Summer is winding down and fall is around the corner – which means the best weather of the year is coming to the Northern California coast. August and September are awesome months to hit the trails around the San Francisco Bay Area because the sun burns off the coastal fog and you’re left with stellar views from all vista points. Plus, cool breezes make it manageable for humans and canines alike. If the call of mother nature isn’t enough to make you pull your boots on, remember that hiking is both good for bonding with your dog, and beneficial for your health.
Hiking will let your dog burn off some energy, and will give you a more intense cardio workout than your daily walk around the neighborhood. Because you’ll likely be going uphill and down paths, more muscles will engage as your blood pumps throughout your whole body. Plus, there’s a mental health benefit to being out in nature – experts say “green spaces” are great stress-relievers.
If you’re new to hiking, do a little research on preparedness and start with fairly short trails, making sure to consider the age and abilities of your dog before heading out. If your dog is older with tighter muscles, or has medical conditions that impact their stamina – a hike might not be for you two. Also, keep in mind that you and your dog won’t be alone in isolation, but will probably run into other people and pups along the path. In order for your outing to be more pleasurable for all parties – your dog should be able to stay with you, and manage social encounters well.
So you’re in the Bay Area and ready to hit the trails? PAWESOME! Wow, that was over-eager and nerdy – sorry. We mean, awesome.
Here are 10 trails in the Bay you’ll want to check out with your best bud.
Santa Cruz County
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
When you want to spend a day in the shade hiking through the redwoods, head to Henry Cowell State Park. It can be pretty busy in the summertime, but with multiple trails to choose from, it’s worth the excursion. Walk along dirt paths and fire roads, and note that dogs are allowed on Pipeline Road, Meadow Trail, and Graham Hill Trail, as long they are on leashes.
Loch Lomond Recreational Area
Want to feel like you’re going to Tahoe without having to actually drive all the way to Tahoe? Just 10 miles from Santa Cruz lies miles and miles of green space, with many a trail for you and your pup. Enjoy mostly shaded routes on dirt paths and fire roads; dogs are indeed welcome on a leash, but they must stay out of the water.
Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve
Who would have thought the grounds of an old tuberculosis sanitarium would be an ideal spot to take your hound on a hike? Well, if you find yourself near Edgewood Park in Redwood City and want to hit the trails, or at least let your dog off-leash for a bit, this is the spot for you. There is a large dog-friendly area where pups can run free, as well as dirt trails to explore (just put the leash back on your dog before setting out).
There are many open spaces and hiking trails that dot the 280 freeway, but one of the most picturesque is this one, located in the city of Palo Alto. It offers a fairly easy walk of dirt trails and fire roads through grasslands and oak trees. It’s definitely not as wild as other trails in the area, but it’s a wonderful, convenient, and open green spot to walk your dog on a leash.
Inspiration Point/The Presidio
This nearly three-mile hike of dirt trails and paved pathways is pretty easy, without too many hills. Enjoy walking through the historic Presidio District of San Francisco, through idyllic Lover’s Lane (a path flanked by a forest of eucalyptus trees), and see The Spire – a 2008 cyprus sculpture. There’s a lot to see, and it’s beautiful any time of year, just make sure your dog is kept on leash, per the park’s rules.
Mount Davidson Park
At the highest natural point of San Francisco (sitting just below 1,000 feet up from sea level) this gem is often forgotten as a stellar hiking destination. With 40 acres of land to roam, and many trails to take, the views from the mountain-top park are amazing. Make sure you read the signs and stay on the trails, though – it’s easier than you think to get lost, even when you’re hiking less than two miles.
Cataract Falls and Potrero Meadows Loop, Mount Tamalpais
Make use of one of the Bay’s more majestic mountains, and take your dog for a day in Marin County. With your pup on leash you can explore a 6.5 mile loop that showcases waterfalls, meadows and dense forest lands. This is not a beginner’s hike, but definitely one to hit if you and your canine crew are up for an adventure.
Old St. Hilary’s Open Space Preserve
Views! Views! Views! Okay, so the truth is this is an easy hike – about a mile and a half – that you and your dog can tackle today. The best thing, though? From the peak of the hill you can see all of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands – just about everything. You’ll need to keep your dog on a leash, but for a fresh outing with great sights – we recommend this trail.
Del Valle Regional Park
Full disclosure: it’s probably going to be hot up here until November, but – wow – is this a beautiful place in the Bay Area. Most of the trails are fairly easy, if in direct sunlight, and you can take a near-four mile loop in the picturesque hillside above Lake Del Valle. Dogs are permitted off-leash unless otherwise noted, so definitely add this to your list of local trails to trek.
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Did you know parts of the East Bay used to be volcanic? Pick up a pamphlet and you and your pup can partake in a self-guided tour all around this historic site. Dogs are allowed on most of the trails as long as they’re on leashes, so double check before you take off.
Want more hiking spots? See the whole list of dog-friendly trails from Bay Area Hiker here!
Did we miss any tried and true faves? If you have any favorite spots in the San Francisco Bay Area – please comment below so we can keep a resource list.
Not in town? Let us know what the top trails are in your neck of the woods so we can compile a YaDoggie hiking map.