Its amazing to me how little we explore our own backyards. Sam has family in Petaluma, CA which is about an hour north of San Francisco. We have been out there countless times over the last 11 years to visit with family, yet I am still finding new and exciting places to explore. Either that means there’s more out there than someone can visit in a lifetime, or we’ve been really, really lazy the last decade.
When We Visited: December 1, 2014
Ages of Kids: 9, 7. 4
Tips: The headlands are part of the larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with countless hiking & biking trails, scenic drives, forts, batteries, lighthouses, and areas to explore. Just pick a small area to visit and save the rest for next time!
When we went back to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, I chose to visit the Marin Headlands with the kids so we could add to their collection of Jr. Ranger Badges. There are quite a few to earn in this area (we’ve also done Point Reyes, John Muir NHS, Muir Woods, & the San Francisco Maritime Museum) so I try and pick just one to do every time we are in the area.
Although the weather was a bit chilly and overcast at times, the Marin Headlands park was beautiful! We started out at the Visitor Center to pick up our booklets and view the exhibits, and then drove out to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. The walk down to the lighthouse is pretty steep, but we found a group of seals barking on the rocks below us and there’s a pretty cool tunnel to walk through. Both kept the kids interested and excited about the hike!
My favorite part was crossing the bridge to get out to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse are is not very large, but the views are spectacular and the history is interesting. We spent some time talking to the docent, and working on our booklets. The lighthouse was built in 1855 in response to the 1849 gold rush and the increased amount of ships entering the San Francisco Bay. As we sat and watched the waves crash, and looked at the rugged coastline we could easily understand how so many ships would crash and sink along this route!
After we slogged back up the hill we enjoyed the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and explore Battery Wallace.
We were even graced with a double rainbow. See? It pays to get out even in “bad” weather!
After we had thoroughly explore the fort, we drove back down to the Visitor Center. We had planned to hike out to Rodeo Beach, but we ran out of time. It was nearing late afternoon and I didn’t want to get caught up in crazy city traffic on our way home. The Marin Headlands badge is one of the coolest we’ve earned though, so I’m glad we took the time to drive out there and visit!
On my bucket list is tent camping in one of the few campgrounds they have out there. None are trailer friendly, but camping on the hills overlooking the city? Yes, please! Also on my list is the Jr. Ranger Badge out at Alcatraz Island. This park is so large and there is so much to do out there that we’ll have to take a few more trips in as we keep visiting over the years.