An Idyllic Nook: Explore Lucas Valley-Marinwood

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Ever cruised down Lucas Valley Road?  It’s an exit off of 101, not far north of San Francisco, that lazily winds its way through bucolic scenery and oak studded valleys en route to further pastures in West Marin (tough drive, huh?).  With a creek to one end and hills all around, it also connects the San Rafael neighborhoods of Lucas Valley and Marinwood.  While there’s no main strip, the area does boast a ton of family-friendly gems.  So the next time you exit you can do more than just head west—it’s an idyllic nook to explore on its own or else simply take it all in as a lovely pit stop.  Here are some fun things to do in the area:

Marinwood Park has the ultimate pastoral setting surrounded by trees, wide grass expanses, and anchored on one end by Miller Creek.  There are 2 playgrounds (one geared toward smaller tots) with plenty of shade to enjoy the park even in warm weather.  Next door is the Marinwood Fire Department where if the firemen are outside and not too busy, they’re happy to say hi and show little ones the shiny trucks (with plenty of Marinwood FD hats and stickers on-hand, of course).

Miller Creek runs right through Marinwood Park with easy access via the playground—if you don’t see the pathway, which can be a bit hidden, just ask anyone there to point you in the right direction.  Kids will think it’s a secret magical place just beneath the playgrounds… because it is!  It’s full of nature’s toys (rocks and sticks and pebbles galore), plus there’s enough shallow water where the kiddos can spend the entire afternoon happily wading through.

Insider tip: for the full effect, definitely bring galoshes.

Marinwood Market is a locally-owned deli perfect to grab something and go (try their huge delicious sandwiches or freshly made sushi).  They have all of the normal grocery store brands—organic and otherwise—but also carry a few harder to find staples from abroad (chocolate UK Smarties, anyone?!).  On Saturday mornings you’ll find the Marinwood Community Farmer’s Market in the Marinwood Market parking lot with buttery pastries, direct from the farm eggs, and  fresh local produce.  For more of a restaurant setting try Mulberry Pizza, another locally-owned neighborhood hangout with the tastiest of pies.

Marinwood Market & Marinwood Community Farmer’s Market
101 Marinwood Avenue
San Rafael 94903

Mulberry Pizza
101 Smith Ranch Road
San Rafael 94903

If your kids are into skateboarding, the skate park at McInnis Park is seriously the place to take them.  It’s massive—a cement sea of half-pipes, bowls, and ramps—and surrounded by hills (green or golden, depending on the time of year).  There are picnic tables so parents can sit and watch kids practice their ollies.  The park is free and generally open from 7:00am – 7:00pm; scooters are also allowed until 1:00pm.

310 Smith Ranch Road
San Rafael 94903

Lucas Valley is home to over 1,200 acres of Open Space, which means trails upon trails for the whole family to enjoy.  For fans of architecture, many of these paths happen to overlook pockets of mid-century modern Eichler homes, with streets of his low-lying, A-frame houses sitting perfectly preserved like a step back in time.  No matter what you see from those trails, you’ll always have views!  What to bring: a camera.

Have you explored this part of Marin yet?  Tell us what you liked!

–Mae Respicio

All images courtesy of Mae Respicio.