Now that Spring Break is just around the corner, every family needs a plan to keep occupied. What better way than to go hiking with your kids to burn off all that energy and take in California’s natural beauty?
With shorter distances, more ubiquitous shade, and the all-important accessible bathrooms, these paths will pry the little ones off the couch and introduce them to the great outdoors.
1.8 miles, 200 feet of elevation change, beautiful beach and Pacific Ocean views
Get your kids in the mood for springtime and take them on a visit to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which boasts some of the best tide pools in the Bay Area. Bluff Trail travels through a Cypress grove to an open view of the main beach, the Pacific Ocean and (if you come at low tide) the famous tide pools that the kids can explore to their heart’s content.
If you’re lucky, you may even spot some harbor seals on the rocky reefs below. Although this hike is fairly easy with minimal elevation, caution is encouraged on the erosive paths leading down to the ocean and the slippery rocks of the tidal reef. // M-F 8am-8pm; Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, 200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach //
3.8 miles, 511 feet of elevation gain, moderate congestion, spectacular views of Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Hamilton
Part of the Rancho San Antonio land preserve, this moderate hike follows a creek into a fern-walled canyon and traverses through chaparrals to open meadows. Visitors are welcome to picnic in the meadows while enjoying the grandeur of Mt. Tamalpais to the north and Mt. Hamilton to the east.
However, it’s the first and last destination that’s perhaps the most exciting: Deer Hollow Farm. The farm is home to cows, goats, pigs and chickens, and serves as an agricultural education center where hikers can learn about the Valley’s agricultural past and about the preserve. // closed Mondays; Tu 8am-4pm,Wed 8am-1pm, Th-Sun 8am-4pm; Rancho San Antonio, 22500 Cristo Rey Drive, Los Altos //
1.3 miles, 10 feet of elevation gain, high congestion, great entertainment spot for children
An alternative to the longer hikes nearby, this short loop at the Palo Alto Baylands encompasses everything needed to keep children entertained. All you need to do is bring a loaf of bread. Hours will fly past while feeding the ducks, seagulls, and other shorebirds. If you get bored, there are always a few other paved paths near the pond that could use some love. One path leads to the runway of the Palo Alto Airport, where kids can enjoy watching the planes takeoff and land. The only downside here is the pond has no shade, so make sure to bring sunscreen when you visit. // Mon-Sun 8am-7:30pm; Palo Alto Baylands, 2500 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto //
2.6 miles, 770 feet of elevation gain, low congestion, leads to Toyon Campground
Located within Huddart County Park in Woodside, this unpaved road transforms you into a true explorer navigating the great unknown. Every step of the way is covered on both sides by majestic madrone, redwood, and tanoak trees, yet the sun always manages to reach the forest floor and envelop the area in a radiant glow. At the end of the first mile, you reach Toyon Campground. This spacious area is equipped with restrooms, tables and water fountains, making it a prime spot for kids to rest or play. // Mon-Sun 8am-5pm; Huddart Park, 1100 Kings Mountain Road, Woodside //
4.2 miles, zero feet of elevation gain, low congestion, direct path to Pulgas Water Temple
Starting at the intersection of Cañada and Edgewood Roads, this straightaway path may start off mundane, but the reward is worth the wait. Unfolding at the end of the hike is a rectangular reflecting pool lined with cypress trees that complement a columned temple, creating a perfect backdrop for photos. The Pulgas Water Temple, a monument to the 1934 project that brought Hetch Hetchy water 160 miles across California from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bay Area, captures the beauty of the Valley. Who wouldn’t want to take a picture with this historical landmark? Watch out though, it’s only open Monday-Friday from 9am to 4pm. // Crystal Springs, Cañada and Edgewood Road, San Mateo //