Celebrate Mother’s Day in CA State Parks

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 8. Looking for a unique way to celebrate mom? This year, think more wildflower than bouquet, more Mother Nature than brunch. Here are some outdoor outings perfect for the California mom in your life:


View from Rancho del Oso by David Baron

Wander the Coast

Bring mom on a 1 mile, 1.5 hour guided walk with docent naturalist Ann Garside at Rancho del Oso (the coastal portion of Big Basin in Davenport). The group will walk from coastal scrub through one of the last native stands of Monterey Pine left in the world, enjoying the blooms along the way.

More info

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Empire Mine State Historic Park by Pat Sullivan

Enjoy a Spring Picnic

Pack up a picnic and head to the Empire Gardens at Empire Mine State Historic Park from 11am to 4pm Sunday. You can visit with the costumes characters in many of the buildings, enjoy music and children’s activities. Food vendors will be available from 11 am to 2pm or you can bring in a picnic lunch to enjoy inside the Park. (Picnics are allowed inside the Historic Grounds & Gardens only 4 days a year!)

More info


A hiker in Big Basin Redwoods by TrongQuyen Nguyen

Take a Hike

Get mom out of dodge and go enjoy one of the countless hikes in California state parks. Bring her to your favorite trail, or look for new routes recommended by our partner Weekend Sherpa.

If you’d like something a little more organized, join a two and a half mile, two hour guided hike along Mills Creek at Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park. Enjoy one of our areas hidden treasures as you learn about the lives of the first pioneers and farming families.

More info


Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park photo by David Fulmer 

Serve Breakfast in Tent

If your mom is on the more adventurous side, take her camping! Here are some great Bay Area campsites to choose from. In the morning, you can serve her breakfast in her tent.


Ferry ride to Angel Island

Set Sail

For an extra unique afternoon, treat Mom to a ferry ride to Angel Island, where you can spend the afternoon on a guided hike to Angel Island’s Historic Camp Reynolds, where you’ll be greeted with a pizza lunch at the historic bake house.  After lunch, enjoy mimosas at Battery Ledyard and the best photo ops the Bay Area has to offer of the San Francisco Skyline, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, hop in an open-air tram for a quick jaunt back to the cafe at Ayala Cove to catch the 3:20 p.m. ferry back to Tiburon.

More info


Jack London State Historic Park by Kate Dollarhyde

Find Zen

Learn about mindful walking meditation during a 4.5 -mile hike in Jack London State Historic Park on Saturday. Hike leader and docent Jeff Falconer will give an overview at 10 a.m. of walking meditation that has been used as a healing tool during a 1.5-mile hike to Jack London’s lake before you embark on a 3-mile hike, 2-hour hike between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meet at the Ranch parking lot.

More info


D.L. Bliss State Park by Ray Bouknight

Head to the Lake

You know the ocean beaches, but don’t forget about our lakeside beaches, like Calawee Cove Beach along Lake Tahoe.

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Polo at Will Rogers by Nancy Jackson

Catch a Polo Match

Bring a blanket and a picnic brunch to Will Rogers State Historic Park and watch horses pound up and down the field right before you.  Learn a little bit about polo, watch a match and then hike the park or tour Will Rogers old house (he was a huge horse and polo fan). Matches are free and open to the public all summer.  There are matches most Saturdays from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

More info

Where will you go this Mother’s Day?

Guest Post: Spending a day at Año Nuevo State Park


Jennifer is a writer and travel enthusiast based in the Sacramento area of Northern California. She has recently given in to the insatiable urge to wander and loves to share photos and experiences over on her blog, People + Places + Things

When my mom and I decided to treat ourselves to a beach getaway weekend in April of this year, we knew we would be spending much of our time relaxing at a beautiful vacation rental, eating delicious food and exploring the area around Pescadero, California.

We had heard about Año Nuevo State Park, which offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to see elephant seal pups in March and April. Naturally, we decided to go for it.

The park is located south of the town of Pescadero on Highway 1 and is a major gathering spot for northern elephant seals. Over a span of several months, female seals give birth, males fight for dominance, mating takes place and pups are nursed, weaned and begin molting.

We showed up in mid-April after many of the adult seals had gone, leaving hundreds of sleepy, molting pups behind. They were adorable.

In all honesty, they didn’t do a whole lot. There was quite a bit of snoring, snorting and grunting happening. Other than that, they just seemed to be resting. We were fascinated, though. Seeing creatures like this up close was pretty amazing.

The seals completely covered the beach. This seal had just lifted up her head, stretched and then looked right at us:

One of the rangers on duty was kind enough to take a picture of us with our new friends:

We didn’t get too close to the seals, even though they were everywhere: on the path, in the dunes and right in the middle of the viewing area. Visitors are advised to stay at least 25 feet away at all times. If these cuties get angry enough, they can move pretty fast and know how to throw their weight around. So, my camera’s zoom feature got a nice little work out.

To get to the multiple viewing areas in the park, visitors follow a well-worn trail for about a mile and a half (3 miles round-trip). There is also a section where you’re walking on sand dunes, so be prepared for that. You definitely won’t be viewing elephant seals from your car.

Luckily, the sights along the way are pretty spectacular:

The trip to Año Neuvo State Park was incredible and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the outdoors. To learn more about the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park and the best times of year to visit, click here.

Jennifer has also authored an app titled Northern California for Nature Lovers, which can be downloaded from the App Store here.