This guest post was written by Annie Burke, founder of Outside Kids.
I totally get the ‘bucket list, mentality of seeing new places. The Bay Area is home to over 1 million acres of publicly accessible parks and trails… why go back to somewhere you’ve been already? Let’s go somewhere new!
But there’s something to be said for knowing a place. For seeing it in different seasons, especially with our green winters and golden summers. And kids at different ages engage with a place in different ways. For example, in exactly the same place your two-year old will splash in the water happily while at three-years old she throws rocks, at four-years old she builds a fairy house out of sticks, and at six-years old she plays tag.
One place we’ve gone to over and over is Sunol Regional Wilderness. Each time we go there’s a sense of familiarity, but also of discovery. What’s going to be the same this time? Was the trail always this wide? How high was the creek last year compared to this year?
We love Sunol because Alameda Creek. It starts somewhere up in the mountains there and flows through the section of the park near the parking lot on its way out to the Bay near Coyote Hills, which is another again-and-again favorite of ours. It can be hot at Sunol and the creek is the perfect coolant. It makes us feel relaxed and happy. No wonder we go back again and again.
How to get to Sunol:
Sunol is south of Pleasanton and east of Union City and in the rolling hills of the Hamilton Range. This is a great example of wilderness situated very close to the urban Bay Area. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled much farther than you actually have, in a good way (directions to Sunol are here).
What to do when you're there:
I don’t think I have even scratched the surface of what to do at Sunol, but here are three things I do know something about:
- The Green Barn Visitor Center is one of my kids’ favorite visitor centers complete with drawers of bones and feathers that they can touch and hold. There’s also a real live turtle to challenge to a staring contest. And on hot days, they have AC and it’s beautifully cool in there. It’s a good place.
- About 100 yards from the Green Barn Visitor Center is a bridge over Alameda Creek. Cross the bridge and turn left. Walk along the creek on the trail until the trail fades out and you’re walking on river rocks. Find a spot that feels good to you, and set up your camp. The creek is peaceful and quiet (until you and your kids get there) with fish and frogs and birds. Explore! Play!
- Grab a map and find to Little Yosemite. There’s an easy way and a moderately challenging way of getting there, and I will get you lost if I try to describe either one. The Little Yosemite is fun to explore for little people and grownups alike.
Bring snacks, sun protection, water, and a change of clothes. Something to sit on is nice if you go to the creek. Look for wild turkeys, magpies, and owl boxes.
Do you love and want to preserve the Bay Area’s natural wonders? Learn what you can do to take care of these pockets of local wilderness with Annie on Outdoor Voice!
[All photos provided by Annie Burke and used with permission; all rights reserved]