On the western edge of Mill Valley, tucked between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach, Slide Ranch is a 134-acre coastal haven with an idiosyncratic heritage. Originally a
19th-century dairy farm owned by a Portuguese family, the property fell into disrepair over the years and, in 1969, was purchased by the Nature Conservancy and protected from any future commercial development. A year later, Slide Ranch was formed—with financial support from iconic frontman Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead—as a nonprofit with the purpose of reconnecting Bay Area kids to nature. And because the ranch sits within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, the property has always been open to the public for hiking, picnicking, and exploring.
A visit to this rare bucolic beauty is an education—in local ecology, organic farming, native animal life, and the environment. You can explore the grounds on your own—there are miles of coastal trails and multiple picnic areas—but for a richer experience, you’ll want to sign up for a tour with a resident teacher. Slide Ranch also hosts a variety of workshops, campouts, and other family events to bring guests deeper into this wildly special habitat. As of September 2017, the ranch also boasts a Farm-to-Table Teaching Kitchen, a state-of-the-art classroom with a deck overlooking the Pacific.
Through the ranch’s programs, kids can milk a goat, collect eggs from the chickens, learn about the native plants and wildlife, explore the tidepools, make nature crafts, cook from the garden, and much more. Check out the ranch’s Family Farm Days, themed four-hour programs that range from hikes to learn about resident birds (like the great horned owl) to ocean-related activities, sheep-shearing, or wool-crafting in the yurt.
For the ultimate weekend campout experience, book the overnight program for families. Slide Ranch teachers lead a day of farm activities and exploration, then you’ll dine and sleep beneath the stars. All Slide Ranch programs sell out fast, so book early.
If you’re in love with the location, good news: Slide Ranch also offers site rentals so you can throw a party or get married on a vista overlooking the Pacific before joining your guests for an overnight camping celebration.