If spending too much time on the couch can eventually provoke health problems, getting outdoors and exploring local farms, lakes, trails and beaches is an effective remedy. In a push to get people out the door, doctors, insurers, naturalists and government agencies are collaborating in a grassroots effort, and now even the White House is involved.
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which President Obama launched last year, aims to help families get moving by bolstering efforts to conserve outdoor spaces, as well as reconnecting people with opportunities “to stay active and healthy” in their communities’ natural environments.
In our community and the surrounding Bay Area, connecting with and enjoying the outdoors is easy. Are you a would-be angler, a cyclist or someone who simply appreciates nature’s bounty? If so, read on. We’ve got a whole season’s worth of great places to get a breath of fresh air—and a boost to your health and sense of well-being.
Outdoor exercise and exploration offer important health benefits, researchers say. Among the perks for this sort of physical activity and mental diversion:
Feeding the farm animals is the appeal here. Just grab some celery or lettuce out of your refrigerator, and head up into the fresh, green quiet that is Tilden. Beautiful views get you communing with nature as you travel to the farm, and, once you arrive, it’s a meet-and-greet with the animals in a soothing, low-key setting. Central Park Drive, Berkeley; (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4564; ebparks.org/parks/vc/tna
This club organizes trips on a nonprofit basis for anyone interested in kayaking, and its members can teach you all the ins and outs of exploring the bay. Be sure to be ready for an excitingly close encounter with the marine environment. bask.org
Combine a nature experience with some cardiovascular exercise by hiking, biking or in-line skating 2.7 partially shaded miles around this pretty, peaceful body of water. Bikes and skates are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon until closing, and Sundays, 6:00 to 11:00 AM. An elaborate playground on the reservoir’s east side offers extra fun and exercise to anyone who can use it. 3849 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, ebmud.com/recreation/lafayette-recreation-area
The Mount Diablo Astronomical Society offers monthly explorations of the sky using telescopes and binoculars on the mountain’s summit. A field trip to the mountain observatory offers unobstructed, awe-inspiring—and stress-free—views of the night sky. mdas.net
Lange’s metalmark butterfly, the Antioch Dunes evening primrose and the Contra Costa wallflower make their home at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge—and nowhere else. A unique, 55- acre habitat for these nearly extinct species, this little-known area tucked between industrial lots on Antioch’s waterfront is open to the public on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. A visit offers a stunning view of the San Joaquin River and an interesting history of these once-grand dunes. 501 Fulton Shipyard Road, Antioch, fws.gov/sfbayrefuges/antioch
This Fremont property operates 1870s-style, but it’s also a working farm, complete with produce (fresh-picked organic veggies on sale starting in late May) and animals (sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, goats and cows). Children will love the baby animals, which are proffered like prize exhibits. 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont, ebparks.org/parks/ardenwood
East County insiders hit this Antioch suburban oasis for peaceful hiking, biking, fishing, windsurfing and swimming. The park comprises 780 hilly acres and offers views of Mount Diablo. 1200 Frederickson Lane, Antioch, ebparks.org/parks/contra_loma
This beautiful, 2.5-mile stretch of sandy beach is a pleasant getaway for swimming. The water is shallow, and therefore relatively warm. The beach is perfect for walking, and a paved trail that borders the beach welcomes bikes, scooters and strollers. Come for the annual Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture Contest on June 4. Eighth Street and Otis Drive, Alameda, ebparks.org/parks/crown_beach
The easy amble to the beach through the Tennessee Valley makes for one of the Bay Area’s most scenic outings. The 3.4 miles out and back from this trailhead in the Marin Headlands takes you past green grass and wildflowers in spring and golden hillsides in summer. Views of surrounding landscape, including Mount Tamalpais, are majestic. When you arrive at the stunningly dramatic beach, you’ll be in heaven if you’ve brought a picnic lunch. 591 Tennessee Valley Road, Mill Valley, nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/tennessee_valley.htm
Take a walk on the wild side and experience a forest of 600- to 800-year-old coastal redwoods and all the diverse plants and wildlife that inhabit the cool, shaded woods beneath the giant trees’ canopy. Mill Valley, nps.gov/muwo