For some, hiking with kids is as easy as a trip to the beach – just jump in the car and everyone’s raring to go. And if you think about it, during any visit to a nearby park your kid will play, run, skip, jump, and climb for HOURS. Once, when my husband let our daughter wear his FitBit, she logged several miles within a short span of time (yes, her steps are shorter, but still!).
In our case, convincing our then 3 or 4 year-old (I can’t recall how old she was, the years fly by too fast) that first attempt at a hike required at least one ice cream cone and several surprise candies handed out at strategic points along the way. Therefore, we started her with one mile (out and back) to show her she could do it, and then built on distances from there. What else worked? Friends – at least one for her to chat to and distract her the whole time. Snacks – pack their favorites. Views – who doesn’t love a hike with potential views? Creeks – the promise of water play is also a huge draw.
As with any activity ~ be wise, and read all posted signs at the start of the trail and en route.
In the Tri-Valley, we are often blessed with nearly 9 months of cloudless skies each year. Always pack layers for cooler evenings and hats or sun umbrellas in case the sun peeks out! Summers can be very hot, spring brings wildflowers and waterfalls, and autumn is great for cooler weather and a little bit of leaf peeping. Here I’ve listed 6 walks (paved) for those with babies and toddlers. Below those, are some of our favorite hikes with little ones.
- A great place to start your walking adventures, with little ones and strollers, is the Marilyn Murphy Kane Trail in Pleasanton. Click on the link provided ~ the purple section is best for wildflowers (in spring), birding, scootering, and views of Pleasanton Ridge. Parking (FREE the last time we visited) is located off Bernal Ave. There are benches at various points along the paved trail. During the dry season, and if you’re adventurous, you can take one of the short goat trails that veers off between the trees and scramble down (it’s steep in some areas) to Arroyo de la Laguna, where you’ll find sandbars and shallow areas to throw stones. There is no restroom at the staging area.
- Also great for short walks, strollers, and the occasional creek is Sycamore Grove in Livermore. Pay for parking at the Wetmore Road entrance, and then follow the paved trail into the park. There’s some interesting history to the park lands, which you can appreciate as you walk past rows of trees that look like they once flanked a long driveway, as well as the small ruins of the Olivina Winery. There are public bathrooms at the staging area off Wetmore.
- Holdener Park, also in Livermore, is excellent for strollers, bikes, and scooters. Walk among vineyards and past horse farms. The undulating hills provide lovely views of Livermore Valley. There is a small parking lot listed at the link. I often park in one of the nearby neighborhoods. I don’t recall seeing any bathrooms along this trail.
- The Arroyo Bike Trail in Livermore – this paved, mostly flat, trail is a long one! It starts at the trafficky corners of Jack London Blvd & Isabel Ave, and then quickly ducks into quieter neighborhoods, paralleling the creek in many sections as it winds its way south, from Hagemann Park to Robertson Park. The only other busy intersection is at Stanley & Murrieta. With little kids I’d suggest parking at Hagemann or Roberston Park and then let your legs or stroller or scooter or bike do the rest. Most of this curvy trail is lined with gorgeous trees that provide ample shade, but it’s best practice to pack sun hats. In springtime stop to admire the poppies that grow along the arroyo near Robertson Park. Two of my favorite sections are from Hagemann Park to just before Stanley Blvd, and most of Parkway Park. There are bathrooms at Robertson Park (not Hagemann).
- The Iron Horse Regional Trail is a very long, paved path that used to serve as the rail line north. It starts in Pleasanton and runs through Dublin, San Ramon, Danville, Alamo…all the way up to Route 4. The path is wide, so there’s plenty of room for everyone, but do keep an eye out for bikers. Two of my favorite sections to start our strolls or bike rides are San Ramon’s Central Park (playground!) and Danville’s Iron Horse Plaza (food!). With the exception of a few highway passes, most of this 32 mile trail ambles through quiet neighborhoods, past a few schools (more playgrounds), along the foothills, and under the canopy of lovely, old trees (although, there are exposed sections, such as in Dublin). We usually use the bathrooms at one of the restaurants/shops before and after our walk or ride.
- Also in Dublin, the Alamo Creek Trail traverses through mostly shaded neighborhoods and past parks. For parking and facilities, a great place to start is Alamo Creek Park, and then head north or south along the paved trail. There are bathrooms at Alamo Creek Park.
Done with strollers? Ready for an actual hike? Views, views, and more views! Again, be sure to observe all posted signs at trail heads and en route to know what plants and animals live in the area. Plan ahead: pack layers and a first aid kit.
- At Dublin Hills Regional Park – reach Donlon Point, the highest peak in Dublin. You can either make a steep ascent via the shaded trail at Martin Canyon Creek (park in the neighborhood at bottom), or you can park at Donlon Point Staging Area for a moderately steep but quick hike to the top. You’ll be able to see all the way across the valley, to Livermore, the wind turbines on Altamont Pass, Mt. Diablo, the San Ramon Valley, and much of Pleasanton.
- In San Ramon, the Tassajara Ridge Trail is an out and back hike that roams along grassy hills and through cow pastures. Sweeping views of Mt. Diablo, Danville, parts of Dublin, and the foothills. Most of this trek is across uneven ground on rolling hills. It’s gorgeous in spring, when the hills are green. It also feels like another world when the neighborhoods are out of view and the grasses are very dry, silver and golden. Start at the Tassajara Ridge Staging Area in Windemere, next to the dog park, and see how far you can go.
- Augustin Bernal Park – access to Pleasanton Ridge, through Augustin Bernal Park, is for local, Pleasanton, residents only (as the link explains). But all you have to do is find a friend who lives in Pleasanton, and you’re through the gates. The trails here provide many of the same spectacular views as Pleasanton Ridge (#4), but it’s refreshing to hike new trails that reignite your sense of curiosity, and this section is further north, so you see more of Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore. The staging area at Augustin Bernal is located higher up the hill than #4, which means a less hefty trek for your little ones to get to the top, although there are a number of switchbacks, which seem to lengthen the hike all the same.
- Pleasanton Ridge – in terms of local hikes, this one is easy to access because it’s close by. It’s a long, steep slog (the equivalent to at least one ice cream sundae with two scoops), but it’s well worth the views and that feeling of accomplishment. My daughter was five the first time she summited without any piggy-back rides up or down. Park in the lot at Foothill Staging Area, walk through the gate, and follow the wide, dirt road. Up, up, and up! Take it slow. If it’s too sunny, there’s also a shady, goat trail to the top (click on the link, on the East Bay Parks map it’s called the Woodland Trail). I’d also recommend an early start, for cooler weather. At the top you’ll find olive groves, scattered picnic tables, and stunning views. Once you’re at the top, there are many more trails to choose from to continue your hike. Dogs on leashes are permitted.
- Sunol Regional Wilderness – this certainly feels more out of the way than the areas suggested above. One way to introduce the kids to this region is with their annual Wildflower Festival, usually in April. The 3 mile loop to Little Yosemite and back gives little hikers a chance to test their endurance – on the way there, it’s a steep ascent up McCorkle Trail, then across the hilltops for stunning views of the valley below. At Little Yosemite they can scramble on the rocks, and on the return it’s a liesurely stroll across gravel, on Camp Ohlone Road. (Pay at the entrance or use your East Bay Park Pass).
7. Del Valle Regional Regional Park is excellent for a quick day trip or for the full-on weekend, outdoor experience, including hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and camping. We have easily spent long weekends here. Just south of Livermore, this enormous valley features miles of trails, individual and group campsites, two beaches, and a connecting trail to Sunol Regional Wilderness (the two-day trek from Del Valle to Sunol is by permit only). Take the East Shore or West Shore Trails that hug the lake, or climb higher with the Lake View Trail and loop back down along the Ridge Line Trail. (Pay at the entrance or use your East Bay Park Pass). Dogs on leashes are permitted.
If you’ve got some favorite, local hikes, or places to go walking, I’d love to hear about them!
Copyright © 2010 by Rita Szollos. All rights reserved. Be wise. Don’t steal. For permissions to use any of the above images or written material, please contact me.