The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country which are dog friendly, but its best kept secret could very well be the Dawn Falls trail in Larkspur, a town in Marin county just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This trail leads to its namesake gurgling waterfall (which you can easily see during spring/early summer) and is part of the several trails crisscrossing the lush and tranquil Baltimore Canyon. Dawn Falls trail is not only dog friendly, but is also a relatively short one (about 2.7 miles loop to the falls and back) and of mild-moderate difficulty. This is indeed one of the most gorgeous waterfall hikes in the Bay Area and one where dogs can be off-leash, provided they have excellent voice recall. We have hiked here with our pups in two very separate seasons-wet spring in February and dry, hot fall in October and saw two very different facets of nature while hiking. Scroll down to read more about our dog friendly hiking adventure in Larkspur and why should visit this trail for the love of nature.
Dawn Falls Trail: Getting there and parking
It takes about 30 minutes to drive to Madrone Avenue from San Francisco, where the Dawn Falls trailhead is located. Parking is difficult to find on Madrone Avenue since it is a narrow, meandering path. Your best bet is to arrive early and try to park in one of the spots on the side of the road, preferably before a “no outlet street Echo Place” sign as suggested by Yelper Caroline S.This is what we did the first time around and then walked up to the trailhead, which is a short distance. The second time too, we found parking on the side of the street and walked up to the trailhead. The trailhead shows up clearly on Google Maps in case you are looking for directions. Once you get off the road you will find a bridge across the Larkspur creek from where the trail begins. You can either walk along the upper trail or get down to a parallel path with the Larkspur creek flowing right alongside. If you are on the upper trail, you will see the falls on your right.
Dog Friendly Dawn Falls Hike: Know before you go
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 redwoods. As mentioned before, we’ve visited Dawn Falls twice, both in in late fall (thus the crinkly leaves everywhere) and late winter where it was all wet with lush greenery everywhere thanks to our winter rain. The one advantage that hiking during spring provides is that you can actually see the waterfall cascading down as well as gurgling streams as opposed to everything dried up to the bone in fall. No matter the season, the tranquility and quiet solitude provided by this hiking spot is unparalleled due to lack of crowds. If you are planning to hike with your pups on Dawn Falls trail, 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. This is true especially for spring hiking since the ground is very wet and slippery.
When is the best time to visit Dawn Falls Trail in Larkspur?
During our visit to Dawn Falls in late fall in 2015, 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 waterfall in full glory is between December and March (i.e. winter-spring). On our second outing (Feb 2019) we were greeted by a rain drenched redwoods grove with the waterfall which was a visual treat. Plus, it was so soothing to hike to the babble of a brook. If you are not a big fan of hiking in slippery conditions, I suggest either mid summer or fall when the ground has dried up.
Post Waterfall hike: Dog Friendly Pizzerias in Larkspur and Ross
If you feel like rewarding yourself after your Dawn Falls hike adventure, then lunch at the outdoor patio at Picco’s, a dog friendly pizzeria in downtown Larkspur is an excellent option. It is only a few minutes drive from the Dawn Falls trailhead and has yummilicious pizza. Another great pizza place (which does have a tiny outdoor seating area though) is Tony Tutto pizza in Ross, about 12 minute drive away. Not only is the owner the friendliest but they also have amazing made-from-scratch pizzas ( plus soup, salads, lasagna, calzone and pizzelles which are all vegetarian). There are vegan pizza options too and they have gluten free ones on Sunday. I cannot rave enough about how good this place is (and no, they have not paid me to say so)!
I hope you liked reading our dog friendly hiking experience on Dawn Falls Trail in Larkspur. This dog friendly trail is one of the best kept secrets in the Bay Area and one that you should definitely explore if you are visiting! You can read all our other dog friendly adventures right here by clicking on this pet friendly travel link.
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