About 45 minutes from Berkeley, door to dirt, Stafford Lake Bike Park in Novato is a great place to take kids of all ages to learn some skills and just play on their bikes. This 17-acre family-friendly mountain bike course offers all the exciting jumps, challenging tricks, and clever toys that mountain bikers of all ages will love. We went on Sunday and there were tons of kids and parents all over the trails. I was impressed by a dad on a 29″ full-suspension mountain bike following his two-year old on a little push bike!
All about the Stafford Lake Bike Park
The bike park was designed to promote a community of learning while providing safe, fun, and exciting bike riding experiences. Casual riders can chill on the outer wilderness loops while BMX, mountain bike, and dirt jumpers can tackle the jump course with varying degrees of difficulty. There is a dual slalom course for intermediate and advanced riders.
What to know when you're bringing kids
One thing I like about this place, which is consistent with other bike parks, is that there are no hard and fast rules, and no adult authority figures telling kids what they can/can't do. Riders can more or less enter any part of any trail as long as we're careful to avoid bikers and don't cut in line. There are no skills tests to tell kids what they can/can't ride. Kids more or less monitor their own behavior. This also means kids will (learn to) be assertive while waiting their turn, to make sure other kids don't just get in front of them.
Yes, it can be a bit chaotic but overall I think the freedom it gives kids is great.
Key features for the little ones or new riders (Under 8-ish)
- A easy kids “skills trail” with lots of wide wooden ramps and a see-saw. It's even broken up into 4 distinct sections so your kid can find the obstacle that is most fun for them and do it over and over.
- Two little mini loops with bumps and dirt obstacles
- A kids “flow trail” – a pretty easy but long zig zag back and forth down the side of a hill, with banked sides and some easy rollers
For bigger kids (8+)
- A longer “flow trail” loop around the whole park that takes 6-15 minutes depending on level of enthusiasm
- A few side trails and a long straight descent to practice braking or just having fun
For even bigger kids (13+)
There is one section of serious jumps where kids and adults shoot 3-10 feet into the air – not for the faint of heart!
Rules and restrictions at Stafford Lake Bike Park
Covid-19 restrictions and conditions
While it was fairly crowded by current standards, the size of it lets everyone spread out. There were easily 150+ people actively riding, but it did not feel like anyone was getting too close. Less than half of folks were wearing masks on the trails, but people were keeping their distance.
Visitors must keep six feet of distance from other riders and cary face-covering masks when in close proximity to others. Bring your own water.
- Always wear a helmet
- Stay off the track if you are not riding
- No dogs
Plan your visit to Stafford Lake Bike Park in Novato
The bike park is part of the Stafford Lake Recreation Area and parking fees will cover additional time spent hanging out or hiking in the area. Once inside, the signs direct you to the bike park, which is less than a mile from the main entrance.
- There are relatively clean bathrooms between the entrance and the bike park parking area – worth a quick stop on the way over, but also easy to bike to if anyone has to pee while biking.
- There is a nice man-made shaded/roofed area – open on all sides but in the heat of the day it can get a little crowded. In non-COVID times it would be where you'd want to have lunch.
- Right now (July/August) it gets pretty warm, dry, and dusty especially in the afternoon – it was 85 degrees while we were there. Bring lots of water.
- The morning is probably the best time to visit, both for crowds and heat.
The hours vary by daylight throughout the year
- Summer 2020: May 25 – Sep 7: 7 am to 8 pm
- Fall 2020: Sep 8 – Nov 2: 7 am to 7 pm
- Winter 2020-21: Nov 3 – Mar 14: 8 am to 5 pm
The park may close due to weather, maintenance, or special events so be sure to check the park calendar before you head out.
There are occasionally ranger-led group training events and competitions. Currently, the learn to ride clinics are cancelled (due to COVID) but you can check the calendar to find future events.