Archive for the ‘Beaches’ Category

This summer we spent a glorious week in west Lake Tahoe and managed a hike every day. These were our favourites:-

Eagle Rock Hike

This is a perfect short but fun hike for small children.  Park at the well-marked trail head on route 89 about half a mile north of Tahoe Pines and head west along the path. At first you’ll travel through shady forests along a flat path before the trail climbs gradually up the hill to the peak of the crag. There is some easy scrambling over stones at the top which our kids really enjoyed. The view from the summit is amazing and it only takes about twenty minutes to reach the top. Take the same trail down and back to the car. Highly recommended for reluctant hikers!

Eagle Peak

Eagle Peak

Eagle Lake Hike

This is a more challenging hike. Our four year old loved it and walked/climbed the whole thing with ease. Our intrepid two year old completed most of the hike under his own steam, although he wanted to be carried on the easier (more boring for him?) parts of the trail at the start and end. The hike isn’t too long—one mile each way from parking lot to lake—but it is rather steep and craggy in parts with large steps and boulders to be negotiated. The destination is well worth the effort as the trail leads you up to beautiful Eagle Lake. This is a perfect spot for a picnic and paddle. I strongly recommend taking water shoes, a towel and a change of clothes if your children like water as much as ours do.

Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake

To find the trail head park  in the Eagle Falls Picnic Area parking lot on route 89 about 9 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. Note that there is a parking fee so make sure to bring cash. You also need to fill in a wilderness permit before heading up the trail—find these by the map near the toilet block. Also note that parking here is limited and this is a very popular trail. We went early (arriving in the parking lot before 9.30am) which meant we could grab one of the much-coveted parking spots and enjoy the trail and the lake before the foot traffic became too heavy.

On the trail

On the trail

Cascade Falls Hike

This is another great hike for preschoolers. It’s an easy one mile each way from parking lot to the falls with only minimal (about 100 feet) elevation gain.  Although the trail starts off wide and easy, it does get more challenging with rocky outcrops and boulders to negotiate.  The drop off at the side of the cliff is quite steep and the bare rocky parts can be slippery, so you’ll want to keep little ones close by.  We hiked to the falls and then continued on a couple of hundred feet to a wonderful spot above the falls where the creek ran over granite rocks making lots of little pools where the kids could paddle. (If you do this make sure to go a safe distance upstream of the waterfall and keep a close eye on the kids). The view up there is incredible with mountains on one side and Cascade Lake on the other.

Paddling pool in the mountains

Paddling pool in the mountains

To find this trail turn into the Bay View Campsite opposite the Inspiration Point parking lot on route 89 north of South Lake Tahoe. Drive to the end of the camp ground to find the free trail head parking. There’s no need to fill out a wilderness permit if you’re only hiking to the falls. Note however that like all popular Tahoe hikes the parking is limited and you’ll struggle to find a spot if you arrive after mid-morning.

Dolder Nature Trail, Sugar Point State Park

This is another gentle walk perfect for reluctant preschool hikers. Just head into the park and leave your car in the lot near the lodge. There is a day use fee at the park. The trail is a flat 2.1 miles that winds through the forest and then along the lakeshore and past America’s highest lighthouse. Allow plenty of time in the woods for free play and take a picnic to enjoy on Sugar Point’s relatively empty beaches.

The beach below the lighthouse

The beach below the lighthouse

Lighthouse/Rubicon Trail, D L Bliss State Park

Calawee Beach

Calawee Cove Beach


This is a lovely, scenic short hike of a little over a mile that ends on the glorious sandy beach at Calawee Cove.  To access the trail, enter the state park and drive down to the beach parking lot. The path leaves from the furthest parking area. Take the shady light house trail up to the viewpoint and then return via the old lighthouse trail along the coast. The first part of the hike is fairly easy, but there is some scrambling along the cliff edge on the return leg – keep little ones close.  Afterwards relax with a picnic on the beach.  Note there are day use fees at D L Bliss and again there is very limited parking in the beach lot. If you arrive past 9.30am in high season you’re unlikely to find a spot.


Read Full Post »

I’ve written before about how much fun our kids have on Negative Tide Day at Half Moon Bay’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve — see here — but this year we decided to do a Negative Tide Day from the ‘other end’, from Seal Cove, and it was even better.  You can still reach the whole FMR by walking along the beach at low tide but there are several advantages of starting at Seal Cove. First, parking is much easier–you’ll find plentiful space on the streets around the cove off Cypress Avenue even on the busiest morning. Second, the tide pools at Seal Cove are a little less crowded with fewer teenagers running about manhandling the sea animals. And third, the beach at Seal Cove is far nicer. The main Fitzgerald Marine Reserve beach is small and, at this time of year, partially closed for the resident seal colony (which, incidentally, is the biggest its been in years and worth checking out).  At Seal Cove you’ll find empty golden sands, a relatively small wave swell and lots of interesting rocks and sea shells. It’s perfect for toddlers, although you should note that it’s most definitely a beach to visit at low tide, there are steep steps down to the sand, and there are no restrooms or other amenities.

The view from the top

The view from the top

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Our kids enjoyed the tide pools more than ever this year partly, I think, because they knew what to expect but partly because we’d found some perfect  laminated toddler guides to Half Moon Bay’s sea life (see here if you’re interested). The boys really got a kick out identifying the various creatures they found. It was a great way for them to engage with the tide pool creatures without touching them.

Identify and catagorize

Identify and catagorize

Leaf Barnacles

Leaf Barnacles


Read Full Post »

October is always so beautiful at the shore here that we decided to make the most of the glorious weather and to head out on a coastal walk.  We picked the Old Cove Landing Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park as we’d heard it was spectacular when the skies are clear. Well, it was spectacular and we enjoyed amazing views of the rugged cliffs, sea caves and sealife. It was also spectacularly easy: just under 3 miles and entirely flat. But best of all, we were able to clamber down to the sand at Old Landing Cove itself and to enjoy an entirely secluded and empty (well, apart from the seals) beach.  A perfect hike for preschoolers.

walking the coast

can you spot the seal colony?

a beach of our own

cave exploration




Read Full Post »

Recently some friends mentioned a secluded and hard-to-reach beach at Tunitas Creek, Half Moon Bay and the challenge sounded irresistable. So a few weeks ago we set off to find this mystery spot and ended up having the perfect toddler adventure: a short trek down a reasonably tricky trail to a wonderful, deserted, sandy beach.

A gloriously empty beach at Tunitas Creek

To find the trail to this beach, park (for free) at Tunitas Creek Road off Highway 1 a couple of miles north of San Gregorio and look for an overgrown path leading down towards the creek on the south-side of the road.  Just keep following that thin trail for about half a mile and you’ll reach the shore.  The trail winds under highway 1, along the creek, over a rocky outcrop and along an inland lagoon before coming out on the beach and makes for an interesting trek.  A couple of points to note:

-this trail is really, really overgrown with lots of poison oak. Personally, I wouldn’t attempt it without trousers and a long-sleeved top.

It’s pretty much a green tunnel most of the way down to the sand

-it does involve a little bit of climbing and scrambling. Don’t be put off by this — my three year old could do it pretty much unaided and I completed the path with a large toddler tucked under one arm–but don’t even consider bringing a jog stroller of any type. A back-pack or ergo would be best for very small toddlers and babies.  My little ones really enjoyed the rugged character of the trail and we found it provided just enough challenge to be really exciting for a preschooler.

The Monkey’s favourite part

-it is pretty isolated. It may be over-cautious, but I wouldn’t attempt it without another adult in the party.

The beach itself is expansive, pretty and empty. It also seemed to have more shells than most local beaches and my kids really enjoyed beach combing there.  I have to admit that it was really nice having the beach to ourselves–the kids could really run around and explore without bothering anyone.

We’ll certainly be going again.

Read Full Post »

After picking berries at Swanton Farm, we decided to explore Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historical Park as it was just too breezy to sit on a beach (our original plan).  This historic lighthouse is a fun destination for kids and adults alike and we spent a good ninety minutes poking around the site and exploring the park’s short coastal walkways.

Pigeon Point is a cove full of history. I never really think of the Gold Rush as a naval event, but of course it was as the sudden and dramatic population growth in California post-1850 brought increased shipping to the area.  Pigeon Point itself acquired its name from the calamity that led, in part, to the building of the lighthouse. In 1853 the Boston-based clipper the Carrier Pigeon ran aground and was wrecked. In the following decade, as the volume of shipping along the coast increased further, three more ships were lost on the point and it came to have a reputation for being particularly dangerous. In 1872 the lighthouse was built to help ships navigate these treacherous waters.  In the following decades a small Portuguese whaling factory also sprung up in the cove, the remnants of which can still be seen on the rocks if you look carefully below the wildflower walk lookout.

The main attraction

While you can no longer go into the lighthouse itself, it is spectacular from the outside, and there are fun displays about the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding area in the outbuildings. You can also see a giant example of a Fresnel Lens which our three-year old found fascinating. And operate fog horns ‘through the ages’ which both The Monkey and The Puppy Dog loved. There is also plenty to see outside the lighthouse buildings. There’s a short walk among the clifftop flowers, spots to watch the spectacular waves breaking on the crags below, and a viewing platform for harbour and elephant seal and grey, blue, and humpback whale spotting.  We spent a long time with the boys watching three seals play in the water and the waves breaking on the rocks, which of course led to hundreds of questions from The Monkey about what made waves, whether seals get cold, what seals eat and where they sleep, what lighthouses are for etc? Very educational.

Studying the waves

There is also beach access to the tiny Whaler’s Cove from just outside the park. This is a cute little spot, but only a tiny area of sand lies above the high tide line. Plus, it’s usually much too cold and breezy on this stretch of the coast for sunbathing…

Read Full Post »

This week we spent a glorious, sunny afternoon on Venice Beach at Half Moon Bay. Usually I let my kids play in the run-off streams on the beach there. I know there is a chance of the water being contaminated, but I’ve always considered it a very low risk. There are now signs at the beach, however, warning about high levels of contaminants in this run-off so we decided just to play in the surf for a change.  I have to say that the warning has made me a little more cautious. A spot of internet research makes me think the risk is probably still small, but worth thinking about. If you’re heading to a local beach that usually has a ‘run-off’ creek or lagoon and you want more information about whether it’s safe to let your kids play in the water, you might want to check out this website which provides beach/creek specific information about current water quality

The Puppy Dog musing on creation and his place in it

Read Full Post »

This weekend we drove up to D L Bliss State Park on the South Lake Tahoe shoreline just north of Emerald Bay for a spot of camping. This beautiful and popular state park offers it all: camping, beach access, incredible views of the lake, and some great day hikes.  It’s also rather sprawling with 4 camping ‘loops’ which vary greatly in character. The sites near the beach have amazing views but are small, close together, and lacking privacy.  The sites higher up the hillside in the woods are larger and more private, some backing onto the wilderness to the extent they almost qualify as ‘walk-in’ sites. If you value quiet and privacy (as we do) I’d recommend the Ridge Campground (sites 91-114) and Pines Campground (sites 1-90).  The park has good, if old, facilities with plentiful toilet and shower blocks in each loop (bring quarters).  I had heard that guests at the park frequently encounter bears, but we didn’t see any (sadly) and each site comes with a huge bear box which minimises the chance of attracting wildlife.  There were lots of chipmunks and giant pinecones which the kids loved however.

Get a load of these pinecones Mom!

Our kids were happy playing with the rocks, pinecones, and sticks in the forest around our campsite for much of the time, but there are plenty of other things to do:-

Balancing Rock Nature Trail

Happy Trails

This is the shortest, most toddler-friendly trek in the park. It’s only half a mile long and on a wide, dirt track that winds round a huge granite outcrop, down the mountain and along the creek, and back up to the parking lot.  The trail would probably be suitable for jog strollers were it not for the fallen tree one currently has to scramble under at the creek.  It is officially a self-guided nature trail and has numerous markers indicating sites of interest. Unfortunately, no informational leaflets were available at the start of the trail as promised.  My boys enjoyed it anyway.  The Monkey had a great time scrambling down the trail finding all the numbers and was thrilled to discover that the giant granite balancing rock of the title looks a bit like a tyrannosaurus rex head.

T-Rex Head


Calawee Cove Beach

There are two lovely beaches in the park, Calawee Cove Beach and Lester Beach. The steps down to Calawee Cove are fairly steep. My three year old could manage them, but if you have a lot of stuff, or a boat, you might want to just head to Lester Beach where you can park feet from the sand.  Both beaches are small and can get a bit crowded in high season, but the views are spectacular and the colour of the lake an unbelievable blue. The boys had a great time paddling, watching the boats, and building driftwood forts. If you take food down to the beach, be prepared to fight off some of the most persistent and aggressive geese you’ve ever met.

Excited boys on Lester Beach

A fun nearby hike: Vikingsholm State Park

A couple of miles south of the park you’ll find the parking lot for Vikingsholm State Park–be warned, go early in the day as the parking lots gets insanely busy by mid-morning. The trail leads straight down the cliff but is gentle enough for toddlers to manage it with ease.  You could take a jog stroller as long if you don’t mind pushing it back up the hill at the end.  At the base of the cliff is a beautiful little beach and lagoon and the Vikingsholm itself.

Vikingsholm is the attractive summer residence built to the order of Mrs Lora J Knight of Santa Barbara in the style of a Norwegian farmstead. It has beautiful towers, wood carvings, and sod roof and is well worth a poke around. Even more fun, however, is the fact that Mrs Knight built a Tea Castle–yes, a castle in which to take afternoon tea–on the island (the only one in Lake Tahoe) that lies a couple of hundred feet off the shore.  The kids enjoyed looking at the house, walking out on the jetty, and exploring the shoreline. Again, beware the crazy aggressive geese if you bring food.

The perfect setting for afternoon tea.

All in all Emerald Bay is an easy place to go with toddlers. It’s perhaps a little busy and ‘touristy’ feeling for my tastes, but if you get out onto the trails or into the woods you can get away from the crowds. And it really is spectacular scenery.

Read Full Post »

Our search for the perfect local beach continues. This time we tried Bean Hollow State Beach.  This is a gorgeous, rugged little cove a couple of miles south of Pescadero.  It has a number of good points: it’s usually empty, has beautiful, golden sand, has lots of shells and rocks to examine, and there are rocks to scramble across and tidepools to explore (which only disappear at high tide I’m informed).  Furthermore, there’s no parking charge at this beach. On the negative side, it’s very exposed and wind-swept.  Another factor to bear in mind, which you may or may not like, it’s one of the few beaches that allows dogs and, while they are meant to be on a leash, the rule is not observed.

Rugged beauty

We plan to visit again: there was lots for the kids to do and we enjoyed the solitude.

Read Full Post »

This weekend we decided to check out a new local beach. Although we’d been warned it’s often a little wind-swept, we settled on Pescadero.  It was such a hot day that we figured a little wind would be ok.  And we were pleasantly surprised.  Although it was a little breezy, the sun shone and the boys happily cavorted in their new swim suits while we took turns to nap on the beach.  I think it turned out to be a good choice for a hot weekend: while the other nearby beaches (esp San Gregorio) were packed, Pescadero remained relatively empty with only a few families sharing the sand.  I recommend heading right out of the car park down the smaller trail to the little beach if you want solitude– the other side of the bluff did get busier.


Pescadero itself is a beautiful sandy beach with enough shells, sticks and stones to keep preschool collectors happy.  There are also rocks to scramble over and a few tide pools at low tide.  The surf is pretty dangerous, however.  I wouldn’t let small kids swim (it was too cold anyway!) and I kept a very close eye on the boys when they were paddling in the shallows.  There is something quite idyllic though about the electric blue sky, the giant green surf and the empty golden sand at Pescadero.

Fetching water

Driftwood driving levers

I should also note that we saw lots of ‘sand fleas’ on the beach.  They didn’t bother us at all, but I think they can sometimes give a painful bite.

Facilities in the car park are limited: only one uni-sex porta potty (pretty gross even by state park standards) and a couple of picnic tables (which means no large family gatherings with booming sound systems) .  $6 day use fee – remember to bring change.

Read Full Post »

This glorious weekend we headed down to Sunset Beach in Santa Cruz, right next to our beloved Manresa SB.  It’s another beautiful stretch of sand. The boys had a great time paddling, building castles and collecting shells.  Do beware that the currents on this beach are pretty strong and you should keep a tight eye on wading preschoolers.  We also noted a lot of sand flies down there. Is that usual?

$10 day use fee. Toilets in the parking lots. BBQs to reserve.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »