For anyone who has ever visited the Bay Area, Muir Woods will ring a bell for sure. Named after the famous American environmentalist John Muir, this beautiful redwood forest, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is a perennial attraction and brings in throngs of tourists and locals alike to admire California’s redwoods. However, the woods get crowded quickly and the parking lot gets filled in a jiffy. So what’s the alternative? If 7*7 magazine (covering all things Bay Area) is to be believed, head over to Dawn Falls in Larkspur, further north of Muir Woods, for a peaceful trip to wilderness in the lush and tranquil Baltimore Canyon. Although there are several trails crisscrossing this area, the most popular perhaps is the Dawn Falls trail to its namesake falls and back. Its a short trail (about 1.1 miles) and dog friendly. So we decided to check this Dawn Falls hike out with our pups, Babu and Tucker in October. This is one of the most gorgeous waterfall hikes in the Bay Area!
Looking for more dog friendly hikes in Bay Area, California? Read my ultimate guide to dog friendly hiking in San Francisco and surroundings
Dawn Falls Trail: How do you get there?
We visited Dawn Falls in late fall (thus the crinkly leaves everywhere) and although it was blazing hot in San Francisco, we found the Dawn Falls trail to be cool and shady. Both 7*7 magazine and a helpful yelp review (Thank you Carolina S!) warned us of scarce parking (only 6 spaces in a small lot near the trailhead), so we decided to park as per the yelper’s suggestion near the “no outlet” sign (see pic below) on Madrone Avenue and walked further up to reach the trailhead of to start our Dawn Falls hike. The Dawn Falls trail head descends down to the canyon and that’s where our waterfall hike started. A grunting noise greeted us at the beginning of our hike when we spotted two bulldogs having a lot of fun splashing in the creek at the mouth of the Dawn Falls trail head, their mom cooing to them from the bank. The pooches were in no mood to get out of the water and so we said goodbye from the bridge above after clicking a few photos and moved on.
Want more fantastic waterfall hikes? Here is my guide to two such dog friendly hikes leading to waterfalls
Dog Friendly Dawn Falls Hike
Dawn Falls trail hike is not strenuous at all and what makes it one of the most comfortable waterfall hikes is that there is ample shade due to a thick canopy of trees. The two four legged kids clearly enjoyed walking and running (the running was mostly done by Babu who kept on falling behind since he took upon himself the sacred duty of sniffing every leaf and every stone that his nose could find) along Dawn Falls trail. Both boys where very well behaved and occasional stopped for treats and water (which we carried). If you are planning to hike with your pups, please carry enough food and water for them as well since they can get tired on the way back. Also, please dress in layers and wear sturdy footwear since there are rocks along the way. Baltimore canyon is home to the Larkspur creek which comes to life after winter rains (so do the falls) and boasts of a dense canopy of moss covered tall trees. Dawn falls hike trails are thus mostly shaded and provide a pleasant, cool weather to hikers. We had our pups off leash because they have good recall and never strayed off the Dawn Falls hiking trail.
Dawn Falls, Larkspur: When is the best time to visit?
Since we visited Dawn Falls in late fall, we were obviously greeted by a sliver of a stream because everything had dried up then. Owing to winter rains prevalent here, the best time to hike along Dawn Falls trail and actually see the water fall in full glory is between December and March (i.e. winter-spring). Our Dawn Falls hike did not end up at the waterfall so we were disappointed. We simply hiked further up and then retraced our steps back to Dawn Falls trail head.
Post Waterfall hike: A Dog Friendly Pizzeria
Post our Dawn Falls hike adventure, we cleaned the dogs’ dirty paws, fed them and then found a lunch place with outdoor seating to fill our starving tummies! We had a delicious lunch at the outdoor patio at Picco’s, a pizzeria in downtown Larkspur, only a few minutes drive from the Dawn Falls trailhead. Owing to outdoor seating, we could get the pups to join us for lunch. Overall, a Halloween weekend well spent with tired pups and tired, but happy feet. We loved our short Dawn Falls trail adventure and highly recommend it for other pet parents. If you are in the mood to explore more dog friendly hiking in Bay Area, consider reading my posts on hiking at Muir Beach lookout!