Technology Hiker

Best Bay Area Parks for Kids

Where can families explore redwood forests, coastal mountains, Pacific Ocean tidepools, & coastal marshes all within a short drive from home?  Where can families spot seals, whales, banana slugs, herds of deer, and thousands of migrating birds?  Why the Bay Area of course.

Here are my favorite family parks from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.  These parks have wildlife, places for kids to climb, good short hikes, and visitor centers.  Hopefully, these parks spark a love of exploration, a sense of wonder, and an appreciation of the outdoors for the kid in all of us.

  • Land’s End (
    • Highlights: Views of the Golden Gate bridge, ships moving to the Ocean, easy hikes, Sutro Bath Ruins, and a labyrinth for kids
    • Recommended Parking: Park at Fort Mason in large parking lot along overlook
  • Linda Mar Beach (
    • Highlights: Long beach, paved trail along coast, cliff climbing, watching surfers, Taco Bell on the beach for a snack, good for strollers
    • Recommended Parking: Park at Linda Mar Parking lot or Rockaway Beach
  • San Pedro Park ( Stream, 1402 action binocularsredwoods, easy hikes, visitor center w good kid displays
    • Recommended Parking: Main parking lot
  • Devil’s Slide (
    • Highlights: Coastal hike, world class views, watch passing whales, good for strollers
    • Recommended Parking: Parking lot south of Devil’s Slide tunnel at the light
  • Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (
    • Highlights: largest accessible tidepools in CA, Seal Cove beach – prettiest beach IMG_2412along the San Mateo Coast, resident colony of harbor seals, coastal Cypress trees
    • Recommended Parking: Lake Street Lot
  • Coyote Point (
    • Highlights: Bay Trail, jetty & marina, CuriOdyssey museum, multiple playgrounds
    • Recommended Parking: CuriOdyssey lot
  • Seal Point (
    • Highlights: Coastal hills, Bay Area & SFO flightpath views, Bay Trail, playground across pedestrian bridge, dog park, good for strollers, shore birds
    • Recommended Parking: Seal Point main parking
  • DSC_0164Memorial Park (
    • Highlights: 1st Growth Redwood Grove, Best Family Camping in the Bay Area, Visitor Center, hollowed of Redwood for kids to play, Pescadero Creek access, many banana slugs
    • Recommended Parking: Legion Flat parking for access to best trees for kids
  • Windy Hill (
    • Highlights: Views of the Ocean & SFBay, great summit trails, can watch the Bay Area above the clouds
    • Recommended Parking: Along Skyline Drive for easier access to world class views
  • Skyline Ridge (
    • DSC_0496Highlights: Santa Cruz Mountain pond, visitor center, interesting trail, tunnel for echoes
    • Recommended Parking: Russian Ridge parking next to Alpine Road & Skyline Drive
  • Baylands (
    • Highlights: Shorebird safari along causeways, many outlooks perfect for a little one, visitor center
    • Recommended Parking: East end of San Antonio Road
  • Pescadero State Beach ( - Copy
    • Highlights: Most interesting beach along San Mateo Coast, lagoon/pescadero river, sea lion spotting, rock arch, many shore birds, flying fishing for salmon, multiple trail options under bridge
    • Recommended Parking: Lot just south of Pescadero Creek on bluff – walk along parkway to beachIMG_3824
  • Ano Nuevo State Park
    • Highlights: Elephant Seal Rookery (1000s of elephant seals), lunch at nearby Costanoa, reservation required docent lead hikes, near Pidgeon Point lighthouse
    • Recommended Parking: Several miles south of Lighthouse
  • Rancho San Antonio (
    • Highlights: Farm, good for strollers, many hiking options, many deer
    • Recommended Parking: Main lots – toward farm
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (
    • Highlights: Old growth redwoods, excellent visitor center, near Bigfoot Discovery Center, Trains adjacent at Roaring camp, San Lorenzo River
    • Recommended Parking: Main parking lot off Rte 9