We are so lucky to live so close to the amazing park combination of Spring Lake, Howarth Park, and Annadel State Park. There is something for everyone there: boating, fishing, camping, running, hiking, swimming, eating, mountain bike riding, picnicking, playgrounds, pony rides, carousel, and a train. The best thing about it - most of it is free!
There are many ways to spend a day in this area, depending on the ages of your children. We spent a day last week at Spring Lake and the Discovery Center, had a great time, and didn't spend a dime!
We parked on the Northeast side of Spring Lake (Violetti Road in Santa Rosa), it is a Sonoma County Park so you can use your SoCo Pass and park for free. Otherwise its $7. We began our adventure at the Environmental Discovery Center, an educational center for kids to learn interact and learn about Sonoma County environment and wildlife.
I think the kids' favorite part was the tide pool tank where they can touch and observe the local sea life - sea urchins, starfish, crab, fish, mussels, and clams.
There are some live animals there - snakes, fish, bugs, turtles. The rangers are happy to take the snakes out for some interaction.
There are some animal displays including a mountain lion, lynx, bobcat, fox, coyote, and many different birds.
The general themes of the Environmental Discovery Center are environment, wildlife, conservation, and recycling. There are many activities for the kids to engage in including arts and crafts, seed planting, and nature book reading.
There is also a self-guided trail with educational markers next to the center - Shady Oaks Trail.
After the Environmental Discovery Center, head down the trail to eat lunch at the swimming lagoon where there are picnic areas and a restaurant - Lakeside Grill. You can eat/swim here at your leisure.
After lunch, take the main trail around Spring Lake for a short scenic hike that is kid-friendly. The length of the trail is 2.3 miles and is flat and easy to navigate with children.
There are many places to stop and enjoy the view of Spring Lake. There are also many benches to stop for a snack while your kids inevitably throw rocks into the water. You know they are dying to do it, just give in and let them.
This park is such an easy and wonderful way to spend an afternoon with your family. For more information on Spring Lake and all of its amenities, visit the Spring Lake website.