As we sit on the cusp of the over-promised El Nino winter rapidly approaching, and the clouds gather overhead to unleash a torrent of rain unseen for many moons, here are some ideas of where to go when the cabin fever gets too much to bear. Hiking in the rain can be a supremely pleasant experience if you know where to go. If you don’t, you end up kicking 10 pound mud clods off your shoes every five feet while you curse the fool who thought this hike was a good idea. However, we are here to help you not be that person. Here is a list of places where you can wander under the cover of trees, and the mud actually stays on the trail instead of coming home caked to your shoes.
- Redwood Regional Park– While the Ridge trails are exposed fire roads that can get a bit muddy, the French trail is pure gold on a rainy day. Once you get off the .5 mile stretch of West Ridge Trail out of Skyline Gate, there are miles of Redwood laden singletrack to explore which will all connect down to Stream Trail, which is another beauty (especially when the creek is flowing), to circle you back up to Skyline Gate. If you have smaller people, who might not make a 2-3 mile loop, you can start at the Canyon Meadow Staging Area (the other end of the Stream Trail) and wander up Stream Trail amongst the redwoods as far as little legs will go.
- Mt Tam State Park- There is almost too much to mention regarding this park as it covers a pretty large area. However, choice routes would involve Steep Ravine Trail which follows a creek with a few mini waterfalls after heavy rains and involves a 14 rung ladder to climb down. It can be a challenging route for children but worth the challenge. Other trails worth exploring are Alpine trail to Bootjack to Ben Johnson(technically part of Muir Woods Nat’l Monument) which would be a long hike but pretty spectacular during a rain. Both of the above hikes can be done out of Pantoll Ranger station lot. There is an $8 fee for parking.
- Marin Municipal Water District- Part of the Mt Tam watershed but owned by the Water District. Parking at Rock Springs parking lot, off Ridgecrest Rd, and hiking out the Cataract Trail along the creek is one of my all time favorite winter treks. After a mile and a half or so, (who’s really counting), you’ll cross the Laurel Dell Fire Rd and you can continue down to where the Cataract Falls are. Truly spectacular when they get going! For the more ambitious, get yourself to Azalea flat off the Kent Trail during a heavy rain for a symphony of frog songs not to be forgotten. It’s a lengthy hike for the young-ins of the group but well worth it if you are prepared. Packing a type of proverbial carrot, made out of chocolate or something similar, will definitely help keep the momentum in your favor. Get a copy of the Rambler’s guide to the Trails of Mt Tamalpais for detailed maps to get you there. If you are not feeling the full day excursion vibe, check out Shadyside Trail out of Bon Tempe Lake. It’s another beauty of a trail that affords the luxury of turning around at one’s leisure. Parking fees are $8 at Bon Tempe or adjacent Lake Lagunitas.
- Purisima Creek Redwoods- Off of Hwy 35, due west of Atherton, this gem of a park has miles of Redwoods to explore as a perfect accompaniment to the rainy weather. No parking fee.
- Huddart Park-The neighboring park to Purisima Creek. Offers up a multitude of forested trails to stroll on a rainy day. Parking fee unknown.
- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park-While you’ll want to steer clear of the Nattkemper/Goodspeed Trail after a good rain, lest you get swept away at the creek crossing, the Canyon trail is a perfect loop off Adobe Canyon Rd where you can see the raging falls that Sonoma Creek has become. Should you want to extend your hike, the Pony Gate trail across the road, also brings you up to some beautiful flowing side creeks. Both these sections are on the more strenuous side of the spectrum but are 3 year old tested with no negative side effects.$6 parking fee.
- Boethe Napa State Park-Another North Bay gem outside of Calistoga. Mostly forested trails with year round creeks. The Redwood Trail and Spring Trail are spectacular after the creek gets flowing. $8 entry fee.
Find us on Facebook: Bay Area Families Outside, or on Twitter: @bafamilyoutside