Updated: Feb 27
Want to know the BEST hiking spots for toddlers in the East Bay ?! Here are my favorite "secret" spots !
I get a lot of people asking me where to hike with their little ones, so I put together this list of some of our favorite hiking spots in the East Bay. These are great for new walkers, toddlers and kids of all ages. Enjoy and let me know if you try some of these out !
A shorter loop trail is perfect for toddlers and younger children. The progression is more natural and you avoid any resistance with the idea of "going back" ;).
We usually stop for a snack along the way, take our time and investigate anything that sparks our interest. Sometimes we may only walk a 1/4 mile, find something of interest to explore for awhile, and then head back... it's really just about getting outside, connecting and enjoying some time in nature (and getting those little ones tuckered out for nap time! ). We sometimes use the "seek" app by iNaturalist to identify plants and insects along the trail, or our beloved California Field Guide Book.
To break up the hike we may set up our trapeze swing, search for the perfect walking stick, build a tower or maze with rocks, or write our names in the dirt :). Bringing binoculars (real ones or ones made out of toilet paper rolls and string work great too!), a magnifying glass or a small bucket for collecting found items, can add to that excitement and sense of wonder.
Bonus Tip: We love to bring our tree hammock and lightweight easy to hang tree swing in case we want to extend our time outdoors. Swinging or lounging in a hammock offers great sensory input and is a fun way to break up the hike.
All of the trails listed are dog friendly.
Knowland Park: One of Oakland's best kept secrets. Formerly a state park, it is now owned by the City of Oakland. The trails are adjacent to the upper part of the Oakland Zoo. In addition to the native plants and wildlife you may encounter, you will likely catch glimpses of some of the Zoo animals, such as grizzly bears, grey wolves, condors and the elusive jaguar. Access trails off of Malcolm St., off Golf Links Rd.
Serpentine Prairie Trail: Part of Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. Park at the Trudeau Center (on Skyline Blvd) and take either the larger loop (Serpentine Prairie to Dunn Trail), or take the slightly shorter "upper" loop that goes past the old horse arena. If you don't want to commit to the full loop (which is under a mile), you can always just meander along the flat ridge section of the Serpentine Prairie Trail. This trail also has views of the nearby horse stables and young riders frequently practice on these trails. Pretty sunny hike so be sure to bring hats and sublock :).
Cordornices Park: This is a well known park in Berkeley. To access the hiking trails and creek, follow the path past the bathrooms and play structures, (about 1/8 of a mile), to hiking trails, stairs to climb, and a perfect little creek for little ones to splash around in and explore. There was also a wooden tree swing up on the hillside, last we were there. So many great opportunities for motor learning!
Dracena Park: An old rock quarry in lower Piedmont, repurposed as an extensive park with a hiking trail, two grassy areas and a playground. Enjoy the paved short loop walk in the Redwoods, play in the grassy fields, (the lower grassy area has a path that is also great for scootering). My daughter learned to walk on this trail and we spent many trips back and forth across the picturesque foot bridge.
Redwood Bowl : This is one of our favorite "go to" spots. Park at the Redwood Bowl Staging Area parking lot off of Skyline Blvd (next to Chabot Science Center). From the parking lot you can do a little loop, walking through the large "bowl" clearing, and back around through the group site cabins, stop for a picnic and climb on the low tree stumps. Many great places to hang a hammock or tree swing here.
Jewel Lake Loop: This is a magical little trail located next to the Little Farm Visitor Center in Tilden. You can do shorter or longer loop options, or just do the 1/2 mile out and back trail. The trail starts just at the entrance to the Little Farm and meanders past a small lake and back around the other side. We loved hanging our hammock and picnicking next to the Little Farm.
Manzanita Loop Trail: A short little loop trail in Robert's Regional Recreation Area. If the parking lot is open, park in the lower lot and find the trailhead adjacent to the grassy field. If the parking lot is closed park on Skyline Blvd. and walk into the park. This is an easy, short, flat loop trail, perfect for new walkers or a short stroll. Check out the vista point (near the trail entrance) for epic views!
Park at Bort Meadow Staging Area off Redwood Road and then take the ½ mile walk to Bort Meadow (follow the paved trail down the hill then take a right at bottom of the hill). This walk can handle a stroller as it is partially paved and then a flat wide trail to the Meadow. The Meadow is green and beautiful with plenty of room to toddle, run and explore. (This is technically a group campsite for Anthony Chabot so it may be occupied, but you can hike through and there is plenty of room to frolic for a bit).
Redwood Glen in Joaquin Miller Park
This is one of our favorite spots, - perfect for toddlers as you can stick relatively close to the parking area but still get into the whimsical woods and feel like you are in an enchanted forest. Park at the Redwood Glen Trailhead along Skyline Blvd. and take any of the 3 paths into the woods. Usually you can find (or build) tree forts, branch sculptures and meander along unmarked paths within the glen area.
Canyon Meadow in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
Another Redwood Regional option (can you tell this is our favorite park?) This paved trail is perfect for strollers, scooters/bikes and toddlers alike. Park in the Canyon Meadow Staging Area parking lot off of Redwood Road. The paved path leads past large meadows, a “create with nature zone” where kids can carry, stack and build with natural materials, a play structure and some very large logs to climb on at the trail’s end (Stream trail becomes a dirt path at this point).
Some other great spots: Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Pinole Valley Park, Point Pinole, Point Molate, Sobrante Ridge... What are some of your favorite hikes or walks ?? See you in the woods :) !