Springtime is for Seniors – IOA Blog


The spring season has always been a time for rejuvenation. The cold periods of winter are over, the days are gradually sunnier and warmer, and flowers are blooming.

In 2021, Spring has taken on a whole new breath of fresh air, as the now widely availability of the Covid-19 vaccine has enabled many of us to finally start to feel like normal. And like hibernating bears after a long sleep, many of us are venturing out of our dens in search of new places to explore.  

Here are Institute on Aging’s suggestions for seven outdoor spots to visit in the Bay Area to reconnect with nature and simply enjoy all the picturesque beauty our little part of the world has to offer. We’ve included areas with all-access, making them ideal for those needing wheelchair accessibility as well as for those just wishing to take a leisurely, easy stroll.

The Presidio, San Francisco

Adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio is San Francisco’s loveliest green space, with many areas and trails to explore, several with views, that are easily accessible for seniors. One of the best is El Polin Spring, the bird and wildlife hot spot of the Presidio. There is parking, restrooms, picnic areas with grills, and a pretty walk to the spring.

Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, San Mateo

There are at least two all-access paths at this open space in South Bay. The first is the loop around Alpine Pond, which is closed to equestrians and cyclists and begins at a parking lot solely reserved for vehicles with handicapped placards. It feeds into Ridge Trail and past Horseshoe Lake. You may see ducks, grebes, and other birds near the water, as well as deer and bobcats on the shore.

China Camp State Park, San Rafael  

The Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail in San Rafael’s China Camp State Park is a circular trail that is a flat, easy walk, with signposts along the trail that detail the park’s ecosystem and its salt marshes. It’s fully wheelchair accessible (ADA compliant) and also has tactile features for the visually impaired. Part of the trail is on a wooden boardwalk over the marshes, allowing visitors to take a closer look at the activity below.

Tilden Park, Berkeley

Tilden Park is always full of surprises, but the Jewel Lake Loop is easily one of the best for seniors. This shaded hike through the heart of Tilden Nature Area, with its 800-foot long boardwalk, serene Jewel Lake, and peaceful woodlands, is an escape from urban bustle. Also popular with all ages: the Little Farm in Tilden Park, which houses a variety of barnyard animals that can be fed and petted.

Jean Lauer Trail, Half Moon Bay

For dramatic views of the gorgeous Northern California coastline, and a great spot to see the world-famous Mavericks surf break, try the Jean Lauer Trail just north of Half Moon Bay. This dog-friendly trail is ADA compliant with a less than 5% grade and a hard, dirt-packed surface. The adjacent Pillar Point Bluff parking area has ample parking and an accessible, ADA-compliant public restroom.

Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

San Francisco’s world class botanical garden is the place to get a true flower fix. 55 acres filled with 8,000 plant and flower species set against spectacular scenery will make you feel a world away. The garden’s pathways are mostly ADA accessible, plus admission is free for all San Francisco residents.

Olompali State Historic Park, Novato

Olompali is a perfect outdoor getaway for those who enjoy both nature and history. For thousands of years, the park was home to the Coast Miwoks, the Bay Area’s original inhabitants—and evidence of them still remains for visitors to explore including a replica of a Miwok village that demonstrates how these indigenous peoples lived, worked and played. Much of the area is flat and easy to navigate.

For more outdoorsy ideas, check out Bay Area Hiker’s guide to all access hikes and walks in the Bay Area. Did you know that many of the area’s beaches have beach wheelchairs you can borrow as well?

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