Kids on summer break are as buzzy as 100 Energizer bunnies. Want a no-fail way for them to get out their yahoos? Go hiking!
Philo Little Hendy Grove Trail and Big Hendy Grove Trail, both part of a couple of miles of interlocking loop trails in Hendy Woods State Park, are great for short, kid-friendly redwood adventures. So is the Hermit Hut Trail, the former stomping grounds of a Russian immigrant who lived there during the middle of the last century. Go about a half-mile down the trail to the turnoff that leads to the downed redwood that served as the hermit's home for a couple of decades. Dogs are not allowed. There are flush toilets in the campground, which lies between the Little Hendy and Big Hendy trails. See www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=438 for details.
Mendocino For an easy, flat hike with incredible scenery, try the Mendocino Headlands Trail, which is within walking distance of Mendocino. Get a treat in town, learn a bit of local history at the Ford House Museum and Visitor Center, and then walk over to the trailhead. Wind through about two and a half miles of gorgeous coastline with stunning views of bluffs and secluded beaches before landing at Cypress Grove. Whale or bird watch, or just take in the landscape. The only downside is that the trail is heavily trafficked during tourist season, but the vistas are well worth it. Be sure to dress warmly for those strong coastal winds. Leashed dogs are allowed. Restrooms with flush toilets are at the Ford House and at Cypress Grove. Park on Main Street or at the lot at Heeser Drive and Little Lake Street (not Road)--a great place to watch the sunset.
Ukiah To catch some shade, and a serious dose of beauty, take the Montgomery Grove Trail in the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. You will travel a 4-mile loop through a magical realm of towering old growth redwoods (once thought to be the tallest in the world), a babbling creek, and a carpet of ferns (perhaps some fairy hangouts, too). With a 900-foot elevation gain, the first third of a mile is a little steep, so young legs may need some motivation. Perhaps reward them with a special prize or snack when they get to the top of the rise. The park doesn't get a lot of visitors, possibly because Google says it takes close to an hour to get there from Ukiah, but it's only a half-hour if you take Orr Springs Road. Parking is limited. There are restrooms with flush toilets at the trailhead. Dogs are not allowed. Log on to www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=434 for more information.
Lower Lake If you're after abundant wildlife, take your binoculars to the McVicar Trail in the Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, where wetlands draw in hundreds of species of birds, including great blue herons, pileated woodpeckers, and red-winged black birds. You may even catch a glimpse of a deer, bobcat, or fox, too. The eight-mile (round-trip), generally flat, wide, dirt trail, goes all the way to Clear Lake, but you can turn around at any juncture. A good part of the path is exposed, so be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring water. Dogs are not allowed. Porta-potties are available in the parking lot, which is open only on the weekends, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (The park itself is open all week, sunrise to sunset.) The day-use fee is $4 (seniors $3). Due to unusual flooding this year, there may be areas of the trail that are wet or overgrown. Call and check for trail conditions: 279-2267 or 279-4293. Also see www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=483.
Kelseyville Long before Europeans settled in Northern California, the Pomo Native Americans made their home in Lake County. On the half-mile, self-guided Indian Nature Trail loop in Clear Lake State Park, you and the kids can find out about the plants that they used to survive. In addition to lessons in natural history, the trail also offers a smattering of wildflowers and lovely views overlooking the valley. For a longer, more challenging walk, try the Dorn Nature Trail. The two-and-a-half-mile loop begins on a steep incline through the woods and then gradually zigzags its way up a ridge and into a meadow, where vistas and colorful flora await. Pets are not allowed on either trail, however they are allowed on the quarter-mile Kelsey Creek Trail, which runs along the Kelsey Creek Campground. (The campground itself is closed due to flood damage.) There are restrooms with flush toilets throughout the park but not on the trails themselves. The day-use fee is $8. To access the Dorn Nature Trail, park in the day-use area or at the beach; to reach the Indian Nature Trail, park at the park entrance. See www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=473 and download the campground brochure (under Brochures) for a map.
Lower Lake Get a little wine tasting in along with your exercise on the 1.25-mile Red Hills Terroir Trail. The flat walk, which runs through and along side vineyards, boasts breathtaking views of Clear Lake and the Anderson Marsh wetlands. Start the hike at either Gregory Graham Winery or Vigilance Winery and Vineyards; parking and restrooms are available at either. The tasting rooms, and the hike, are open Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Note that this walk is on private lands, so you must get permission to use it by calling or visiting the tasting room of either winery. Contact the Gregory Graham Winery at 995-3500 (ggwines.com) and the Vigilance Winery and Vineyards at 994-9656 (vigilancewinery.com). Download a brochure offering detailed trail directions at konoctitrails.com/trails/vineyard-trails/vt1-red-hills-terroir-trail.