Mill Valley offers many outdoor family activities. For families with younger children, short hikes, beaches, and parks are ideal. Older children can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and water sports such as surfing, fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing. You can also schedule family activities around the many seasonal events such as the migration of whales, bird watching, and annual festivals. For sports fans there’s always baseball in San Rafael or in San Francisco. You can check the MillValley.com Event Calendar for what's going right now.
Marin County is an ideal for outdoor activities. The weather is temperate for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, and sailing most of the year. Marin County’s open spaces are sanctuaries for Northern Californian habitats such as oak-bay woodlands, savannas, grasslands and salt marshes. These lands are closely managed to preserve their natural, undeveloped character while coexisting with the public’s need to use them for activities and enjoyment.
Hiking at Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mill Valley’s Mount Tamalpais is a sprawling 6,300 acres of redwood groves and oak woodlands. At the top you can get spectacular views from its 2,500 foot peak. Most people go to Mt. Tam to hike or bike. There are several campsites, one horse group camp, and 10 rustic cabins perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. If you prefer to stay connected there’s Wi-Fi. To reserve call Reserve America at 1-800-444-7275.
Due to some cuts in park services already in place check camp and park availability before you leave.
National Parks, which include the beautiful Muir Woods National Monument and stunning Point Reyes National Seashore are possibly some of the most well-known visitor destinations in Northern California.
The State Parks are Mount Tamalpais, China Camp, and Angel Island.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, comprise the Marin Headlands, Muir Beach, and Stinson Beach.
To find out if you can join any of Marin County's Department of Parks & Open Space program for families or individuals, check the Ranger Events.
Beaches in Marin County
The beaches in Marin County are cold and perfect for activities such as beachcombing, tide-pooling, wave-watching, bird watching, sun bathing, kayaking, and boating. The weather at the beaches can drop sharply. The best beachwear for Marin County beaches is layers which you can add and remove as needed.
Use caution if you chose to wade in the water or swim. Always check warnings and beach and water conditions. The park rangers, park personnel, or lifeguards will advise you accordingly. Always obey the posted warnings.
Angel Island State Park
Angel Island State Park has sandy and sheltered beaches at Quarry Point and Ayala Cove. The water at Perle’s Beach can be rough, however, the view is spectacular and one of the best places for beachcombing. You can get to the Island by public ferry from San Francisco, Tiburon and Vallejo or by private boat.
Other Marin County Parks include:
Agate Beach Park
This 6.6 acre park is located near Bolinas along the Pacific coastline. You can get access to almost two miles of shoreline at low tide and has some of the best tide pools.
China Camp State Park
China Camp State Park is on the southwest shore of San Pablo Bay, three miles from nearby downtown San Rafael. This large park has a variety of natural scenery and some fine trails along San Pedro Ridge. You can picnic, watch wildlife, hike, bike, swim, fish, boat, and windsurf.
The park may be closed at the time you are visiting due to budget cuts. Please check the Parks website before you make a trip.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Marin Headlands
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is home to some world-known destinations such as Alcatraz and Muir Woods. There are more than 75,000 acres of open space with beaches (Muir and Stinson), Marin Headlands, and Muir Woods. The hiking and biking paths that are to the north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge may be better suited for older children. In the Golden Gate Park you can rent bikes for an easy ride within the park for younger children. You can download a map of trails and beaches and look for age appropriate activities or visit Marin Headlands Visitor Center at Fort Barry, Building 948 in Sausalito.
McNears Beach Park
This large, 55-acre park is located off south San Pedro Road along the shore of San Pablo Bay. There’s something for everyone at McNears Beach Park: a seasonal swimming pool, tennis courts, family and group picnic areas (reservation needed), a sandy beach, lawn areas, seasonal snack bar, and a 500-foot long fishing pier.
Muir Beach and Muir Beach Overlook
Muir Beach is a sheltered cove with a sandy beach. There’s a creek and nearby dense woods if you like to view wildlife. During the fall monarch butterflies swarm the pine trees, there’s salmon in Redwood Creek, and frogs in the marsh, as well as foxes, birds, deer, and coyote on the hills if you are luck. Muir Beach Overlook used to be a U.S. Army coastal observation post and as a result has strategic and spectacular coastal views.
Paradise Beach Park
Paradise Beach Park is a family friendly beach with family and group picnic areas, lawn areas, a horseshoe court, sandy beach, and a fishing pier.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is a preserve along the diminishing and undeveloped coastline of the western United States. It’s an hour's drive from the urban San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan area. The Bear Valley Visitor Center is open on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Golden Gate Park San Francisco
In the Golden Gate Park you can rent bikes for an easy ride within the park for younger children. You can download a map of trails and beaches and look for age appropriate activities at http://home.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/maps.htm.
Bird Watching and Butterflies
If you enjoy wildlife viewing, Marin County offers some of the best bird watching on the Pacific Coast.
For more information, please visit www.nps.gov/pore.
Key bird watching areas include Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands and Las Gallinas Ponds in San Rafael. Other areas for bird viewing are Angel Island State Park, Bolinas Lagoon Preserve, China Camp State Park, Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Watershed, Muir Woods National Monument, Olompali State Historic Park, Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Tomales State Park.
Every fall Monarch Butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains move to coastal California. Marin County’s Muir Beach is an ideal site to see the migration. The Marin Visitors Bureau has directions on how to get there.
Camping in Marin County is a popular family activity. Most Marin County campsites are perfect for hiking and wildlife observation. State Park campsites can be reserved from two days or up to seven months in advance. Dogs are generally allowed on leashes. To see all the California State Parks that offer camping sites, visit www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex. To reserve a spot call Reserve America at 1-800-444-PARK or go online to www.reserveamerica.com.
Other family activities, include fishing, kayaking, Horseback Riding, and watching baseball at the local San Rafael Pacifics Baseball.
Between December and May several thousands of California gray whales travel 10,000 miles along the Pacific Coast from icy Arctic waters to warm, shallow breeding waters off Baja, California. During the migration, whales can often be seen in the form of 10-15 foot spouts from the Pt. Bonita Lighthouse in the Marin Headlands or from various sites on the Pt. Reyes peninsula.