The Bay Area is known for its endless outdoor activities. Here’s a taste — plus some amazing San Francisco suburbs to check out along the way.
The San Francisco suburbs offer endless opportunities for families to get out and explore. Think about it: where else can you be close to beaches and skiing — plus, of course, world-class hiking, biking, and walking trails that weave through some of the most beautiful backdrops anywhere?
The good news? Those amazing adventures aren’t limited to the city. The Bay Area suburbs are home to incredible places to hike, bike, and see the scenes. If your family craves adventure, start with these six trails, all of which cut through towns no doubt on your must-see list.
#1. Iron Horse Trail (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)
This sprawling, regional trail stretches through six popular communities: Walnut Creek, Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Concord, and Danville. Ideal for walkers, runners, and bikers of all skill levels, Iron Horse has many different areas to explore, taking you from dirt roads to modern metal bridges to picnic areas and, even, actual suburban streets.
And if your hiking boots need a break? Veer off and check out one of the towns along the trail. Dublin has a great waterpark and is home to Fallon Sports Park, perfect for the kids. Or, if you’re in the mood for even more scenic views, head to Sycamore Grove Park or Shadow Cliffs Lake in Pleasanton.
Alternatively, head off into Danville and bike through downtown. Be sure to grab a sandwich at Domenico’s Delicatessen — the Danville Public Library lawn is a great spot to picnic. After, swing by Danville Chocolates or Lottie’s Creamery for a sweet treat.
#2. Los Alamitos Creek Trail (San Jose)
Kids and dogs in particular love the short-and-sweet Los Alamitos Creek Trail. With lanes for both hikers and bikers, this trail is very safe and very easy to navigate. Throughout your journey, you’ll be able to take in sweeping views of Almaden Lake — and, at dusk, you might even spot some deer.
After your hike, head to downtown San José or Santana Row to unwind and enjoy some delicious cuisine from one of their top-rated restaurants. If you’re looking for other things to do in San José, this town’s got everything, including zoos, flower gardens, and children’s museums.
Another spot to check out before or after your adventure? The Almaden Valley neighborhood. Families love this quiet suburban spot known for its small-town feel and A+ schools.
#3. Stanford Dish Loop (Stanford)
There’s nothing better than a hiking trail that ends right where you began. Stanford Dish Loop — a 3.7-mile loop throughout Stanford — isn’t just convenient and relatively quick, it also boasts stunning views and a peek at the Stanford Dish, the trail’s namesake.
Post-hike you’re just minutes from Stanford University and Palo Alto. Walk around campus, check out the Rodin Sculpture Garden, visit the Hewlett Packard garage, or grab a bite in downtown — there’s so much to do in this family-friendly area.
And while you’re there, be sure to check out Palo Alto. Their schools rank among the best in the area and its innovation culture — but the community is so much more than that. Expect great parks and green spaces, restaurants, entertainment, and more.
#4. Dipsea Trail (Mill Valley and Stinson Beach)
If your crew are more seasoned hikers, Dipsea Trail is a good go-to. A tougher hiking trail, Dipsea is known for its expansive views, from thick forests to the ocean.
Round trip, this trail is about 16 miles long, beginning in Mill Valley, past Muir Woods, and ending in Stinson Beach. Given the path, it’s easy to check out Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley and its 240 acres of giant redwood trees. Or, if the beach is calling your name, you can relax at Stinson Beach or check our local wildlife at Bolinas Lagoon.
Since you’ll be kicking off in Mill Valley, don’t forget to swing by the amazing Mill Valley Library — and the very family-friendly neighborhood around Sycamore Park. This spot is a go-to for young families given its proximity to Park Elementary School and Mill Valley Middle School. The community is tight knit and offers great walkability to Whole Foods plus plenty of restaurants, including a popular kid-favorite Tamalpais Pizza.
#5. Rancho San Antonio Preserve (Cupertino)
Rancho San Antonio Park and Open Space Preserve spans more than 4,000 acres and includes 24 miles of trails dedicated to hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Here you’ll find a variety of hikes, perfect for all ages and skill levels. The most popular hike is the Stephen E. Abbors trail, formerly known as the PG&E hike. The trail runs parallel to the electrical towers, which, combined with the towering trees, offers a unique tech-meets-nature view.
And when you’re done hitting the trail? Check out nearby Mountain Winery. This family-friendly vineyard is known for amazing wine and its live outdoor concert series. You’ll also be close to Donut Wheel, a Cupertino institution that serves up fresh, eclectic doughnuts all day long.
#6. Foothills Park (Palo Alto)
While once reserved for Palo Alto residents only, in December 2020 Foothills Park opened to everyone. A stunning destination for hiking, bird-watching, and canoeing, people from all over the Bay Area head here to explore by land and water.
Within Foothills Park, the most popular trail is the Los Trancos Trail Loop, a 7.3-mile hike lined with diverse bird species and wildflowers.
Post-hike you’ll find yourself minutes from downtown Palo Alto — a prime spot to wander, refuel and take in the sights. Depending on the time of year, you may even be able to catch a performance or festival at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
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