Big thanks to East Bay Dad and first-grade teacher, Nick Williams, and his sidekick, four-year-old Rio, for sharing their favorite creeks for splashing and throwing stones. Follow their adventures on Instagram as @nickarus1
I’m always looking for creek recommendations, so if you know of other kid-friendly creek spots in the Bay Area please share in the comments!
I make a point to take four-year-old Rio out into nature as much as possible for creek hikes, near-endless rock-throwing, picnics, bridge tours, and bike rides. Getting outside is the perfect way to break up our days between my classroom Zoom meetings and afternoon staff collaboration. If we plan it right, Rio will be ready for his coveted afternoon “rest time” in his room when we return.
Five East Bay Creeks to Stomp In
Wildcat Creek at Alvarado Park, Richmond
Alvarado Park has our absolute favorite creek due to its size and how accessible it is along the half-mile paths, that span both sides of the creek. We find many different spots along the creek to stop to throw rocks or have our picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk through the giant underground tunnel built to help the creek flow under the roadway. Remember to yell out to make echoes.
Getting there: Alvarado Park is a subsection of Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond. To reach the creek, park in the first spots in the parking lot off of McBryde Ave. You’ll walk down to the creek and can walk along the creek for over half a mile.
Sausal Creek at Dimond Park, Oakland
We think that Sausal Creek is easily the most accessible creek in the East Bay. Sausal Creek runs through Oakland, and there are many places where you can enjoy its natural beauty.
Getting there: At Dimond Park, there is a hiking trail that runs along the creek. It is easy to find right next to the playground area with plenty of areas for picnics and longer creek walks.
I Am Sausal Creek/Soy el Arroyo Sausal is a bilingual children’s book about the environmental and cultural history of Oakland told through the voice of this creek.
Strawberry Creek at UC Berkeley Campus, Berkeley
I would recommend bringing bikes or scooters as the spacious campus is great for exploring. If your kid likes bridges and plenty of flat space to roam on bikes or scooters, this is the creek for you! You can ride along the creek and enter it at many different points on the campus. It doesn’t hurt that giant Redwoods grow along its path. You could definitely make a day out of exploring the UC campus.
Getting there: Strawberry Creek flows throughout Berkeley and empties into the Bay. To enjoy this stretch of the hike, you’re going to head to campus and head inward toward the trees.
York Trail Creek at Leona Heights, Oakland
The creek alongside the York Trail is fantastic for adventure-seeking kiddos and their parents with the reward of small waterfalls, adorable bridges, and muddy rocks. We hiked for about a third of a mile along the creek. The trail gets steep quickly, and it was easily the most adventurous of our creek outings.
Pro tip: Social distancing is hard here, so go on an off-peak time (not a weekend) if you can.
Getting there: Park next to the Leona Lodge @ 4444 Mountain Blvd, Oakland. Enter through the yellow gates and follow signs towards the York Trail. You’ll see the creek right from the parking lot, you’ll find beautiful bridges and sloping hillsides.
Wildcat Creek and Boardwalk Loop in Tilden Park
Wildcat Creek has a great trail with lots of spots to enter the creek to cool down on hotter days. There were lots of kids entering the creek at different points and it wasn’t hard to find our own special spots for our quiet picnic. Tilden Park is always a special place to visit that makes us feel transported to another world, and this creek felt especially rustic.
Getting here: This creek runs from Lake Anza through Berkeley’s Tilden Park. You can enter the Wildcat Trail from just over the short bridge at Lake Anza (go left) and you can hike along the creek for miles. You can also enter a shorter loop of Wildcat Creek near the Little Farm and Jewel Lake. See the map for details.
Must-have items for creek-stompers
- Snacks and water! We always bring snacks or a picnic lunch. There really is no better place to eat than next to my child on giant boulders in the middle of the forest. Plus, having snacks in tow has been all the motivation I’ve needed on those lazy “I want to stay home” mornings.
- Extra clothes. Make sure to pack a pair of extra clothes. With all the splashes, rock-throwing, and falls, Rio always gets wet and needs fresh clothes as soon as we exit the creek bed.
- Any water shoes will do! Rio sports a couple of pairs of hand-me-down water shoes on our adventures, and I found a very inexpensive pair of adult water shoes on Amazon for under $20. They make the experience one of a kind!
- Sunscreen and hats. We make sure to bring waterproof sunscreen and hats. When the sun shines through the trees, it can be intense on the water.
- First-aid kit. I bring a first aid kit, and although I rarely need it, I feel safer being out in the woods knowing I have it in my backpack.