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, Roxy, 4 years ago, we have been amassing a list of our favorite dog friendly hikes in the Bay Area, most of which are in San Mateo County where we live. Below is a 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.
Waterdog Lake Open Space
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.
Waterdog Lake Details: Waterdog Lake is great because there are multiple ways to access the park and many trails to choose from. All of the trails at Waterdog Lake are dog friendly. While we have our favorite routes, we love to combine the trails in new ways to create different routes.
We like the 5.4 mile John S Brooks Memorial Trail, a loop that begins & ends at the trailhead on Hastings Drive in Belmont. This loop begins with a descent down to Waterdog Lake and then back up 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 so even though we’ve done it multiple times, some trail markers are a bit hidden so I still always use the Alltrails app to make sure we go the right way. The open space is really not that big and is surrounded on all sides 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. There are typically a couple of dogs when we stop at the lake. We like it for the lake and usually spend at least 30 minutes letting our dog splash around in the water. Our dog is hesitant in water and stays close to shore, but often there is a dog or two swimming in the lake fetching sticks.
Be aware that this open space is popular with mountain bikers which can make passing on the narrow windy trails more difficult. Most of the time this isn’t a big deal, but we have been surprised by some bikers flying down the trails at high speeds – so be alert.
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
Mussel Rock Trail Details: 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 which we didn’t love (we typically like an out-and-back or loop), but the views were incredible! 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!
Note: I have read that there is a pack of coyotes that 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.
Pillar Point Bluff Trail | Pillar Point
I typically think of this hike as being in Half Moon Bay, but technically it is in Moss Beach.
Address: Airport St, Moss Beach
Parking: Free parking at trailhead parking lot; also along Airport Street
Regulations: Dogs on leash
Restrooms: At the trailhead
Pillar Point Bluff Details: 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.
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.
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 all the way to 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.
Our dog loves coastal hikes as the air is typically cooler and she likes the coastal breeze in her fur. There are some great nearby dog-friendly restaurants in Half Moon Bay as well (The Barn and Half Moon Bay Brewing Company are two of our favorites).
Spine Trail | Rancho Corral de Tierra
Address: 1094 Etheldore St, Moss Beach
Parking: Free parking in a dirt lot near the corner of Etheldore St. and Ranch Road
Regulations: Dogs on leash
Spine Trail Details: 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. We hiked Spine Trail which is a moderately challenging 7.1 mile out-and-back trail.
The trailhead is a little bit tricky to get to. We parked in the designated area at the intersection of Etheldore Street and Ranch Road in Moss Beach. Then 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.
We only hiked about 5 miles of the route. About 2.5 miles in we came upon a swing with amazing views looking out towards 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.
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!
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
Devil’s Slide Details: 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. There are parking lots at both ends of the trail.
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!
Gray Whale Cove Loop Trail
Address: Gray Whale Cove Trail Parking Lot, Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacifica
Parking: Free parking in lot at Gray Whale Cove Beach. There is another smaller lot at the south trailhead closer to Montara State Beach.
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
Gray Whale Cove Loop Details: This trail is located in McNee Ranch on Montara Mountain. All the 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 on another trail to make it a little longer.
For this particular hike, Alltrails lead us to a tiny parking lot at the trailhead near Montara State Beach (maybe enough for 5-6 cars). We parked a little south of the trailhead along Highway 1 near the Montara State Beach parking lot (bigger lot, but 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 lead us back to the beach parking lot.
Instead, 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.
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
Mori Point Details: Mori Point is a popular destination for dog-friendly hiking in San Mateo County with stunning coastal views. Go early if possible, especially on the weekend or on a warm day as it gets crowded. There is a very small parking area at the trailhead on Mori Point Road, but there is ample street parking in the neighborhood.
This hiking area has a lot of trails that crisscross all over so I recommend using an app like Alltrails to find a route and follow using the GPS to make sure you follow your intended path – or just follow a path that looks appealing – the 110-acre park has mostly low coastal plants making it quite visible and 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 2.5-mile Mori 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 the Promenade heads north along the beach – we haven’t done this part but would be good for smaller kids, kids on bikes or scooters, or anyone who doesn’t want elevation gain.
At 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 some stunning 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.
Foothills Nature Preserve
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.
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. Prior to that, entrance to the preserve was limited to only residents of the city of Palo Alto. We went once right when it opened and have been wanting to go back. 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 and dog friendly hikes that 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: 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.
The Bay Trail Details: 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, there are many sections that 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.
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 & takeoff at SFO.
Redwood Shores is a great area as we can walk along the trail but also 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, etc.
Pulgas Ridge Open Space
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
Pulgas Ridge Open Space Details: 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: that it 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: 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
Sweeney Ridge Details: The trails at Sweeney Ridge are well-marked and well-maintained and are mostly wide which is great to give dogs space to pass each other. There is not a lot of shade, 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.
We have started 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). We hiked in spring and the Notch Trail was really pretty – very green with spring wildflowers. The trail ascended and descended through little valleys with views toward the bay.
We also started from the Shelldance Nursery on Highway 1 in Pacifica. This route was 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 we took it almost all the way to the SF Peninsula Watershed gate (~5 miles out-and-back). The fog burned off as we hiked along Sweeney Ridge and we had great views of SFO & the bay before we turned around and headed back into the fog!
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
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. There was also a great playground for young kids and a big grassy area too. 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.
Coal Creek Open Space
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.
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 expansive (from San Francisco to San Jose and everything in between!) and everything looks so crisp and sharp!
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 in the summer to fall 2022 to fix issues due to erosion and remove some non-native plant species. Phase 2 will begin in the summer of 2023.
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.
Shilling Lake Trail | Thornwood Open Space Preserve
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
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. The 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.
Note: We haven’t had this problem, but I have also heard that some dogs come away from this hike covered in ticks.
Windy Hill Open Space
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.
Windy Hill Open Space Details: 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.
The views from the top of Windy Hill are amazing – definitely worth the 1300+ foot elevation gain. On a clear day you can see both the Pacific and the Bay. Windy Hill Loop is 7.2 miles and ascends up Hamms Gulch Trail to Skyline and descends down Spring Ridge Trail. We prefer this way as Hamms Gulch Trail has more shade & coverage and Spring Ridge is more exposed.
This is a popular spot for hiking, running, biking & equestrians.
Looking for More Bay Area Hikes?
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