Location: Samuel P. Taylor State Park, California (off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd in Marin County)
Bike trail: Cross Marin Trail (paved portion, about 3 miles to Platform Bridge Road from day-use area), easy
Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County (15 minutes west of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Blvd) has a paved bike trail, the Cross Marin Trail, which is perfect for kids or anyone looking for a relaxing bike ride (or hike) through some beautiful scenery (imagine forest canopy, redwoods, creek views). The paved portion of the trail parallels Lagunitas Creek westward for about 3 miles to Platform Bridge Road, making this ride about 6 miles round trip.
After parking in the day-use area, you can bike from there to the bridge going towards the campground. Take a right after the bridge and you are now on the Cross Marin Trail. If you head left, you go on the eastward portion of the trail that is gravel (1.5 miles one way). We skipped that this time due to the recent rains which left things a bit muddy and wet. We went in mid November (2015), on a day that started off with a little rain, but then quickly cleared up. The initial bad weather kept the park sparsely populated, and we had many areas of the park to ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the bike ride savoring the gorgeous surroundings, stopping often to take pictures or climb down to the creek (much to the chagrin of my hubby who had to keep biking ahead and coming back) .
After returning to the day-use area, we couldn’t make ourselves leave this beautiful spot, so we explored the creek and picnic area some more. Hubby took off on his bike and tracked down the camp host to buy firewood. Meanwhile, I popped up the penthouse top, and prepped some food (bring your own food as there are no stores nearby). The picnic area had tables, large fire pits with grates and BBQ grills scattered throughout a grove of redwoods. The tables were well-spaced and a fence separated the area from a drop off to the creek. Everything was so peaceful and quiet that we found ourselves whispering at times. There is a 50-site campground with some sites open year-round, and people were actually camping this time of year. Samuel P Taylor park is a perfect place for a picnic, hike or bike ride (they have swimming spots in the summer with “beaches”). The campground is now definitely on our list of campgrounds to try.