Introducing kids to camping & the outdoors can be tricky. Initial trips should compelling, fun, and close to encourage kids to embrace their next adventure. Memorial Park is my best recommendation for introducing kids to camping. My one year old recently had an outstanding first camping trip with three other families at Memorial Park. Highlights include:
- Camping among massive first growth redwoods
- Pescadero Creek with plenty of playing, wading, and mucking opportunities
- First class rangers & Saturday night campfire programs
- Excellent facilities – spacious campsites, close restrooms, visitor center, and a camp store
- Many shorter hikes appropriate for families & connections to longer hikes
- Numerous picnic areas among the Redwoods
- Many explorations for little ones including a hollowed out fallen redwood
- Interesting wildlife: deer, birds, banana slugs, newts
Memorial Park’s 499 acres is near Loma Mar and Pescadero in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Memorial Park is adjacent to Pescadero and Sam McDonald Parks, two other San Mateo County Parks with many connected trails. The parks fit into the Sempervirens Fund “Great Park” notion protecting the redwoods, rivers, canyons, and wildlife of the Santa Cruz Mountains with integrated public parks. Nearby parks include Portola State Park, Butano State Park, Ano Nuevo State Park, and Big Basin State Parks.
Four families all with young kids arrived on a Saturday afternoon. We checked into our three connected campsites and setup our tents beneath the Redwoods. We went for a family hike along the Creek Trail, played in Pescadero Creek, and climbed in the newly renovated amphitheater. After ascending the other side of the canyon, we made our way to the campstore and its friendly caretakers for ice-creams.
Next to the campstore is one of the best picnic areas in the Bay Area is the Tan Oak and Memorial Flat Picnic Areas. The redwoods are dense and massive including the largest tree in the park. There is a swimming area along Pescadero Creek. My favorite area includes the hollowed out redwood tree with an accessible window.
We meandered back to our campsite. After enjoying a campfire and dinner, we cooked smores for desert – altogether an excellent day. On Sunday, family trail options abound. Some recommended hikes include the Pomponio Trail & Mt Ellen trail for vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Creek and Sequoia Trails are other good options for family hikes.
Memorial Park is justifiably popular for all ages. Make a camping reservation several months in advance or drop in to the Memorial Park Picnic areas for an outstanding (family) adventure in the Santa Cruz Mountains.