San Francisco, California often features as one of the top dog friendly cities in USA and for good reason too. This city is mired with dog parks, beaches and other outdoor areas where your canine companions are welcome and there are so many things to do with your dog in San Francisco to keep you both busy! Having lived in this city for nearly 10 years with Babu, our furry bundle of joy/rescue Tibetan Spaniel mix, we have combed these 49 square miles in search of all kinds of dog friendly San Francisco spots that are compiled in this one article. If you are dog parent and new to the city or are simply visiting with your pet, do read this ultimate dog friendly San Francisco guide based on our personal experiences which includes the best SF dog parks, dog friendly hiking trails and of course, dog friendly beaches. So without further woofs, let’s get started!
Dog Friendly San Francisco spots # 1 Dog parks in SF
Head out to one of the many San Francisco dog parks in the city which range from small to pretty big, famous (such as Alamo square with the Painted ladies next to it) to tiny ones tucked away in the corner, and have a blast with your dog running around in the off-leash playground. Some of our favorite parks in this list of dog friendly san Francisco spots are:
A) Buena Vista park: Beautiful views galore!
Buena Vista park is one of the many dog friendly San Francisco parks with a designated play area where dogs can be leash free. This park, along with the iconic Golden Gate park, shares the honor of being the first two parks of San Francisco, and is home to many native trees and vegetation, including the famous Monterey Cypress! This park was tended to by the famous Scottish horticulturist John McLaren who was also the first Superintendent of Parks in San Francisco and is known to have planted over two million trees in his lifetime! Soon after McLaren’s demise, the neighborhood pulled together and came to the park’s rescue by planting “newer” trees to take over as the older ones gave way.
The park, a woodland of dense vegetation, winds up gently through shadowy paths flanked by trees or you can hike up the uneven trail interrupted by stairs. Either way, once you reach to the very top, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city skyline as well as the Golden Gate Bridge beckoning in the distance. The Sutro tower, another SF iconic structure, juts out into the sky, adding another layer of visual interest to the skyline.
B) Strawberry Hill, Golden Gate Park: A hidden oasis in SF’s biggest park
Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s green oasis on the western edge of the city and home to several attractions such as the Hagiwara tea garden, the De Young museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Despite our knowledge of the park, little did we know that it nests a beautiful secluded spot at its center with a serene (albeit man made) lake in between flanked by hiking trails on an elevation.
This hill like rising is cutely named Strawberry Hill and it is located on 50 Stow Lake drive. The placid waters of the lake allow for boat rides all year long and is a really secluded, hidden spot with dog friendly hiking trails-both on flat as well as hilly terrain.The trail heads start from the paddle boat area and circle the lake and even go upwards into the hill. The slope is a gentle one and during our walk, we came across a beautiful waterfall as well as a quaint pagoda/pavilion (named Golden Gate pavilion) on the way.
C) Alta Plaza park: one of our favorite dog parks in San Francisco
Our favorite park, of all the dog friendly San Francisco spots, is undoubtedly the Alta Plaza park in Pacific Heights. First, because it is a clean, green park with a huge off-leash area for dogs to play and second because it is a good 20-25 min walk along the awesome street of Fillmore (always bustling and always fun to walk on) before you reach the park.
D) Mountain Lake Park: A serene park in SF where dogs are welcome
Mountain lake Park is a beautiful, green park with a placid lake at the southernmost point of San Francisco’s famous Presidio. The park, once a derelict zone, has now been recognized as an important ecological preservation spot and the lake is now drudged to remove debris that might harm the aquatic life.
There are several dog friendly hiking trails which lead to beautiful vistas and overlook points, but being a super hot day, we hiked only partially and made a U-turn. In case you set out on a hike, remember to use the restrooms which are near the entrance of the park. All throughout the lake’s periphery there are signs forbidding people to release wildlife in the lake (read abandoning turtles or fish, guess it takes all kinds of stupid people to run the world) and there are signs explaining the importance of Presidio as one of the worlds prime biodiversity spots.
The park’s importance perhaps lies in the fact, that if if history is to be believed, this area played an important role in inception of the city of San Francisco. On March 27, 1776, General Juan Bautista De Anza along with a few other soldiers reached Mountain lake Park after an excruciating nine-month trek staring from New Mexico. The regiment stayed here for a few days, laying down the blueprint for the early settlement that would morph into the city of San Francisco.
E) Glen Canyon park: Plenty of dog friendly hiking trails here
Glen Canyon Park, another hidden Shangri-La in the city, is in the quiet, southern neighborhood of Glen park (my first SF hood) and a short walk from the Glen Park Bart station, at the corner of Elk and Chenery streets. A locals favorite for hiking with family or their fur kids, this park has beautiful dog friendly hiking trails that wind up to a decent elevation and are easy to moderate for hikers to navigate.
The park is about 70 acres and along a deep canyon. There are several trail heads, one of the easiest being from the adjacent Bosworth street, but you can enter through park from Elk, take a right (there is a children’s playground to the right) and start off on one of the trails. Dogs are allowed both off and on-leash but dog owners are required to have their leashes at all times. Dogs are allowed on both dirt trails and paved roads in this dog friendly San Francisco park. The park is lush with greenery and beautiful. There are random flights of steps scattered everywhere and some take you to other trails.
F) Sutro Park: A dog friendly park right next to the beach!
Sutro Parks is adjacent to the steps leading to the Sutro bath ruins, Land’s end. Lush greenery, solitude, blooming roses, a majestic statue of the huntress Diana (of which I could clearly not get enough of) and majestic views of the ocean and beach from a look-out point made our afternoon a blissful one. A great spot for some quiet time, picnic or otherwise, be sure to check it out with your four legged companion if you are in town!
G) John McLaren Park
John McLaren Park is another dog friendly spot in San Francisco and is a huge patch of green in the quiet residential neighborhood of Excelsior, west of the more bustling neighborhood of Bernal Heights, where you have Bernal Hills, a modest elevation that provides sweeping views of the city and is also dog friendly. McLaren Park is a very sprawled out park and dogs need to be on leash in most parts except designated play areas.
The park is crisscrossed by several trails and you can take any of them for a moderate to intense hike. The vegetation is very dense and provides a woodsy feel all around. The park is home to an amphitheater which hosts delightful summer performances such as Shakespeare in the park (last performance being Romeo and Juliet). Fur-kids are allowed but should be on leash during the length of the performance.
H) Alamo Square park
Alamo square park, flanked by the famous Painted Ladies (a series of colorful Victorian houses that are a San Francisco picture postcard staple) is possibly the most popular dog park in the city and has a dedicated dog play area where pooches can run around carefree! Besides a doggie day out, you can double the fun by bringing in a picnic basket and a blanket to enjoy a wonderful sunny day in the company of the famous row of colorful Victorians. Because of them houses, Alamo square does get its fair share of tourists, so please keep an eye on your dog when at the park.
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I) Dog Friendly parks with stunning views
The list of dog friendly parks in San Francisco is endless and several of them have stunning views of the city when you climb to the top. Some of these dog friendly San Francisco spots which are dog parks offering spectacular views of the city are Bernal hills, Mt. Davidson park, Kite Hill park, Tank Hill Park and Grand view park; all of these welcome dogs and provide sweeping views of the city. You can read more about them in my previous blog post linked below!
Dog Friendly Guide to San Francisco # 2 Dog Friendly Beaches
San Francisco sits pretty atop the Bay Area peninsula and is surrounded by water on all sides. This means we have plenty of sandy beaches to lounge around and many of them are dog friendly too! Scroll down to see where you can take your best friend when you visit the city!
A) Crissy Field
Crissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio trust, is the slice of land peeking out into the bay from right next to the majestic Golden Gate bridge and is the last piece of land/beach that you will encounter before you hit the bottom of the bridge. A short walk along the paved away will lead to stairs to the bridge or keep walking further to reach Fort Point, from where jagged rocks encounter furious waves, the latter breaking into a million foamy particles upon continuous brutal collision. This does not deter the intrepid surfers who jump in on an incoming wave and literally ride them to get their adrenalin rush and for us to get some great photos (scroll down further to see some in action).
Being a coastal town (the tiny 49 square miles does make this city feel like a town), everything is centered around the water and Crissy field is a family friendly beach, inviting kids, dogs, adults, fishing and crabbing folks and picnickers alike. The towering view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the yacht with their white sails on the blue water and the faint skyline of the city in the distance makes this beach even more special.
It is an extremely popular spot for San Franciscans and tourists, so do come in a little early in the morning to get a parking spot. Apart from water sports (sailing, surfing and yes, even rafting as we saw a lone rafter paddle by furiously, see photo above), Crissy field center also engages the youth, with little or no national park access, to be more involved in conservation efforts for California’s parks and recreation spots.
Historically, Crissy field has played an important role in augmenting commercial flights on the West coast since this was a spot for test flying and landing of both land and water cargo flights. Since angling is allowed, there are posted signs for what is the best catch from the bay and instructions on “crabbing”, come crab season.
B) Mile Rock Beach: Dog friendly “secret” beach
This San Francisco beach is one of the many spectacular dog friendly beaches in California. It is however, a little hard to find and is located near Land’s End, accessible by the coastal trail. Several flights of stairs lead to it and once you reach there, do spend some time to watch a spectacular sunset here. Since the beach is pretty secluded, you will not find a whole lot of people here. Close by is the famous Land’s end labyrinth that is one of the best instagrammable spots in San Francisco.
C) Baker Beach: Local’s favorite dog friendly beach
This beach in San Francisco’s Presidio, is not only one of the best dog friendly San Francisco spots but also provides a fantastic view of the Golden gate bridge.
D) Fort Funston
Fort Funston, possibly the most popular dog friendly beach in San Francisco, is tucked away in the southwestern most tip of the city and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area of California. It is San Francisco’s most dog friendly beach since they are allowed to go crazy off leash. You will be rewarded with a gorgeous sandy beach and beautiful views of the wave churning Pacific but not before hiking high bluffs and sand dunes and somewhat of a rocky terrain to get to the beach area.
The hiking is pretty arduous, so sneakers or hiking boots are a must. Dogs get off leash when the reach the Fort Funston area but they should have excellent recall manners. Also, it gets pretty windy so please dress in layers. Please visit the website to stay up to date on all Fort Funston related information including any dog related questions that you may have.
Where to take your dog in San Francisco # 3 Hiking
San Francisco has several hiking spots and a few open space preserves that have dog friendly trails. Although pint sized, our city has several urban hiking trails that lead to gorgeous views and welcome dogs! Some of our favorite ones are the trails in San Francisco’s Presidio, The Sutro Open Space reserve in Cole valley and Mt. Davidson at Twin Peaks from where you can get sweeping views of the city as well via a short and easy hike (this is our favorite place for visiting dog parents). I have written all about these dog friendly hikes in San Francisco in a separate post for your convenience, where I have included some other favorite hikes of ours in the Bay Area beyond the city. Some of these hikes also lead to cascading waterfalls best enjoyed in spring due to our winter rains!
Dog friendly hotels in San Francisco: Where to stay with your best friend
San Francisco does not have any dearth of dog friendly hotels befitting all budgets. Hotel Kabuki (in my neighborhood/Japan town) is a stellar place to rest while Beresford hotel in Union Square (3 star and basic) is definitely more affordable for dog parents. San Francisco is lucky to have not one but two Kimpton hotel locations (Kimpton Buchanan in Japantown and Kimpton Sir Francis Drake in Downtown) which are boutique hotels that welcome pets of all breeds, weights and sizes free of cost! Finally, here is a list of all the dog friendly hotels in San Francisco for you to check out.
I hope I have given you plenty of pawsome spots for outdoor activities with your dog when in San Francisco. Do follow yrofthemonkey for more dog friendly adventures in and around California! Thanks so much for reading.