Nothing beats being outdoors with Otto, exploring nature, getting the blood flowing, and pumping fresh air into our lungs. Here are some Otto-approved dog-friendly hikes in the Bay Area that we visit often. I love that these hikes all have customizable trail routes so you can make your hike easy or moderate! I should also point out these trails are relatively short (less than 7 miles), so they are perfect when you don’t have the entire day!
I have included the exact Google Map parking lot location and Yelp page for each trail--happy hiking!
1) MCNEE RANCH STATE PARK, MONTARA
Out of the five hiking trails listed here, Otto and I frequent McNee Ranch State Park the most. We love how it never feels crowded even during peak hours on the weekend, and we can do a short hike that’s less an hour or a longer hike up to four hours here! If you plan to reach the top (a great spot for a picnic on sunny and windless days), we recommend wearing hiking shoes to take on the steep incline and loose gravel. The panoramic views are gorgeous and rewarding!
2) MORI POINT, PACIFICA
Mori Point is a bluff next to the Pacific Ocean with beautiful coastal views of the Peninsula. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a portion of the California Coastal Trail runs through it. That said, not all trails are maintained so it’s best to wear hiking or trail running shoes over sneakers.
From the parking lot listed below to the top of the cliff and going north, the landscape changes from marshy flora to rocky formation to open coastal views. We always have a great time navigating through the different terrains! Although it’s a leashed park, many people let their dogs off leash in the open area (not by the trail head). I much prefer coming here on a weekday, it’s tricky to find parking on the weekend and can get crowded.
3) HILL 88, MILL VALLEY
Since we are based in Belmont, it’s always a treat crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy this gorgeous hike in the Marin Headlands! The hill is not very steep, which means on a clear day, you get to see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out (see photos below). We always hike to the old military site and picnic in the open area next to the remaining buildings covered in graffiti. On the way back, you can stop by Rodeo Beach for one last romp before heading home. There are clean bathrooms with running water by the parking lot, which is a big plus!
4) PILLAR POINT, HALF MOON BAY
What I love about this place is the variety of hiking/walking options. There is the rocky Mavericks Beach with roaring waves and breathtaking views. For dogs (and humans) that prefer calm waters, there’s an entire shoreline protected by Pillar Point Harbor on the way to Mavericks Beach. There are big rocks closing off the harbor and they are fun to climb on (at least for us!), and you may even spot a crab or two! For people who prefer to hike, you can enter the trail north of the parking lot and take in the coastal views while passing the Half Moon Bay airport before looping back.
5) PULGAS RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE, REDWOOD CITY
This is another trail Otto and I frequent, mainly because the location is practically our backyard! Otto has been coming here since he was a puppy, see the first photo below! My number one favorite thing about this hike is the designated off-leash area once you get to the top. The other hikes listed above are dog-friendly, but dogs have to be on-leash. (Okay, I’ll be honest here...I like these hikes also because the leash law seems to be more lax and the owners we have encountered on these hikes are all friendly and responsible.)
The view here cannot be compared to the coastal views, but I love the freedom of letting my dog run free once we get to the top! From the parking lot, there are two ways to get to the off-leash area. I recommend walking in from the paved Hassler Road if your dog prefers more space on-leash. The other way up is through the narrow Blue Oak Trail, which is a shaded switchback that doesn’t give you as much space to make way when passing other hikers and dogs.