**UPDATED: June 2024**

There are hundreds of hikes in the Bay Area, but not all of them are dog friendly hikes. And even some open spaces that are generally dog friendly may have some trails that are not dog friendly or have other restrictions.

Since getting our dog, we have been amassing a list of our favorite dog friendly hikes in the Bay Area. Most of these hikes are in San Mateo County where we live.

In this post, you’ll find an extensive list of dog friendly hikes in San Mateo County, from Daly City to Woodside. These hikes vary in difficulty, distance & terrain so you can find the best dog friendly hike on the peninsula to meet your hiking needs.

Jump ahead to any of the hikes using these links:

Belmont

Waterdog Lake Open Space

Waterdog Loop Trail goes all the way around the lake. Belmont California
Waterdog Loop Trail goes all the way around the lake

Waterdog Lake Details

Waterdog Lake Open Space is easily accessible as there are multiple entry points into the park. All of the trails at Waterdog Lake are dog friendly. While we have our favorite routes, we love to combine the many trails in new ways to create different routes.

We like the 5.4 mile John S Brooks Memorial Trail which begins & ends at the trailhead on Hastings Drive in Belmont. This loop begins with a descent down to Waterdog Lake and then ascends into the oak covered hills.

There are gorgeous views towards the bay, wildflowers in spring, and 3 abandoned cars to find. The trails on this route vary from wide well-maintained fire roads to narrow uneven switchbacks.

This loop has a lot of forks and some trail markers are a bit hidden. So even though we’ve completed this hike multiple times, I always have the Alltrails app handy to make sure we go the right way. The open space is not that big and is surrounded by neighborhoods so making a wrong turn along the way isn’t a huge deal.

Our favorite hike when we are short on time is the Lake Road Trail to Berry Trail down to Waterdog Lake and then around the lake on the Waterdog Loop Trail back to Lake Road Trail. Total mileage is between 2-3 miles and it’s a fairly easy walk.

We like this hike for the lake and will usually spend at least 30 minutes letting our dog splash in the water. Whenever we stop, there are typically a couple of other dogs swimming in the lake fetching sticks.

Good To Know: Waterdog Lake Open Space is popular with mountain bikers. This can make passing on the narrow windy trails more difficult. More than once, we have been surprised by bikers flying down the trails at high speeds.

Address: 2400 Lyall Way, Belmont

Parking: Free street parking on Lyall Way. Also street parking on Hallmark Drive at the North Trailhead entrance.

Regulations: Dogs on leash; Stay on marked trails

Restrooms: Yes, at both trailheads.

Daly City

Mussel Rock

Hiking dog Friendly Mussel Rock Park in Daly City, California (San Mateo County)
Hiking dog Friendly Mussel Rock Park in Daly City

Mussel Rock Trail Details

Distance:~2 miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:275 feet

We found ourselves at Mussel Rock Trail in Daly City simply because it is dog friendly, but WOW this trail is spectacular!

The hike is more like an easy walk. The paths meander around in many different directions for about 2 miles with incredible views the whole time! This is a popular launch spot for paragliders and it was thrilling to watch them flying around us.

At the north end of the trail, there is a steep rocky path down to the dog friendly beach. The beach was huge and there is plenty of space to spread out. Our kids ran up and down the beach through the surf with our dog.

While my husband and I sat on a nearby log watching them, we saw a huge whale breach in the water. I’m pretty sure it was a Humpback whale given the time of year, but that’s just my best guess!

Good To Know: I have read that there is a pack of coyotes who live in the vicinity. We did not see them (or any indication they were there), but it’s important to keep your dog on leash just in case.

Address: Skyline Dr and Westline Dr, Daly City

Parking: Free parking at the trailhead on Westline Drive which gets crowded on the weekends.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Used to be a portable restroom – not sure if it’s still there

Moss Beach

Pillar Point Bluff Trail | Pillar Point

I think of this hike as being in Half Moon Bay, but technically it is in Moss Beach.

Looking out over Ross' Cove. Pillar Point. Half Moon Bay, California
Looking out over Ross’ Cove

Pillar Point Bluff Details

Distance:1.5 – 3 miles
Difficulty:Easy

Pillar Point Bluff has multiple trails that meander atop the bluff and overlook the Pacific, Maverick’s Beach, and Ross Cove. These dog friendly trails along San Mateo County’s coast are considered easy with minimal elevation gain and most routes are between 1.5-3 miles.

Most of the trails are exposed with minimal shade. However, the temperature at the coast is typically cooler and there is often a nice breeze, which makes coastal hikes a great option for dogs.

From the trailhead on Airport Street take Pillar Point Bluff Trail heading north. You’ll be walking parallel to the Half Moon Bay airstrip. After about half a mile, the trail veers left and heads up a little hill where you’ll get your first glimpses of the ocean.

Connect to Frenchman’s Reef Trail and then Ross Cove Trail and head south along the bluff until Ross Cove Beach. While all the hiking trails are dog-friendly, Ross Cove, the beach below the bluff, is not. It is part of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and has been designated as a Marine Protected Area.

There are some great nearby dog-friendly restaurants in Half Moon Bay. Two of our favorites are The Barn and Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

Address: Airport St, Moss Beach

Parking: Free parking at the trailhead parking lot; also along Airport Street

I recommend parking in the lot by the trailhead on Airport Street, not the one on W. Point Ave. Neither lot is big, but there is plenty of street parking along Airport Street. Parking feels more crowded at W. Point Ave as many people use this lot to head out to Maverick’s Beach.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: At the trailhead

Spine Trail | Rancho Corral de Tierra

Rancho Corral de Tierra is a fairly new addition to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and there are plans to add new trails and improve the existing ones over time.

Rancho Corral de Tierra. Moss Beach, California

Spine Trail Details

Distance:7.1 miles
Difficulty:Moderately Challenging
Elevation Gain: 1300 Feet

We hiked Spine Trail which is a moderately challenging 7.1 mile roundtrip (out-and-back trail). We only hiked about 5 miles of the route as our kids were ready to turn around.

The trailhead is a little bit tricky to get to. From the designated parking area we walked up Ranch Road past an equestrian center. At the end of the road, we went through a gate and veered right through a little farm area with horses, llamas & goats, and followed the small signs towards Spine Ridge Trail. I imagine that access to the trailhead will be one of the first improvements they make.

Once on the trail, we headed straight up and before long we were able to see the iconic golf ball at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. The views were gorgeous and I’ve heard that on a foggy day this trail takes you above the fog.

The first part of the trail is almost all uphill gaining 1300+ feet and much of the trail is exposed. We went in the winter and while it was sunny the cooler temps kept us from getting overheated. I would avoid this trail on a hot day or go early/late to avoid the hot sun.

About 2.5 miles in we came upon a swing with amazing views looking out toward the Pacific & Pillar Point. We spent some time there enjoying the views and admiring how far we had climbed. The swing (which may not be there anymore) was our kids’ favorite part of the hike. Kids will also likely enjoy walking by the horses & farm at the beginning of the hike.

We only ran into one other group – a couple of people on horses near the bottom of the trail.

Address: 1094 Etheldore St, Moss Beach

Parking: Free parking in a dirt lot near the corner of Etheldore St. and Ranch Road. This is a designated parking area for the open space. Do not park along the road closer to the trailhead.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: No

Pacifica

Pacifica is one of my favorite places to hike! Many of the trails in Pacifica are dog-friendly, have amazing views of the coast, and the coast boasts cooler temperatures than those inland making these some of the best dog friendly hikes in the Bay Area year round!

Devil’s Slide

Devil's Slide Trail is dog, scooter, bike, and equestrian friendly! Pacifica, California
Devil’s Slide Trail is dog, scooter, bike, and equestrian friendly!

Devil’s Slide Details:

Distance:2.6 miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain: 350 Feet

Devil’s Slide is a unique hiking trail with a lot of history. It’s a short segment of old Highway 1 right along the edge of a cliff. It’s a wide paved trail (2.6 miles out-and-back) that allows dogs, bikes, and equestrians.

We loved the unique aspect of hiking down the old roadway and taking in all the views. We all found the history of this roadway fascinating and loved seeing all the visible layers of mud and sand lifted up from the ocean floor over millennia by shifting tectonic plates.

Additionally, there are multiple informational signs describing the geology, marine & plant life as well as various lookout points with benches and telescopes. Devil’s Slide is dog-friendly, under 3 miles, easy with minimal elevation gain, has gorgeous views, and is educational – this hike was a winner all around!

Good to Know: The steepest part of the trail has a 9% incline (which is steep!). So while this trail allows bikes and scooters, and is wheelchair accessible, be aware of the steep grade.

Address: Old Devil’s Slide Highway (just north of Tom Lantos Tunnels), Pacifica

Parking: Free parking in lot at the North or South trailhead

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes, at both trailheads

Gray Whale Cove Loop Trail

Gray Whale Cove in Pacifica - dog friendly hike with gorgeous views! San Mateo County California
Gray Whale Cove in Pacifica – dog friendly hike with gorgeous views!
Distance:1.9 miles
Difficulty:Moderate (due to the steep hill)
Elevation Gain:465 Feet

Gray Whale Cove Loop Details: This trail is located in McNee Ranch on Montara Mountain. All trails in the park are dog friendly. We hiked the Gray Whale Cove Loop Trail which is 1.9 miles. It was short but amazing with spectacular views up & down the coast for most of the hike.

The downside was a steep hill in the middle (which our dog didn’t seem to mind, but our kids did) and there was not a lot of shade. I loved the views from this hike so next time I would look to add another trail to make it a little longer.

Address: Gray Whale Cove Trail Parking Lot, Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacifica

Parking: Free parking in the lot at Gray Whale Cove Beach.

Alltrails led us to a tiny parking lot at the southern trailhead near Montara State Beach (maybe enough space for 5-6 cars). We ended up parking a little south of the trailhead along Highway 1 near the Montara State Beach parking lot (which is a bigger lot, but was also full when we were there).

We walked north along Highway 1 and then crossed to the trailhead. Walking along the road made me nervous so on the way back, we followed a trail on the west side of Highway 1 that led us back to the beach parking lot.

I recommend parking in the larger lot on the east side of Highway 1 across from Gray Whale Cove Beach where you can pick up the Gray Whale Cove Trail and complete the loop.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: We did not see them at either trailhead, however, there looks to be one at Gray Whale Cove Beach on the other side of Hwy 1, as well as one on the Old San Pedro Mountain Road trail

Milagra Ridge

Milagra Overlook Trail in Pacifica. Dog Friendly hikes. San Mateo County
Even dogs will love the view from the Milagra Overlook Trail in Pacifica

Milagra Overlook Trail

Distance:2.8 miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:575 feet

Milagra Ridge is another great coastal hike in Pacifica! The US Army acquired Milagra Ridge in the 1930s and used it to defend the San Francisco Bay. In the 1950s, a Nike Missile Site was established here. Eventually, all defense mechanisms were removed and the site was gifted as an open space park to the City of Pacifica in 1987. Today there are still some remnants of the military past (concrete bunkers)

There are several trail options at Milagra Ridge. The 2.8 out-and-back Milagra Overlook Trail descends to a residential area and then climbs back up; 1.4-mile Milagra Ridge Trail Loop, the 1.8-mile Milagra Summit Trail. The Overlook Trail is probably the most challenging of the three as it has the greatest elevation gain, but it’s still considered easy.

Climb to Milagra Summit for sweeping views of the Pacific & the town below, enjoy bountiful wildflowers in spring, and explore the WWII bunkers. Look out for Mission Blue & San Bruno Elfin butterflies, the California red-legged frog, coyotes, and strategically placed benches with commanding views.

The trails are mostly exposed so this hike is best when the weather is cool, breezy, or in the evenings for beautiful sunsets!

Address: Milagra Ridge Trailhead Parking, Pacifica

Parking: Very limited parking lot at the trailhead on Sharp Park Road. Additional parking on Connemara Drive at the bottom of the Milagra Overlook Trail.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes, along the trail where the Milagra Spur Trail & Milagra Road intersect.

Mori Point

Hiking along the Bluff Trail at Mori Point. Mori Point Trail. Pacifica, California
Hiking along the Bluff Trail at Mori Point
Distance:2.6 miles (Mori Point Loop Trail)
Difficulty:Moderate
Elevation Gain:400 Feet (Mori Point Loop Trail)

Mori Point Details: Mori Point is a popular destination for dog-friendly hiking in San Mateo County with stunning coastal views and exceptional spring wildflowers. Go early in the day if possible, especially on the weekend or on a warm day as it gets crowded.

This hiking area has a lot of trails that crisscross all over. You can meander or use an app like Alltrails to find a route and follow using the GPS to make sure you follow your intended path.

Mori Point is a 110-acre park that has mostly low coastal plants with good visibility so it’s tough to get lost. If you have a dog that gets startled by other dogs coming around corners, then this is generally a good spot because the trails are open and it’s easy to see oncoming hikers & dogs.

We like the 2.6-mile Mori Point Loop Trail and the 2.2-mile Old Mori Road to Timigtac Trail Loop. Whichever path you choose, I recommend stopping at the fairy garden with a bench “swing” which looks out toward the ocean at the end of Mori Point Road (it’s right at the beach – accessible with no elevation gain!).

From here you can take the Promenade which heads north along the beach. This part of the trail is good for smaller kids, kids on bikes or scooters, or anyone who doesn’t want elevation gain.

To follow the Loop trail, continue to the top of Bootlegger’s steps. Be sure to look back towards Sharp Park Beach for stunning views. Then head out to The Point for more amazing views (there are some precarious drop-offs so be careful).

Lastly, we usually head inland and wind our way up to The Peak via The Bluff Trail. There are 360-degree views at The Peak! There is also a rock labyrinth that was pretty faded the last time we were there, but maybe someone will rebuild it.

Address: 775 Bradford Way, Pacifica

Parking: There is extremely limited parking near the trailhead on Bradford Way. There is additional street parking in the neighborhood. There is a larger lot at Rockaway Beach (at the end of San Marlo Way) and you can pick up a trail at the southern end of Mori Point.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes

Pedro Point Headlands

Hiking towards the bluff at Pedro Point Headlands in Pacifica, California. San Mateo County Dog Friendly Hikes
Hiking towards the bluff at Pedro Point Headlands in Pacifica
Distance:2.5 miles
Difficulty:Moderate
Elevation Gain:600 Feet

Pedro Point Details: Pedro Point Headlands covers 246 acres and is located just north of Devil’s Slide. In fact, use the north Devil’s Slide parking lot to access the trailhead. We had parked here a couple of times to hike Devil’s Slide yet never noticed the signs for Pedro Point. This trail is much less crowded (we only saw 1 other person!), but it is not as accessible as Devil’s Slide.

We hiked the South Trail -> Bluff -> Middle -> Arroyo 2.5 mile loop trail. The trail begins up a steep hill and reaches a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The views up & down the coast are breathtaking. From this point, you can see across Hwy 1 where people are hiking along Gray Whale Cove Trail.

Continue hiking north along the bluff to the end of the Bluff Trail. From here, you can see down towards Pacifica State Beach – and even all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge! The Bluff Trail is quite steep in places with loose gravel. Our dog had no problem navigating this terrain, but my 13yo son and I slipped a few times and my son ended up sliding down on his rear.

Hiking back on Arroyo Trail, you’ll pass through a Eucalyptus forest. This lush covered section of Pedro Point Headlands trail is a stark contrast to the exposed, windy, coastal section!

As we approached the trailhead on our way out, we finally passed one other person and his dog heading out onto the trail. We walked next to busy Highway 1 for a minute to reach the parking lot. I found ending the hike this way was slightly ironic since the entire Pedro Point trail feels like a world away from everything.

Address: Old Pacific Coast Highway Trail, Pacifica, CA 94044

Parking: Use the North parking lot for Devil’s Slide Trail. The trailhead is at the bottom of the lot (close to Hwy1).

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes. Use the vault toilets at the Devil’s Slide Trailhead (next to the parking lot).

Palo Alto

Foothills Nature Preserve

Top of Bobcat Hill in Foothills Nature Preserve, Palo Alto. San Mateo County, California
Top of Bobcat Hill in Foothills Nature Preserve, Palo Alto
Distance:2+ miles
Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain:350+ Feet

Foothills Nature Preserve Details: Check out these dog friendly hikes in Palo Alto’s Foothills Nature Preserve, a 1400-acre open space (technically in Santa Clara County) that only recently opened to the public in December 2020.

Previously, entrance to the preserve was limited to only residents of the city of Palo Alto. This Bay Area open space welcomes dogs but only on weekdays (no weekends or city holidays).

The park is stunning with woodlands, fields, a lake, and gorgeous views. The dog friendly hikes range from short & easy to a moderately challenging 7.3 mile loop (Los Trancos Trail to Fern Loop Trail). We hiked the relatively easy Coyote Trail to Panorama Trail up to Bobcat Point. Then we walked around Boronda Lake. It was probably around 3 miles total.

Address: 11799 Page Mill Rd

Parking: Lots of parking. This park has an entrance fee (currently $6 for a passenger car up to 9 people as of 11/2022). Check here for additional rates & discounts.

Regulations: Dogs are not permitted anywhere in the preserve on weekends or city holidays. They may not be left inside a car or tied up outside the park. They are only permitted on weekdays and must be on leash at all times.

Restrooms: Yes

Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

Relaxing by Arastradero Lake at Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in Los Altos, California. Bay Area Dog Friendly Hikes Peninsula
Relaxing by Arastradero Lake at Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in Los Altos

Pearson-Arastradero Preserve Details

Distance:Varies: 2 – 7 miles
Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain:Varies: 375 – 1000 feet

The 622-acre Enid Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto is only about 5 minutes from the 280 freeway making it very easy to access. 10 miles of trails meander through native grass areas, shaded oak woodlands, spring wildflowers, and alongside creeks and Arastradero Lake.

The trails are wide and well-maintained. Much of the preserve is exposed to sun so it’s best to avoid hiking during the hottest time of day.

Try the 3 mile Redtail -> Portola Pastures -> Meadowlark -> and Wild Rye Trail Loop which provides a good overview of the preserve. Or try one of the longer loops, like 5 mile Redtail to Arastradero Creek Loop.

Good To Know: These trails are open to equestrians, mountain bikers & hikers. Visibility on the trails is very good so it’s easy to see traffic coming.

Address: 1530 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94304

Parking: Free parking at the Pearson-Arastradero parking lot. Arrive early as parking is limited. Street parking is available about half a mile away.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes at the ranger station near the parking lot

Redwood City

Bay Trail

Enjoying the flat dog friendly Bay Trail on a clear spring day in Redwood City. San Mateo County California
Enjoying the flat dog friendly Bay Trail along Steinberger Slough in Redwood City

The Bay Trail Details

Distance:Varies: 1 – 10+ miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:Minimal: < 100 feet

The San Francisco Bay Trail hopes to one day comprise over 500 miles of walking & biking trails running continuously around the entire bay. It would link 9 counties, 47 cities, and cross over 7 toll bridges. Currently, over 340 miles are complete.

While some trails in San Mateo County are not yet complete, many sections are already open from Coyote Point and Seal Point Park in San Mateo to the Port of Redwood City and Bedwell Bayfront Park in Palo Alto (all dog friendly). Some parts of the Bay Trail are off limits to dogs (like Bair Island State Marine Park in Redwood City) and most sections require they be on leash. There is also a 3-acre dog park at Seal Point Park in San Mateo.

The Bay Trail is extremely accessible with many spots to enter & exit. Most of the trail in San Mateo County follows the coastline and is flat & wide and either paved or gravel. There are views of marshes, sloughs, the bay, birds, and planes approaching SFO. From Coyote Point, there is a great spot to watch the planes land & take off at SFO.

Redwood Shores is a great area to walk along the Bay Trail as well as through residential areas. We’ve hiked along the trail from Twin Dolphin Drive near the Bay Club to the Wastewater plant (which can smell!), and then cut inland near Radio Road to the north side of Redwood Shores and head west towards Oracle and then back to the starting point on Twin Dolphin Road. Most of the Bay Trail is at sea level and flat – great for walking, running, biking, scootering, etc.

Address: Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood Shores

Parking: There are so many places to begin & end on the Bay Trail – parking lots & nearby street parking are free. For this hike, we parked at the south end of Twin Dolphin Drive near the Child Development Center.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Depends where you start. The Bay Trail passes by many parks which typically have restrooms.

Pulgas Ridge Open Space

Hiking the Polly Geraci Trail under a canopy of oaks in in Dog Friendly Pulgas Ridge Open Space, Redwood City. San Mateo County, California
Hiking the Polly Geraci Trail under a canopy of oaks in Pulgas Ridge Open Space, Redwood City

Pulgas Ridge Open Space Details:

Distance:Varies: 2.5 – 6 miles
Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain:Varies: 500 – 1000 feet

Pulgas Ridge, located in Redwood City just off 280, not only has 6 miles of dog friendly trails, but also a 17.5 acre off-leash dog area (note: area is not fenced in). Naturally, this makes Pulgas Ridge a very popular dog friendly hiking destination on the peninsula. We hike here often because it’s easy for us to get to, is dog friendly, and we like the climb to the ridge making it a good workout for us and our dog!

The trails here are well-marked and well-maintained with beautiful wildflowers in the spring. With the exception of the Blue Oak Trail and Hassler & Hassler Loop trails, most trails are narrow making it a little cumbersome to pass others, especially those with dogs. That is the one thing I don’t like about Pulgas Ridge.

Our favorite loop (just under 3 miles and ~400 feet of elevation gain) starts on the Cordilleras Trail to Polly Geraci and then back down on the Dick Bishop Trail. The trail begins and ends winding through oak-covered valleys that wind up to the mostly exposed ridge. From the ridge, there are views east toward the bay and west toward 280 & Skyline. While there are some views, they don’t compare to some of the other nearby hikes.

When we don’t have our kids with us, we’ll often do the longer 5.4 mile Dick Bishop-Hassler-Dusky Footed Woodrat-Polly Geraci Loop. This loop gains 1000 feet in elevation and spends more time along the exposed ridge.

My favorite part of the trail is walking through the oaks on the Dick Bishop trail. I always find it particularly peaceful!

Address: Edmonds Road, Redwood City

Parking: There is a small parking lot for about 20 cars at the trailhead, but lots of street parking on Edmonds Road between the trailhead and Crestview Drive.

Regulations: Dogs on leash; off-leash ok in designated area

Restrooms: Yes

San Bruno

Junipero Serra Park

Enjoying the shade under Eucalyptus trees on Quail Loop Trail in Junipero Serra Park. San Bruno, California. Dog Friendly Hike
Enjoying the shade under Eucalyptus trees on Quail Loop Trail in Junipero Serra Park

Junipero Serra Park Details: 

Distance:Varies: 2 – 3.6 miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:Varies: 475 feet

We took Live Oak Nature Trail to Pine Trail to Quail Loop Trail, an easy 2 mile hike. Part of Live Oak was closed while we were there, but there was a marked detour to the Pine Trail. As a relatively small park surrounded by residential areas and the 280 freeway, Junipero Serra Park feels quiet and remote.

The dirt trails wind around under the cover of Coast Live Oaks, Eucalyptus, and Monterey Pines. At the top of Quail Loop, look out towards SFO and Mt. Diablo. If you’re hiking with little kids too, there’s a playground in the middle of the park.

Make this hike longer by combining it with a loop around San Bruno Park (3.6 miles).

Address: 1801 Crystal Springs Rd.
San Bruno, CA 94066

Parking: There is a parking lot once you pull into the park entrance off Crystal Springs Road.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes

Sweeney Ridge

Dog Friendly Sweeney Ridge Trail in San Bruno - looking north toward the Marin Headlands. San Mateo County, California
Dog Friendly Sweeney Ridge Trail in San Bruno – looking north toward the Marin Headlands

Sweeney Ridge Details:

Distance:Varies: 5 – 6.5 miles
Difficulty:Moderate to Challenging
Elevation Gain:Varies: 1000 – 1200 feet

The trails at Sweeney Ridge are well-marked and well-maintained. They are mostly wide which allows dogs space to pass each other without getting too close.

Much of the area is exposed, so we have only done this hike on mostly overcast/cloudy days. Generally, it’s foggy until we reach the ridge and then the fog may burn off a bit to reveal a view. From the ridge, there are views west toward the Pacific and east to the bay and SFO. Hiking north, there are views of the Marin Headlands and a few glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Begin this trail from Skyline College in San Bruno: Notch Trail to Sweeney Ridge Trail all the way to the SF Peninsula Watershed gate (~5 miles total out-and-back). In spring the Notch Trail was is green and covered with wildflowers. The trail ascends and descends through little valleys with views toward the bay.

Alternatively, begin from the Shelldance Nursery on Highway 1 in Pacifica. This route is much more strenuous as it begins uphill on the Mori Ridge Trail gaining +1000 feet in the first mile. This climb is much more challenging than starting from the Notch Trail. Mori Ridge Trail meets up with Sweeney Ridge Trail and continues to the SF Peninsula Watershed gate (~5 miles out-and-back).

Address: Skyline College, San Bruno

Parking: There are multiple ways to access Sweeney Ridge: Skyline College (Notch Trail) or Sneath Lane (Sneath Lane Trail) in San Bruno, as well as near the Shelldance Nursery in Pacifica (Mori Ridge Trail).

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes

San Mateo

Bay Trail & Seal Point Dog Park

Dog Friendly Hike. Bay Trail in San Mateo - looking north toward Seal Point. San Mateo County, California
The Bay Trail in San Mateo – looking north toward Seal Point

Bay Trail & Seal Point Dog Park Details: 

Distance:Varies: 1 – 10+ miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:Minimal: < 100 feet

The Bay Trail is accessible from many points, hugs the shoreline, and is flat and well-maintained. We walked south to Mariner’s Point, turned around, looped around Seal Point, and then came back to the dog park which was about 2.5 miles. The great thing about the Bay Trail is you can go as far as you’d like.

On this section of the Bay Trail, you’ll see walkers, runners, cyclists, and bird-watchers on the trail. There is no shade on this section of the trail so it can get hot, but there is often a breeze. Often, you’ll see windsurfers & kayakers in the bay as well as low-flying planes on their approach to SFO.

Seal Point Dog Park is 3 acres and has 2 fenced-in sections: a smaller section reserved for small dogs and a large section for both large & small dogs. Our dog had a blast running around the huge open area. The dog park has very limited shade. No trees, but there are a couple of covered tables & benches.

Address: 1901 J Hart Clinton Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401

Parking: Large free parking lot at the entrance to Seal Point Park.

Regulations: Dogs on leash on the trail. Off-leash in the dog park.

Restrooms: Yes

Laurelwood Park

Distance:3.3 miles
Difficulty:Moderate
Elevation Gain:700 feet

Laurelwood Park Details: We hiked Salson Trail to the Slip Trail to Headbangers Ball to Comb Over (to Sugarloaf Peak) and then down Amphitheater Trail to our starting point which was a 3.3 mile loop. We were pleasantly surprised by this 225-acre park hidden within a residential area.

The trails were not as well-marked or well-maintained as I would have liked, but we enjoyed the hike, especially the views from the peak. Many of the trails were covered in oaks with plenty of shade while other areas near the peak were more exposed. There was also a great playground for young kids and a big grassy area.

Address: 3741 Glendora Drive, San Mateo

Parking: We parked on the street at the end of Shasta Drive and picked up the trail from there.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: Yes

Woodside

Coal Creek Open Space

The incredible view from Cloud's Rest Trail
The incredible view from Cloud’s Rest Trail in Coal Creek Open Space Preserve
Distance:Varies: 2-3 miles
Difficulty:Moderate
Elevation Gain:500-600 feet

Coal Creek Open Space Details: Although the parking situation is not great, this is still one of our favorite dog friendly hikes on the peninsula. This hike is great year-round. I especially love it on a clear day after it rains because the views from the top are crisp, sharp, and expansive (from San Francisco to San Jose and everything in between)!

In the summer it can get hot and the trail is fairly exposed until you hike down into the shaded oaks where it is significantly cooler. In the winter, there are seasonal waterfalls and lots of green moss. Much of this preserve just underwent a major trail improvement to fix issues due to erosion, stabilize the trail, and remove some non-native plant species.

We like Cloud’s Rest Trail to Meadow Trail (approx 2.2 miles), or the slightly longer Crazy Pete’s Road & Alpine Road Loop. Both of these routes begin on Skyline and descend down the hill before climbing back up ~500-600ft.

Address: Skyline Blvd, Woodside

Parking: The address above links to the Silicon Valley Vista Point parking lot which is currently closed. It is right at the trailhead to the Cloud’s Rest Trail. There are some semi-permanent barricades blocking this area so it doesn’t look like it will open up again any time soon. However, there is plenty of parking along the side of road. We have also parked a little further north near Crazy Pete’s Road and started our hike from there.

Regulations: Dogs on leash. Coal Creek Open Space used to limit the trails accessible to dogs, but it looks like they have now updated it so dogs are welcome on all trails. See map here that shows which trails are dog friendly.

Restrooms: No

La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve

Vista Point at La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve. Redwood City. San Mateo County. Dog Friendly Hike
Vista Point at La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve

Cielo Trail to Coho Vista Trail Loop Details

Distance:3.8 miles
Difficulty:Moderate
Elevation Gain:700 feet

The Cielo to Coho Vista Loop Trail in La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve requires a bit of logistical effort, but it’s worth it for the sweeping views and to have the trail pretty much to yourself. The trailhead and parking is behind a locked gate in a permitted area. 2-3 days before you want to go, request a free permit here. The permit will include directions and a gate code.

On this trail, hike to the “Big Tree” an old growth redwood. Take the .1 mile offshoot from the Cielo Trail. The Big Tree is at the end of the path – you can’t miss it! Then look for a sign to “Vista Point” on the Coho Vista Trail. From the viewpoint, you can see for miles to the Pacific Ocean and up and down the coast.

This hike is a mix of shade and exposed areas. In the summer, it can get hot. We prefer to go in the spring when the surrounding hills are green and full of wildflowers.

This area of La Honda Creek is great because there are fewer people and you’ll likely feel like you have the trails to yourself.

Address: La Honda Creek at Allen Road Permit Lot, Woodside

Parking: Free parking in the permitted lot beyond the locked gate (need permit).

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: No

Shilling Lake Trail | Thornwood Open Space Preserve

Distance:1.5 – 3.2 miles
Difficulty:Easy
Elevation Gain:150 – 500 feet

Thornwood Open Space Preserve Details:

We almost never hike here because of the parking situation. The last couple of times we have tried hiking here we haven’t been able to find parking off La Honda Road and have continued on to hike at Coal Creek instead. Thornwood Trail is relatively short (1.5 miles round trip). The trail winds down the hill to a moss/algae covered lake that’s not swimmable for humans or dogs. There are lots of logs and tree trunks to climb on which our kids have enjoyed in the past.

Alternatively, begin the hike from The Bridle Trailhead on Old La Honda Road. Take Bridle Trail to Schilling Lake (1.8 miles) or to La Honda Road and back (3.2 miles).

Note: We haven’t had this problem, but I have also heard that some dogs come away from this hike covered in ticks.

Address: 707 La Honda Rd, Woodside

Parking: There is extremely limited parking in the lot off La Honda Rd (Hwy 84). It’s easy to miss the entrance as you wind up La Honda Road towards Skyline. It looks like a driveway, but there is a brick wall on either side with Thornewood Preserve written on it. The parking lot itself holds no more than 10 cars and there is no space for street parking. The Bridle Trailhead is accessible via Old La Honda Rd. We have never started from here and I hear parking is better. So next time, we will try beginning from here.

Regulations: Dogs on leash

Restrooms: No

Windy Hill Open Space

Hiking dog friendly Hamms Gulch Trail in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. Woodside, Portola Valley California. San Mateo County
Hiking dog friendly Hamms Gulch Trail in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

Windy Hill Open Space Details:

Distance:7.2 miles
Difficulty:Challenging
Elevation Gain:1300 feet

Windy Hill Loop is 7.2 miles and ascends up Hamms Gulch Trail to Skyline and descends down Spring Ridge Trail. Hamms Gulch Trail has more shade & coverage which is nice for the hike up. Spring Ridge is more exposed which we find better on the way down. The views from the top of Windy Hill are amazing. They are definitely worth the 1300+ foot elevation gain. On a clear day, you can see both the Pacific and the Bay.

We have always parked at the Lower Windy Hill parking lot so we ascend first. We drive by the Upper lot on our way to Coal Creek and it’s usually less crowded, however starting here means you descend first and then have a steep climb on the way back. Just depends on your preference.

This is a popular spot for hiking, running, biking & equestrians.

Address: 555 Portola Road, Woodside

Parking: The Lower Windy Hill parking lot is on Portola Road and has room for 49 cars, but does fill up quickly. There is no street parking on Portola Road – we have actually parked here before and did not get a ticket, although the better option is probably to park is the overflow lot at the Portola Valley Town Center and then take the Portola Trail (.4 miles) to the Windy Hill parking lot.

The Upper Windy Hill parking lot is on Skyline (Hwy 35) with room for about 12 cars + parking on Skyline Blvd.

Regulations: Dogs on leash. Not permitted on all trails within the preserve. This map shows which trails are dog friendly.

Restrooms: Yes

The Best San Mateo County Dog Parks

Skyline Dog Park (Burlingame)

Skyline Dog Park in Burlingame is easily my favorite Peninsula dog park. Located on Skyline Blvd just off 280, this park is large, scenic, hilly, has lots of shade & benches, and most importantly is fenced in! I have never been able to trust my dog off-leash in an unconfined area. That’s why I love Skyline. While it’s fenced in, the sheer size and hillside setting make it feel like there are no limits to where she can run.

Seal Point Dog Park (San Mateo)

Seal Point Dog Park is 3 acres and has 2 fenced-in sections: a smaller section reserved for small dogs and a large section for both large & small dogs. Our dog loves running around the huge open area. The dog park has very limited shade. There are no trees, but there are a couple of covered tables & benches.

Pulgas Ridge (Redwood City)

The Pulgas Ridge 17.5 acre off-leash dog park is in the middle of the open space (about a half mile from the parking lot). This is a great area for dogs to run around and explore the wooded hillside area. Note: this area is not fenced in and is in the middle of an open space where there are mountain lions and coyotes. To use this area your dog should have great recall. We have run into rangers looking for dogs who got lost.

Stulsaft Park (Redwood City)

Not exactly a “dog park”, but 42 acre Stulsaft Park has an off-leash hiking area. Only the trails south of the creek are available for off-leash hiking and are marked with signs. The trails are mostly flat and easy. The area has lots of shade under trees and a creek that runs through the park.

Dog Friendly Beaches in San Mateo County

Dogs allowed on leash at these San Mateo County beaches:

  • Mussel Rock Park Beach, Daly City
  • Thornton Beach, Daly City
  • Phillip Burton Memorial State Beach, Daly City
  • Maverick’s Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Poplar Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Redondo Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Pillar Point Harbor Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Surfers Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Mirada Surf Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Montara State Beach, Montara
  • Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar), Pacifica – Dogs allowed on leash
  • Rockaway Beach, Pacifica
  • Sharp Park Beach, Pacifica
  • Pebble Beach at Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero
  • Whaler’s Cove, Pescadero – Dogs allowed on leash at cove
  • Pescadero Point Beach, Pescadero

Dogs allowed off leash at these San Mateo County beaches:

  • Pelican Point Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay
  • Esplanade Beach, Pacifica – Dogs allowed off leash at the north end of beach and on leash everywhere else

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