That felt like a long winter (by California standards) and I don’t know about you, but now that the warm weather has arrived, I am so ready for some outdoor fun with my family.
One of the things I love most about the Bay Area is that you don’t have to go far for world-class outdoor adventures. We’re surrounded by incredible, wide open spaces, and to me, it feels like there is enough to do right here on the Peninsula and in the South Bay to last a lifetime. And with the sun shining, ‘tis the season to get out there!
To point you in the right direction, we put together this list of activities ideal for warmer weather. They’re well-suited for a range of abilities, ages and interests – so, whether you’re headed outside with your kids, family or friends, we’ve got you covered. Take a look, pick a favorite and go make some memories:
If you haven’t yet made the pilgrimage to the Pulgas Water Temple, you owe it to yourself to make the trip. The fluted columns and elegance of this structure’s ancient Greek and Roman architecture are in tribute to the early 20th century engineering that delivered water to the Bay Area from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. But the views of the surrounding open spaces (places like the POST-protected Phleger Estate) are equally, if not more, impressive.
What’s really sweet is that on Sundays, San Mateo County Parks closes this stretch of Cañada Road to cars, allowing for safe pedestrian access and other non-motorized activities (roller blading included). If you’re willing to walk or bike the four miles round-trip to the temple, it’s a nice time to visit and enjoy a beautiful country road without the noise and hazard of cars. Parking is available Sundays at the junction of Edgewood and Cañada Road.
For driving directions for every day except Sunday, click here.
The David C. Daniels Nature Center is a special little gem within the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. If you’re taking kids on this outing, they’ll love the live, captive-bred gopher snake, touchable skulls and skins, interactive mural, friendly docents and critters in Alpine Pond. The short, half-mile loop trail around the pond is also great for all ages (and strollers).
But this is a great trip for folks without kids too. There is a Ohlone mortar stone site on the west side of the pond that’s pretty profound, and literally hundreds of miles of trail in every direction. Not feeling very energetic? Relax near the pond. Or make the hike short and grab a bite and a cold drink at Alice’s Restaurant, not far up the road on Hightway 35.
For easy access, park at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve lot, then walk through the tunnel under Alpine Road to the nature center.
Being early May, it’s still a little early for berries on the San Mateo Coast. But in the coming weeks, the crops will ripen and, for a nominal fee, you can harvest your own fresh berries from any of these u-pick farms – two of which are POST-protected. The fields should be ready to harvest by June, so plan a trip soon to celebrate the bounty of our local farmlands.
While on the coast, visit downtown Pescadero — you might be surprised at how much character this quaint farming town has! Give yourself some time to check out the local shops, grab a cup of coffee at Downtown Local (and explore its vintage treasures), taste Arcangeli Grocery’s famous artichoke bread, or get some tacos at the local gas station, a.k.a. Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos (no really — they’re awesome!).
This might be my best tip in this entire post. Do yourself a favor and get into the San Benito Deli in downtown Half Moon Bay. They make arguably some of the tastiest sandwiches on the San Mateo Coast. Their signature homemade bread is mouth-wateringly awesome, but the charm of the historic building adds to the flavor.
The deli’s large outdoor patio is a great space to enjoy your lunch. But if the weather’s nice and you can wait to eat, I suggest driving south to the POST-protected Cowell-Purisima Trail and walking out to the secluded Cowell Ranch State Beach. The half-mile trail is mostly flat and it’s well worth the effort to enjoy this quarter-mile-long sandy cove while chowing on a delicious sandwich. Note that the trail to this beach is currently only open on weekends and holidays and is not dog-friendly.
On really hot days, my family and I escape the heat with a trip deep into the nearby redwood forest. The shade of the planet’s tallest trees is a pretty cool place to take cover when the mercury starts to rise. And we like to sweeten the deal with some ice cream from the store at Memorial County Park.
There is a small entrance fee to enter the park though, so don’t make the trip just for the ice cream (although it is delicious). Stop at the store, and then take the short walk down to Pescadero Creek. Dipping your feet in the creek’s cool waters is a refreshing way to spend a hot day.
Since we had such a wet winter, it’s likely the waterfalls at Uvas Canyon County Park will be flowing well into the summer months. Plus, the shade of the canyon’s thick forest canopy make it an enjoyable place to hike all year.
Note that this park is the first in the state to require reservations for day use on weekends and holidays (an indication of its popularity). So, plan ahead by securing your $6 parking spot before getting in the car.
At 3,486 feet, Mount Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are a variety of hikes leading to the summit, but easy access via the recently opened Mount Umunhum Road is also available for families with small kids or those with mobility issues (or if you just want to see the summit).
The views are incredible from this spot. Plan to give yourself plenty of time to take in the 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are also interpretive signs and opportunities to learn more about the significance of this place to the Native America community. The eight and a half story radar tower, in operation as part of the Almaden Air Force Station from 1957 to 1980, is also a sight to see.
There’s a little something for everyone in Felton. The old steam trains at Roaring Camp Railroads are the most obvious attraction, especially for youngsters. But just a short walk from the train depot lies the flat, gentle Redwood Grove Loop Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Follow the trail past some of the largest and oldest redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Fremont Tree makes the trip especially worthwhile. The story goes that in 1846, Lt. John C. Fremont and his party camped overnight in the burned-out base of this tree. It’s about as big as a small hotel room — plenty of room to fit your friends and family. But remember to bring a flashlight as it’s completely dark inside the tree!
Relaxing on the beach is always nice this time of year, but if you’re looking for something a little more interactive, I’d suggest checking out the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. It’s often overshadowed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to the south, but it’s a special spot and likely won’t be as crowded. The giant blue whale skeleton and views from Terrace Point are my favorite parts, but there’s a lot to see and experience.
From the discovery center, it’s a little over a mile to Natural Bridges State Beach. Plan to at least make a stop at the vista point or, time permitting, stay to enjoy the beach and short trails throughout the park.
Looking for more fun activities to try with your friends and family? Check out our upcoming events and join us for a hike, bike ride, movie screening, interpretive talk and more!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more