Stanislaus National Forest – A Perfect Weekend Getaway from San Francisco with Kids
We just got back from exploring the Stanislaus National Forest with kids and it was so much fun! We got a cabin with longtime friends with kids and it was an easy weekend getaway from San Francisco. Even though it was the shoulder season, there were places to explore with little kids because there was some snow to play with while not overcrowded with people. We stayed in Twain Harte, a cute town a little outside the National Forest, and it was a perfect little town to stay with kids!
Where is Stanislaus National Forest?
Stanislaus National Forest is closer to San Francisco than Tahoe, so it’s a great Tahoe alternative if you are coming from San Francisco Bay Area! Less crowded than Tahoe and less intimidating ski and sledding places. Stanislaus National Forest is about 3 hours drive from San Francisco and is right above Yosemite. (4 hours during Friday night traffic…) It looks pretty close to Yosemite on the map, but we looked it up while we were there and it was still about 2 hours away to Yosemite.
Things to Do in Stanislaus National Forest Area with Kids
Pinecrest with Kids
Dodge Ridge Ski Area
We didn’t go here (it was closed), but Dodge Ridge is the “closest California Snow to the Bay Area & Central Valley”! How cool is that? Didn’t know. When it’s open, they have lessons for kids starting at 2 years old! We will definitely be coming back for this. Stay tuned.
Not enough snow for sledding or ski? No problem! We loved exploring the Pinecrest Lake. There was some snow for fun, but we could have had fun just playing with the rocks, and there were a few families practicing fishing too (not really fishing but learning to)! We can only imagine how fun it is to come here during the summer to swim! There were picnic tables to sit at, and just gorgeous all around.
Strawberry with Kids
Things to do in Strawberry with kids
Leland Snowplay for sledding fun! Check for when they are open as it wasn’t open when we went there (first week of December), and it was pretty fenced up (and a guard dog?) so we couldn’t really play around there even if there was some snow. When it’s open, this non-intimidating hill is perfect to sled with little kids!
Kid-friendly places to eat in Strawberry
When we went, Strawberry Inn Restaurant was closed, but we could see it has a nice deck overlooking a creek. We actually played around in the snow in the back of the restaurant and took a little walk down to the creek! We are a fan of any restaurants we can walk around with the kids (it happens every meal). This place would allow one parent to go have fun in nature with the antsy-kid while the other wait at the restaurant with a drink – can’t beat that! 🙂
Twain Harte with Kids
Things to do in Twain Harte with kids
We rented a cabin in Twain Harte. The town is so cute! We missed it thanks to San Francisco Friday traffic, but they even had a Christmas parade and tree lighting the night we got there. In Twain Harte, you can make s’mores at your cabin, hike around the neighborhood, and check out one of the kid-friendly restaurants!
Kid-friendly places to eat in Twain Harte
We had lunch at this Mexican restaurant, El Jardin, and it was great! Kids menu included non-Mexican plates for those kids that don’t veer away from chicken strips and fries (like Henry) but he had (and asked for) the guacamole, which was not spicy. The salsa was spicy, so Tony and I loved it!
A huge shoutout to Little Cottage Cafe! We didn’t eat there, but we got coffees to go from here and thanks to the kind man working there (he does everything except cook – which his wife does), we found Pinecrest Lake. The food looked delicious so we would love to go there for food next time. Definitely a family-friendly vibe and saw families there when we went.