination for those hiking with children is Divide Meadow, which lies at a little over a mile and a half into the trail. There you'll find a wide meadow ringed by Douglas firs. There are benches cut out of fallen logs to sit on, and it's a great place to stop for a picnic. You can usually count on seeing some wildlife here, mostly deer, but on at least one occasion we've seen a bobcat. The trip to Divide Meadow and back is 3.2 miles total.

Summer Family Tahoe Fun at Northstar California

July 3, 2012

Last week we had the opportunity to head back up to the mountains and experience Northstar California Resort during the summer. When we visited back in the winter, we thought that the summer activities offered at Northstar sounded just as fun as the winter ones, so we were determined to go back once school was out. We did, and we had a fantastic time during our visit!

Northstar is an exciting destination for a family summer getaway, with lots of things to do including mountain biking, hiking, geocaching, roller skating, and more. The summer vibe at Northstar is definitely more laid back than it is during the ski season, but it's still a bustling place, with hikers and mountain bikers gathering by the gondola to head up onto Mt. Pluto for outdoor fun.

When you've had enough of the wilderness, come back down the mountain and take advantage of some of the fun to be had in the Northstar Village.

It’s Kid’s Play: “Bouldering” in Marin

June 25, 2012

BoulderingMarin Mommies presents an article by guest contributor Barbara McVeigh.

Kids like to climb and clamber over rocks—that’s no big secret. But, "bouldering" is a sport  not many kids and families have discovered… and I’m not talking about climbing at groomed indoor gyms.

Ring Mountain in Corte Madera, one of Marin’s precious nature reserves, offers the real deal—an opportunity to scale a 165-million-year-old metaphormic rock that once had been bubbling magma in a deep ocean floor somewhere near Mexico. One of the most popular rocks to climb is called Split Rock.

A group of kids last week donned harnesses and got to experience bouldering with Outback Adventures, a shop located in Larkspur that offers support, equipment and guides. Greg and Jeremy were our guides for they day. And, with their gentle, patient and safety-oriented approach they got the kids climbing high up past comfort zones into new realms of confidence. As a mom it was a delight to see kids conquer fears and then embrace that quiet, peaceful space that can be a challenge to find in our noisy lives.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Turtle Back Nature Trail in China Camp State Park

June 3, 2012

Turtle Back Nature Trail at China Camp State ParkFamilies looking for an easy, fun, and educational hike in Marin need look no further than Turtle Back Nature Trail in San Rafael's China Camp State Park. This 3/4-mile hike along a well-maintained and accessible loop trail offers sweeping vistas of San Pablo Bay, wildlife viewing, and the opportunity to learn a little bit about the natural communities that you'll find here.

Turtle Back Nature Trail winds its way around a small hill that resembles a turtle shell (hence the name). The path takes hikers through a variety of different natural environments, including open grasslands, salt marsh, and through a shady oak and bay laurel forest.

Look for birds like herons and egrets and other wildlife as you make your way along the trail.

Mountain Play Magic with the Music Man

May 30, 2012

The Music ManWhere can you see a colorful musical theater production with a professional cast in an idyllic outdoor setting with amazing panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay Area? The Mountain Play, of course! We had a chance last Sunday to catch this year's production (the 99th—it's been a Marin County tradition since 1913) of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, and it was a delight from beginning to end.

Marin musical favorite Susan Zelinsky was outstanding in the starring role of River City, Iowa librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo, while Robert Moorhead charmed as the smooth-talking yet ultimately good-hearted con man Harold Hill, who convinces the citizens of River City that the only way to keep their sons out of the billiard parlor and away from trouble (with a capital "T") is to get them into a boys' marching band.

Tickets are still available for the remaining Mountain Play performances, which take place on June 3, 10, 16, and 17. All shows begin at 2 pm.

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