Best dog parks & walks —San Francisco Bay Area. Details, rules, maps, & tips

Best Dog Parks & Walks
San Francisco Bay Area

Discover the very best dog parks and dog-friendly walks in the San Francisco Bay area. You’ll enjoy the fabulous out-of-doors on these walks almost as much as your best friend Fido will enjoy the sniffing :). For precise locations see our map of best dog parks in SF and beyond (zoom out on map for the beyond).

The details below including leash rules often change so plan to be flexible. San Francisco’s Health Code requires that dogs be on-leash unless explicitly specified, usually by signage.

Ft Funston Beach

Ft Funston Beach … features plenty of dogs, kids, and hang gliders

Fort Funston

(Fort Funston Road/Skyline Blvd just south of Ocean Beach, Lake Merced, SF. Size about 35+ acres. Plenty of parking. Dogs are allowed off-leash under voice control.)

Hang gliding at Fort Funston, SF

Hang gliding at Ft Funston

This is regarded as the best “dog” park in San Francisco and probably the best dog park in world! The rugged scenery consists of high bluffs, ocean views, and large sand dunes such as once covered the western half of San Francisco. You can enjoy a nice interesting historical walk yourself while watching your dog run free with playmates around the big dunes or letting him swim at the beach.

Typically steady 10-13 knot westerly winds and/or thermals combine with sheer bluffs to make Fort Funston one of the best “hang-three” intermediate level hang gliding spots in the nation. It is a thrill to watch those gliders up close & personal from the observation deck.

Historically, Fort Funston’s Battery Davis was one of the earliest artillery structures designed to withstand aircraft bombing. Built in 1938 in preparation for WWII and technologically obsolete by 1948, Battery Davis contained two 16 inch 146 ton battleship guns with a range of over 26 miles. It is still hidden among the dunes, largely underground protected by concrete & earth. More recently, Fort Funston’s Site SF-59L (deactivated 1963) was used as a Nike missile battery site complete with 12 missile launchers and 30 nuclear-capable multi-stage missiles.

Ft Funston Dog Trails

Ft Funston has a beach & miles of beautiful trails.
Hundreds of dogs are enjoying themselves off leash.

Stern Grove

Hang gliding at Fort Funston, SF

Stern Grove trail

(Park at the Pine Lake parking lot on Vale Ave north of Crestlake Dr, Parkside, SF. You can also park at 19th Ave & Wawona St. 10-35 acres within a 15 block long park. Off leash is allowed on the park’s north side.)

Pine Lake meadow is a big open grassy areas, as large as a couple of football fields, where your dog can play unleashed. There are also several nice walking trails through the ravine and other grassy areas as well. Stern Grove is a little inland from Fort Funston and is not as wild or windy.

Ocean Beach

(Great Highway/Judah St. The longest open beach in San Francisco. It stretches south many blocks from the Cliff House at Geary Ave past Golden Gate Park and on past Sloat Blvd. Dogs are allowed off-leash north of Beach Chalet. South to Sloat Ave is a Snowy Plover protection area where leashes are required all year except from May 15 to July 1.  Same for Crissy Field in the Presidio.)

See the Ocean Beach page & map for interesting treasures even most locals don’t know about.  We prefer the “hidden” part of Ocean Beach near Judah Street. It is often foggy but great for private nature walks along the long sandy beach between the ocean and beautiful sand dunes. Check out the Java Beach coffee shop and funky Outer-Sunset/Judah St neighborhood and pick up some good coffee at Trouble Coffee Company or Java Beach Coffee while you are here.

Ocean Beach at Judah St., SF

Ocean Beach at Judah Street

Dune trail at Ocean Beach, SF

Dune trail near Beach


The Presidio

(Visitor Center, Arguello Blvd & Moraga Ave, Presidio, SF. 1,491 acres with over 11 miles of trails. Most trails are open to dogs on-leash. Off-leash dogs are allowed at a few places such as Lands End, Baker Beach north of Lobos Creek, & Crissey Field Beach from May 15-July 1 only.)

If you want beautiful ocean views or pleasant uncrowded hikes through small wooded areas this an excellent park to visit. Or, for a spectacular walk along the eastern border try the hike described in Lyon Street Stairs.

Try the Environmental Trail loop to Inspiration Point, Crissey Field, Baker Beach, or even Golden Gate Bridge if you want to deal with a lot of people. See Presidio page and map for more details.

Mount Davidson Park

Mt Davidson hiking trail, SF

Trail to top of Mt Davidson

(Dalewood Way & Myra Way, Mt Davidson. Approximately 40 acres with a few nice trails. Dogs are allowed on-leash.)

The views here are some of the best in the city. Mt Davidson is the highest natural point in SF at 928 feet and features a 103 ft cement cross at the top.

This small mountain is mostly covered by a eucalyptus forest and is generally undeveloped. There is one easy fire road up and a few slightly steeper trails going to the top from various points around the base. Besides excellent views on clear days the area is also beautiful on foggy summer days when the city disappears from sight.

Glen Canyon Park

(Bosworth St/Elk St, Glen Park, SF. Or, enter from behind Diamond Heights Shopping Center, Diamond Heights Blvd/South of Duncan St. Approximately 70 acres, much of which is steep hills. Dogs are allowed on-leash.)

This hidden natural gem has trails, often surrounded by tall blue gum trees, along its deep canyon. There are also a few trails higher up among the giant boulders. It is not a long walk, about a mile one way if you don’t take a side trip. Used primarily by local dog walkers so the trail is not too crowded.

Glen Canyon, Glen Park neighborhood, SF

Glen Canyon heading south
Glen Canyon, SF

Glen Canyon heading north


Upper Douglass Dog Park

Upper Douglass dog park, SF

Douglass Dog Park

(Douglass St/27th St, Noe Valley, SF. Not far from Glen Canyon Park)

This nice fenced dog park is used mainly by local neighborhood residents, both canine & human, who enjoy socializing there. It is an open fenced area with a pleasant natural feeling that is large enough to hold a couple of baseball fields.


Mission Dolores Park

Dolores Park picnicers

(Dolores St/18th St, Castro, SF. 2 blocks long by 1 block wide. No fences. Many dogs are off-leash though that may not be legal.)

This is really a people park but is much loved by their dogs as well. It has nice views, often great weather … and plenty of interesting people, food and shops nearby on 18th St and on Castro St.

Corona Heights Park

(Roosevelt Way/Museum Way, SF. Large open hill about 2 blocks long and 1-1/2 block wide. Has off-leash and on-leash areas. About 5 blocks northwest of Castro St/Market St.)

This park is a large open hill, mainly dirt and rock, with fine city views and various trails to walk with your dog. There is also a good fenced-in dog park at the bottom of the north side. Randall Museum on the south side is a place kids enjoy.

Mission Creek Park

(4th St/Channel St, Mission Bay, SF. The circular route around Mission Creek is at least 6-8 blocks long and can be extended. Also has a fenced off-leash area.)

Most locals won’t know this recent addition to the SF dog walk list. It is a convenient, different, urban setting you and your dogs will enjoy just for variety.

Mission Creek Park is a new well-improved park neatly hidden among the big buildings, overhead freeways and parking lots of SF’s new Mission Bay neighborhood. Mission Creek itself terminates in San Francisco Bay immediately behind the SF Giant’s stadium, at McCovey Cove where many Barry Bond’s homers ended up. See the Mission Creek page & map for more details.

This park is good for on-leash walks which can be easily extended to the SF Giants Promenade and on to The Embarcadero. For an off-leash break use the enclosed dog park at the southwest 7th Street end. For coffee lovers there is a Philz Coffee Shop one short block away at 4th St./Berry St.

Alta Plaza Park

(Steiner St/Clay St, Pacific Heights, SF. Size about 12 acres. A big square block with 5 stairways and some flatter space at the top. Very dog-friendly park with off-leash areas.)

An official off-leash area has plenty of dogs and nice people. Site of “The Original Pug Sunday” which is held approximately 2 pm the first Sunday of each month. Spectacular city views. Very nice tennis courts and children’s playground. Not that crowded when we lived a block away years ago but is getting busier. Fillmore Street is just a block east if you want some coffee, food, or shopping.

Golden Gate Park

(Stanyan St/Fulton St east to the Great Highway. 1017 acres. Dogs on-leash except for four off-leash areas.)

Largest man-made park in the world which is generally open to dogs on-leash. There is plenty to see and do while walking with your dog. Check out our Golden Gate Park page and map for more details.

There are also four off-leash dog runs in Golden Gate Park but we have not been impressed.

Lands End

(Merrie Way/Point Lobos Ave aka Geary, Outer Richmond, SF. Approximately 3 miles round trip. Dogs are allowed leash free under voice control here but the terrain is rugged. Dogs, and people, have fallen down the cliffs so leashes are recommended.)

Lands End trail is regarded by many the most beautiful area in San Francisco due to its rugged terrain and spectacular ocean views. Over the past 10 years generous donors have funded many improvements making the area much more accessible. So, now, the main trail is usually very smooth with a few steeper dips; however, if you venture on side trails towards the ocean it gets much more hazardous.

Start Lands End trail at the north end of the Merrie Way parking lot above Sutro Baths. Then follow the trail north about 1.5 miles to where it eventually exits, just past Eagles Point, on El Camino Del Mar a little west of 32d Ave. Return by walking west back on El Camino Del Mar and continue, on the north side of the California Palace Legion of Honor, on to the El Camino Del Mar trail which ends at the USS San Francisco Memorial. At the north side of parking lot where the Memorial is located you can overlook the Lands End trail near where you started. Go down the steps to get back on Lands End trail and then west to your starting point on Merrie Way.

Dog walking in Sutro Heights Park, SF

Walking in Sutro Heights Park

Side trip #1 Sutro Heights Park
South across El Camino Del Mar from the Merrie Way parking lot is another parking lot. From the parking lot you can take stair steps up to Sutro Heights Park. This quiet beautiful spot was once the garden grounds of SF’s 24th Mayor (1894), Adolf Sutro. He owned almost 10% of San Francisco lands after making his money from projects like the Sutro Tunnel which drained the Comstock Silver Lode, Virginia City. Sutro Heights Park now features a fantastic ocean beach view from a castle-like turret and large park like lawns. Dogs are allowed on-leash.

Side trip #2 Sutro Baths
Another side trip from the Merrie Way parking lot is Sutro Baths. You can walk westward down to the Baths from the parking lot. In 1896 seven swimming pools were opened making Sutro Baths the world’s largest swimming establishment capable of handling 25,000 people. However, it was not a financial success and eventually closed. A fire burned down the buildings in 1966 leaving the current ruins.

John McLaren Park

Dogs in lake, SF

Dogs playing in the lake at John McLaren Park

(Mansell St and John F Shelley Dr, SF.  348 acres, the 2d largest park in the City after Golden Gate Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash in two big open dog areas.)

This is an excellent somewhat less refined place for being outdoors with your dog. It is big and uncrowded except for several dogwalkers and sometimes occasions at the Jerry Garcia bandstand (where we sat in on a free Shakespeare play). The Shelley Loop on the north is best area to visit since it has more trees and trails. The southern end of the park is rougher with more open terrain and is closer to low-income areas so we haven’t spend any time there.

On the east side of Shelley Loop is a lake area designated for use as a (unleashed) dog park; you can walk around it and let your dog swim too. It doesn’t really feel like a dog park but more like a nice walk with your dog without fences in any direction. To the east of the lake parking lot is a water tower hill which has nice westerly and northerly city views.

Pacifica

Pacifica is convenient and there are at least two excellent places to walk your dog on-leash. Both have good ocean views but often get foggy so bring a jacket. Click below for maps.

  • Milagra Ridge This little known county park just north of Skyline Community College is good for a quick easy walk with your dog. It is uncrowded, quiet, and has excellent views overlooking Pacifica and the ocean.
  • Mori Point You can take several nice walks including up the hills on to a high point jutting out into the ocean or a long walk along the beach to the Pacifica fishing pier.

McNee State Park & Montara

The Montara Mountain trail in McNee State Park is a a more serious 7-10 mile roundtrip climb up to a 1898 foot summit. The views are fantastic, most definitely world class!

Gray Whale Cove trail is a shorter (2 miles round trip) segment of the longer Montara Mountain trail. It follows the coast line so is mostly flat. :)

As an aside, we also enjoy just walking our dog up and down the residential streets of Montara. It is a delightful little town on a hill facing the ocean. Weather almost always seems good as well.

Pillar Point Beach, Cliff & Marsh

(Near Mavericks and immediately northwest of Princeton-by-the Sea. From Hwy 1/Capistrano Rd continue west to Prospect Way, take roads paralleling the shoreline to West Point Ave, take W. Point Ave west to the Pillar Point Marsh parking lot at the end. If parking is tight here the Jean Lauer Trailhead on Airport St, behind the airport, also has access. Dogs are allowed on-leash.)

This is a beautiful natural area which used to be relatively unknown but, due to the Mavericks surfing contest publicity, is now somewhat crowded on weekends.

Pillar Point Bluff, Princeton-by-the-Sea

Pillar Point Bluff trail heading northwest to Moss Beach
  • South: From the end of the parking lot you can walk 1.2 miles round trip south on the beach under the bluffs. Dogs are allowed on-leash).
  • West: Or, head west up the road to the fenced radar station. At the top of the road turn right and take the trail northwest along the bluffs which overlook Mavericks surfing waves. This trail goes all the way to Moss Beach.
  • East: Pillar Point Marsh, part of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, is immediately to the north. It is small unimpressive area but birds apparently love it here where a fresh water marsh and a brackish salt water marsh come together. Over 151 species of birds have been spotted nearby. Dogs are not allowed on the Reserve itself but can walk along the adjacent beach.

Princeton-by-the-Sea

(On the Pacific coast about 20 miles south of San Francisco and 4 miles north of downtown Half Moon Bay.)

Princeton-by-the-Sea, a historic harbor village, is just a very nice place to visit for man or for his beast. There is lots to do and plenty of beach walks to enjoy. Also see map.

Nearby, in El Granada, are some more nice inland trails at the southern end of Rancho Corral De Tierra and at Quarry Park.

Redwood Shores

(End of Radio Rd, Redwood Shores neighborhood, Redwood City. Take the Holly Street  exit east off Hwy 101, continue east which becomes Redwood Shores Parkway, turn right at Radio Road, continue to the Shores Dog park at the end on the right hand side.)

Shore Dogs park has two pleasant fenced-in areas, one for dogs over 35 lbs and one for smaller dogs. It is located adjacent beautiful wetlands where, during spring and fall migratory seasons, you can see massive flocks of birds in the air or in the salt marshes & ponds. You can even see wild seals who like to sleep next to the dog park.

In general Redwood Shores is a great area for dogs. There are many long interesting shoreline walks where you can walk your dog on-leash (leash laws are strictly enforced to protect the habitat and endangered wild life). See our map for details about this delightful and easily accessible neighborhood.

We also enjoy walking the north and eastern edge of the Foster City Lagoon the next city north of Redwood Shores. It also has an enclosed dog park.

Sugarloaf Mountain Nature Area

(3471 Glendora Dr, San Mateo. It is located south of Hwy 92 between Hwys 280 & 101.)

Laurelwood Park & Sugarloaf Mountain are a great place to walk your dog (on leash).  The park also includes a well-outfitted playground for kids and a big, clean grassy lawn.

 


We hope you and your dog enjoy these dog parks and walks. Below are some other places you might try plus a few useful tips to know when taking your dog for a hike.

Also Rans

Most of the following doggie park “also rans” are also quite good … just not the very best we’ve found.

  • Alamo Square Park, Steiner St/Hayes St, Western Addition, SF
    This city park is not fenced but has a good sized off-leash area. It has nice views for humans too. In particular see the famous “Painted Ladies” Victorian Houses the tourists will be gawking at along the park’s east side. You’ve seen them on San Francisco post cards.
  • McKinley Square Park, 20th St/Vermont St, west side of Portrero Hill, SF
    This is a nice but small neighborhood park adjacent the crookedest street in SF. It has a small green area for dogs on leash; dogs are allowed off leash on the slope below. It has a nice view, picnic tables and childrens’ play area too.
  • Foster City Lagoon, E Hillsdale Blvd/Shell Blvd, Foster City
    This is a very pleasant suburban walk around parts of a manmade lagoon. A dog leash is definitely needed. More or less follow the cement or board walks as close to the lagoon edge as reasonable.
  • Foster City Dog Park, 600 Foster City Blvd/ Bounty Dr, Foster City, near the Foster City Blvd bridge.
    Here is a good place to stop on your lagoon walk. It has two fairly clean play areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs, which have been recently renovated with Astroturf.
  • Seal Point dog park, 1701 J Hart Clinton Dr., San Mateo (Take Hwy 101 to 3rd St Exit, then go east. After the road bends right at the stop light you will see Ryder Park for kiddies on your left. The marked entrance to Seal Point dog park is about a half mile further on, the next entrance to your left.)There is a big enclosed park for big dogs and a smaller enclosed park for small dogs. Three acres total. Pros: Big, very doggy which your dog will like. Cons: almost all dirt, more poop than most dog parks, not so beautiful to humans, sometimes windy, some of the other dogs may be a bit aggressive.
    What we enjoy most is that this dog park is part of San Mateo Shoreline Park. You can walk your dog up the hill behind the park and along the paved shoreline trail in both directions. If you are energetic walk northwest all the way up to Coyote Point. Dogs are not allowed in Coyote Point Park but there are some pleasant views & walks for people.
  • Pulgas Ridge Off-leash Dog Trail, Edmonds Rd, Redwood City (from 280/Edgewood Rd go east to Crestview Dr, turn north/left on Crestview Dr, quickly turn left/west on Edmonds, bear left to Preserve parking lot)Part of the Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve consisting of 366 acres with 6 miles of trails. Check maps provided at the parking lot to help you find the 17 acre off-leash area. If you miss it you may be in for a little longer walk than expected.

 

Tips & Rules for dog hikes

  • Current dog leash rules have been rapidly changing this past year. Here are some updated links we found: the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, GGNRA maps of Snowy Plover protected areas July-May, San Francisco off-leash dog play areas, San Francisco on-leash park policy, Marin County, and San Mateo Parks.
  • Always carry a leash even if not required. Cars, vicious animals, skateboarders, etc., can be hazardous to your dog and vice versa.
  • Watch out for overheating. Dogs are much more heat sensitive than are humans and can die surprisingly easily if left alone in a hot car. Water frequently. Rest & shade at any early signs of potential overheating. You aren’t the only one who is out of shape.
  • Clean up after your dog and yourself. Bring baggies. Why destroy the beauty for others.
  • Check afterwards for ticks and foxtails (often hidden deep in paws where they will get more deeply imbedded over time). Also ask your vet for recommendations to reduce tick & flea problems. Lyme disease, a potential hazard in the Bay area spread by ticks, can be reduced by avoiding contact with woody/bushy areas or high grass. Also, we’ve read that ticks don’t usually spread Lyme disease until they’ve been attached at least 36 hours. So, in other words, avoid brushing against a lot of vegetation and remove ticks quickly.
  • As for protecting against fleas we’ve have our best luck with Capstar (to knock existing fleas off) and Advantage II (to keep fleas from coming back). We’re going to try the Preventic collar (to keep ticks off) next time we go into an area where there are ticks. Check out the comments on Amazon.com.
  • To summarize, please use common sense. Excited city dogs can easily find trouble in the woods so you should probably watch yours carefully. :)

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