Did you know that June is Great Outdoors Month? Luckily, here in Northern California, we don’t have to go far to immerse ourselves in nature, so wrap up the month-long observance like a Girl Scout with an adventure outdoors!
Thanks to accessible public transportation and convenient highways throughout the area, travel time to a local park or hiking trail often takes less than an hour, making a trip outside with your girls both quick and affordable. Whether they want to complete some outdoor badge activities during an afternoon hike or spend their summer days becoming a Girl Scout Ranger with the National Park Service, help your girls prepare for the wilderness with these three simple steps:
1. Pick the correct gear
Before you and your girls choose which park or which trail to go on, it’s always best to plan out your packing list. The “Ten Essentials” is a brief list of items you should always carry in your daypack. No matter where your path takes you – the redwoods, the shoreline, the peak of Mount Diablo – make sure you have these items before you hit the trails to keep you and your group safe:
- Navigation (map and compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, as well as a hat or bandana)
- Insulation (extra clothing and good footwear)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies (including insect repellent and whistle)
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
Pro Tip: With our frequently fluctuating temperatures, don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you start your adventure, so you can pack accordingly.
2. Choose a park and find the right trail.
Northern California is covered with regional parks, nature preserves, and trails to explore – all with a variety of difficulty levels, terrains, and views. During the summer months, local park districts often host ranger-led activities, like campfires, educational nature hikes, night hikes, and even yoga sessions, so check your county’s park websites for more outdoor options. To get you started, here are some of my favorite parks and places in the Greater Bay Area and Northern California:
- Del Valle Regional Park: Nestled in a valley south of Livermore, Del Valle is a place that caters to every girl’s nature dreams. There’s a five mile long lake full of bright blue water where girls can swim, catch rays, and go boating (with an adult of course!). Don’t forget to hike up to the ridge of the valley, where the views of the lake and the surrounding area can’t be beat.
- Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve: Perfect for early summer wildflower viewing, Edgewood Park provides lots of opportunities for hiking and sightseeing in the Redwood City Area. There’s even a free shuttle on weekends so you and your girls can head out without worrying about parking. Their docent-led wildflower walks are also a great way to help Juniors earn their Naturalist Flowers Badge.
- Rancho San Antonio County Park: One of Santa Clara’s most popular parks, Rancho San Antonio is a fun way to spend your summer days hiking, biking, and picnicking. There are even equestrian trails, tennis courts, and acres of meadows for a variety of activities to keep your girls active outside.
- Spring Lake Regional Park: In Northeast Santa Rosa, you can trek out to Spring Lake Regional Park for convenient walking paths and bike trails. The easy 2.3 mile circuit around the lake is a great way to start off, but if you’re looking for more of a challenge, hikes can easily be extended to nearby Annadel State Park. There’s also a swimming lagoon, a lake for boating and fishing, and even a campground!
- Temescal Regional Recreation Area: Located in the hills above Oakland, Lake Temescal is the perfect place to beat the heat during the hot East Bay summers. The park includes paved trails, lots of shady picnic-friendly areas, and even a beach where girls can take a dip after a long hike!
3. Learn how to “Leave No Trace” in nature.
Once you’ve picked your park and packed your gear, it’s important to remember to respect nature and leave the outdoor areas you visit in better condition than you found them. Take some time to review the Girl Scout Outdoor Resources and teach your girls the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles to help them develop skills that will ensure their local parks stay pristine for years to come:
- Plan ahead, so you leave nothing behind. From researching the area’s regulations to repackaging food into reusable containers, do what you can to prepare for your trip.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces to reduce your impact. Only walk on existing trails and camp on surfaces that durable enough to withstand repeated trampling.
- Dispose of waste properly and carry out what you carry in. Don’t dump anything in a water source or on a campground.
- Leave nature as you find it and don’t take anything, such as sticks, rocks, or plants from the outdoors.
- Minimize campfire impact by using a lightweight cooking stove or lantern instead of a traditional wood-burning campfire.
- Respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance while you look at them. Never feed, approach, or follow them.
- Be considerate of other visitors when sharing outdoor space. Keeping your voices down and letting nature be the loudest sound you hear is the best way to be a friend in the wilderness.
And just like that, you’re ready to head out! Now that you’ve learned what to pack, where to go, and how to keep our local parks clean, you and your girls can spend a summer together outside discovering what nature has to offer. Happy trails!
What to do next:
- Looking for more ways to explore the great outdoors? Click through the Activity Finder for outdoor programs and events.
- For a related read, check out our other outdoor-themed posts.
Gabi Reyes-Acosta—Gabi is a Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she works to create experiences and programs for girls to enrich their Girl Scouting experience. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California, Gabi has been a member of the Girl Scouts family since she was a Daisy (Girl Scouts of Central California South!). In college, Gabi found her passion for helping girls develop their leadership skills while having fun as she worked several summers as a camp staff member at Camp Bothin, and again during her years serving in AmeriCorps in Oakland. A lover of all things outdoors (there’s nothing better than songs and stories around the campfire), Gabi can usually be found in any Bay Area park, wilderness, or forest with her dog close behind.
Another great resource when planning your next outdoor adventure is to check out the Safety Activity Checkpoints on the GSNorCal website : http://www.gsnorcal.org. (Just type Safety Activity Checkpoints in the search window.) You’ll find great tips, guidelines and online resources for planning your trip or activity. There’s a great checkpoint dedicated to Trip/Travel Camping. “Check” it out! 🙂
Very disappointed that these activities start at 4th grade and up. It really leaves out the younger girls. Having a background with Cub Scouts where the boys do archery and other activities at 1st grade.