Outdoor Adventures for Active Families

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush after being stuck at home this past year, there are some great opportunities in and around the Bay Area this summer. Some of these companies offering thrill-seeking adventures have COVID-19 guidelines posted on their websites to help keep customers safe. Check in advance to make sure venues are open and whether reservations are needed or other restrictions are in place.

Rock Climbing

Offering instruction for all levels, Adventure Out) has camps for kids and regular programs at Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Pinnacles National Park on the Central Coast. Castle Rock Climbing School  offers classes for all levels, as well as youth climbing camps. With locations throughout the Bay Area, Outback Adventures  features rock climbing classes for beginner to more advanced climbers. It also has kids’ summer rock climbing camps as well as backpacking, kayaking, hiking and mountaineering classes. 

If you want to practice indoors first, the Bay Area has some great indoor climbing gyms:Berkeley Ironworks, Bladium Sports and Fitness Gym in Alameda, Dogpatch Boulders in San Francisco, Mission Cliffs in San Francisco and Planet Granite in Belmont, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Call or check websites in advance for opening status and other COVID-related requirements such as reservations.

For less serious climbers, check out Rock City at Mount Diablo State Park, Indian Rock Park in Berkeley, Little Yosemite in the Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve  and Ring Mountain in Corte Madera..

Zip Lining and Ropes Courses

At Mount Hermon Adventures in Felton, enjoy zip lining through the redwoods or traversing on swinging logs, bridges, ropes and cargo nets at its Aerial Adventure. The activities are available for ages 10 and up, and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include mask wearing, social distancing, health screening and temperature checks. Outward Bound California has opened a new ropes course in San Francisco’s McLaren Park, largely for schools and community groups. Individual community members ages 12 and up can experience the guided the course for free from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays with a reservation, though all upcoming slots were booked at press time.

Nestled off the coast of Northern California, Sonoma Canopy Tours offers treetop tours, forest flight tours and night flight tours while also having COVID-19 guidelines in place. And for those willing to travel a little farther, Margarita Adventures along the Central Coast  offers zip lines over vineyards, valleys and mountains, and Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks in Tahoe City, Squaw Valley and Tahoe Vista has ropes courses and zip lines for ages 5 and up. The sites are open by reservation with COVID safety measures in place.

River Rafting

While it may require an hour or two road trip, there are some river rafting tours not far from the Bay Area. The American River in Gold Country is one of the prime spots for river rafting near the Bay Area. All-Outdoors  offers whitewater river rafting for ages 5 and up. In 2020, it instituted COVID-19 practices such as not mixing groups on each raft. Its "Tom Sawyer" day trips, which take place on the calm section of the American River’s South Fork, can include kids from ages 5-7. It also has trips for older kids and adult beginners willing to try something a more difficult, as well as for those more experienced with river rafting. Tributary Whitewater Tours  also offers a variety of tours on the American River for different levels and ages.

Surfing

Bay Area beaches may not have the warm waters of other surfing hot spots, but the region holds its own, from the famed Mavericks big-wave surfing competition to more gentle surf perfect for beginners. It has become particularly popular during the pandemic as a perfect distanced, outdoor activity. Grab a wet suit and get your kids or the entire family in on this quintessential California pastime.

Marin

Big Dog Surf  offers lessons and a popular Marin County summer camp for beginners and intermediate surfers ages 5 and up. The protected surf makes Bolinas a perfect spot for beginners. Bolinas Surf Lessonsthe oldest surf school in Bolinas, offers private lessons, a Saturday morning Surf Club for kids 9 and up and summer camps starting at age 8.

Peninsula

Sea, Surf & Fun is a bilingual, French and English, year-round surf school operating off of the Princeton Jetty Surf Spot. Also known as Surfer’s Beach in Half Moon Bay, this spot is located just south of the famous Mavericks surf destination that draws professional competitors from around the world. In addition to lessons and camps for kids, the school offers a special morning yoga and surf session for girls. Pillar Point Surf School  is a well-reviewed surf school that is also based out of Surfer’s Beach in Half Moon Bay. It offers private and group lessons and kids’ summer camps. Tommy Tsunami Surf School offers private, semi-private and group lessons as well as camps at Surfer’s Beach. The school offers a “stand up guarantee,” offering a free lesson if a beginner surfer isn’t standing on her board by the end of the first session

Known by locals as Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica State Beach is one of the best in the area for kids to learn with a trained teacher. Surf Camp Pacifica takes students as young as age 6 for its lessons and camps, which emphasize ocean safety and water awareness. It also offers a two-hour family camp. Also operating at Linda Mar, University of Surfing has been teaching people to surf since 2004 and is currently offering private lessons for individuals or families.

Silicon Valley and South

Santa Cruz Surf Lessons  run by a veteran instructor and international surfer, teaches kids in Santa Cruz at Pleasure Point, a surf spot coveted by beginners for its relatively easy, consistent waves. One-on-one and group lessons available.

Teresa Mills-Faraudo and Janine DeFao are associate editors at Bay Area Parent. Malaika Fraley is a former calendar editor.