One of the more enjoyable, kid-friendly activities at this time of year is the Halloween Train at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

The horse-drawn train trundles through Ardenwood's eucalyptus groves with a cargo of park visitors and goblins. Only mildly scary, it's designed for families with children ages 12 and under. Trains will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 18-20, then from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 25-27.

Tickets are available at the gate after 5 p.m. on operating nights only. Advance tickets may be bought at The Book End, 5678 Thornton Ave. in Newark. The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 3 through 12. For details and reservations for groups of 10 or more, call 866-417-7277. Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont.

COYOTE HILLS: As long as we're on Halloween, take note of the Halloween Twilight Hike for all ages at nearby Coyote Hills Regional Park. It's from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

Put on your costume and join naturalists Dino Labiste and Kristina Parkison for a hike through Coyote's haunted hills while learning the origins of Halloween traditions ancient and modern. After the hike, there will be a campfire with toasted marshmallows, Ardenwood's delicious popcorn and Halloween treats. The program is designed for ages 5 and older. Registration is required and there's a fee of $4 per person. Parking is $5. For registration and details, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 3465.


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Coyote Hills has a reconstructed Ohlone village at a site that was inhabited for several thousand years before the arrival of Europeans in the Bay Area. Dino will lead a volunteer work day there from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 26 to clean, weed and restore the village structures. During the day, Dino will talk about Ohlone cultures and the functions of the structures at the village. Snacks, water, gloves and tools will be provided. The activity is for ages 12 and older. Registration is required. If you're interested in helping out, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 3516.

BIRDING: Shorebirds and ducks will be the stars of the show at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda on Oct. 22, when supervising naturalist Sharol Nelson-Embry leads a bird-watching walk from 7:30 to 9 a.m. The program is free of charge. Beginners are welcome; binoculars will be available for loan. Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue.

And Sharol is leading a couple of free "owl moon" walks on Oct. 19 at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, one for families and one for adults. From 6 to 8 p.m., youngsters and their families can hear a story, then take to the woods, lit by a near-full moon, in search of owls. There's a similar walk for adults from 9 to 10 p.m. For either walk, meet at the park's Canyon Meadow picnic area. To get there, enter the park on Redwood Road about 2 miles past the intersection with Skyline Boulevard. Drive all the way in. Wear dark, warm, quiet clothing and bring a flashlight. For details, call 510-544-3187.

CROCKETT HILLS: Birds will also be the focus of a walk from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 21 at Crockett Hills Regional Park in Crockett, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher. Even if the birds aren't out, it's a great hike for the panoramic views of the Carquinez Strait area. The hike is free of charge. Meet Anthony at the Crockett Ranch staging area on Crockett Boulevard just up the hill from Pomona Street. Call 510-544-2233 for information.

TILDEN: Weekend naturalist programs will continue as scheduled during sewer repair and upgrading at the Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley. During the project, Tilden's Environmental Education Center is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Access is on foot from trails off the Tilden Loop Road from Lone Oak picnic area. Look for signs indicating the way. The Little Farm is closed for the duration. For information, call 510-544-2233.

WILDCAT CANYON: Back in the 19th century, there was a sanitarium called Grande Vista in then-remote Wildcat Canyon. Naturalist James Wilson will lead a free, 4-mile hike to the site from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 19. Meet James at the Alvarado staging area on Park Avenue off McBryde Avenue in Richmond. For information, call 510-544-2233.

HUMP-DAY HIKING: The Wednesday Walkers, a friendly and informal hiking group, will explore the explosive past of Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in Richmond during an easy, 4-mile stroll from 9:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 23. The leader is Dave Zuckermann, supervising naturalist at Tilden Nature Area. Meet at the park entrance on Giant Highway, reached via Atlas Road or Richmond Parkway. For information, call 510-544-2233.

San Ramon hike: Women on Common Ground is a series of naturalist-led hikes for women who enjoy the outdoors but have concerns for personal safety.

Naturalist Katie Colbert will lead one of the hikes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in San Ramon. This one may be a bit strenuous. It's a 9-miler including the Corduroy Hills Trail, which is steep. The payoff is fall colors, native plants and panoramic views.

It's free, but registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program number 3719. For general information on the Wednesday Walkers, call 510-544-3243 or email kcolbert@ebparks.org.

changing leaves: Speaking of fall colors, since we're not in Vermont, I can't promise you a polychromatic riot. But although the effect is more subtle, there are some likely trails for autumn displays. Big leaf maple, cottonwood and poison oak are the most colorful. The maple and cottonwood turn gold, and the poison oak turns russet (it can still make you itch, though). Try the Old Stage Road Trail at Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area in Walnut Creek, or the Stream Trail at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.

ANTIOCH: Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch will host an open house at its restored 1930s-era silica sand mine from noon to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

Visitors can take a free, self-guided tour of nearly 1,000 feet of cool underground workings. To visit the mine you must be age 7 or older, but there's a special area just inside the entrance with activities for younger kids, including a chance to meet a tarantula and other creepy critters. Free popcorn will be given to visitors of all ages while supplies last. Black Diamond Mines is at the end of Somersville Road, 4 miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. Parking costs $5 per vehicle.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.