Updated: Jul 7
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.