Kid-Friendly Camping in Anderson Valley

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For a camping trip that combines NorCal roughing it with a dose of Bay Area-style indulgence, we’re big fans of the Anderson Valley. Located northwest of Healdsburg, and east of Mendocino (about a 2.5-to-3-hour drive from the Bay Area), this wine-growing region along the Navarro River provides a respite from the fog found at the socked-in coast, but mornings amongst big the trees are still cool and shaded.

There are a few popular places to camp in these parts, but the biggest sites, least road noise and best facilities are found at Hendy Woods State Park. There are tent sites, RV sites, even rustic cabins (great if you go during the rainier months). You wouldn’t want to miss out on visiting this park anyway, with its groves of magnificent redwoods. The trails through these groves are flat and windy, perfect for wearing out little legs, and you can take the kids down for some wading in the mellow Navarro River (bring good water shoes, as the bottom is rocky).
There are also campsites at Paul M. Dimmick campground (part of Navarro River Redwoods State Park), located further west on Hwy 128, and at Indian Creek County Park, located in the town of Philo, just east of Hendy Woods. Dimmick provides access to the river for those interested in swimming, and there are also swimming holes at Indian Wells, along the creek that runs through the campground. There are also hikes that extend from the trails at Indian Creek, though locals caution against any off-trail hiking–you don’t want to end up on someone’s “farm” (grapes aren’t the only cash crop grown around these parts).

A must-stop for those with kids is the Philo Apple Farm,  located just before the entrance to Hendy Woods. Even if there’s no one manning the stand in front, feel free to wander the grounds, visiting with the resident hens, roosters, ponies and more, and meandering along the orchard’s rows. Year-round you can pick up delicious apple juice, jams, and chutneys, and in the fall you can stock up on varieties of heirloom apples that’ll ruin you on Red Delicious forever. You may also want to inquire about the cabins for rent available at the farm for your next getaway: the stylish A-frames boast big bathrooms, queen beds, and expansive orchard and valley views.

Parentals, we know that a good glass of wine in front of the campfire at the end of a long day of hiking can be the best muscle relaxant, so we recommend you make a stop at one of the local wineries for a tour, tasting, and to pick up a bottle of grapey goodness for yourselves (leave the apple juice for the kiddies). Though this region is most famed for its pinot noirs, there are also some great gewurtzraminer and muscat grapes grown up here as well. Toulouse winery is kid- and dog-friendly, and offers up a sampling of interesting wines, including muscat, vin gris, and of course the pinots. Husch and Navarro also offer room for kids to roam and a family-friendly atmosphere while you sip, and Goldeneye has a more formal, sit-down pinot tasting, with nibbles for pairing (Just keep your littles out of the tempting fountain).

Stop in the town of Boonville on the way up north. This former one-horse town is still teeny and quaint, but recent changes include downtown tasting rooms, a spiffed-up hotel (with a family suite), and several places to grab good grub.

If you’re looking for a sit-down meal, the Boonville Hotel’s restaurant offers up fresh and seasonal choices on a family-style, prix fixe menu. Check the website for the daily specials like local rabbit with creamy polenta, or roast Fulton Farms chicken.’

The tiny Mosswood Market offers up satisfying café fare, like soups and sandwiches, in a casual setting. Either eat in, or grab stuff for a picnic in one of the parks or the nearby Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

For camping supplies, sandwiches and more, Boonville General Store has a tempting deli case and plenty of Anderson Valley beers by the bottle.

—Sarah Bossenbroek

credit: photo by Avi Hesterman

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