We are all lucky to live in the SF Bay Area, with its abundance of natural beauty, culture, and activities. Every winter, I thank my lucky stars that we can step out the door with our kids without having to bundle them up for sub-zero temperatures or make them wait in the car while we scrape ice off the windshield. (Can you tell that I have PTSD from decades of Chicago winters?) This year, my family has resolved to be better about getting “out there” and experiencing more of what the Bay has to offer!
On New Year’s Day, we spent the morning at the Rancho San Antonio Preserve in Los Altos. OK, this isn’t a “new” space for us – I admit that we head over at least twice a month… but we always have a great time, and the kids are ready for a good lunch and long nap after spending a few hours there. So, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Rancho San Antonio has 24 miles of trails, many of which are great for strollers. There are flat dirt paths that meander through open fields and woods alike and trails that wind up into the hills for more challenging hikes boasting scenic vistas. Joggers abound, though many of the trails limit bikes. When we’re lucky, we cross paths with large herds of deer and flocks of wild turkeys (usually early in the morning or late in the afternoon). For my kids, there is little more thrilling than an eye-to-eye with a wild animal (bird, squirrel, deer, or otherwise)!
About a mile in from the main parking lot, you’ll find Deer Hollow Farm. This fantastic ranch is open from 8:00-4:00 every day except Mondays. You can wander in to watch the cows, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, and chickens… and if you get there early enough, you can even buy fresh eggs straight from the source. We’ve watched the cows get milked (I had flashbacks to pumping, but the kids were fascinated), and in the spring you might even get to pet one of the many baby farm animals. The farm also offers paid tours, seasonal activities, farm classes, and even a short one-week summer camp for older kids.
When I head to Rancho with the kids, I typically pack a couple snacks and some water (though there are several water fountains and bathrooms available). I squeeze in a low-key jog to the farm, let the kids roam, then run back to the car via the more challenging hills. Sometimes, we head to the upper level parking lots to watch people fly their model airplanes from the designated plane field. The kids are more than content to stay still and watch the realistic toys zoom around, while I stretch and take in the beautiful scenery.
Parking can be a little frustrating, as free spots may be scarce during peak hours when the weather is nice. But if you are patient, you will get a spot within several minutes on even the busiest of days. The relatively limited parking ensures that the trails are never too crowded. Plus, it’s well worth any wait, I promise!