The Best Dog Friendly Adventures in California

planning California dog adventure

With a fabulous collection of dog-friendly beaches, miles of beautiful hiking trails, and a wonderful array of dog-friendly restaurants, cafes and bars, California is one of the best places in the world to find adventure with your four-legged friend. Here are some of the best dog-friendly places to visit in California with your dog.


Carmel simply loves dogs and will welcome them just as much as their two-legged visitors. For starters, take your pooch along the scenic path from Carmel River Beach to Carmel Beach for incredible views, and then head down to the beach itself. Carmel Beach allows dogs to play on the sand and frolic in the surf even when they are off-leash (as long as they are trained to respond well to voice commands)!

For more fun times, visit Carmel Plaza, Carmel River State Beach, Seventeen Mile Drive, Mission Trail Park, Carmel Walks and Garrapata State Park for numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure with your best friend. 

If you are not worn out, head to the Mission Trail Park, a 33-acre nature preserve with 5 miles of wonderful trails through pine and redwood trees to exercise your dog and soak up some nature along the way. Then head to Downtown Carmel, where shopkeepers offer dog biscuits, water bowls and even delicious gourmet doggie meals such as grilled chicken, biscuits, kibbles and steak. Many restaurants and cafes offer dogs and their owners both open-air and covered patios as well as a variety of indoor spaces to relax.

Done for the day? There are  many excellent dog friendly hotels and inns in Carmel, which will warmly welcome both you and your four-legged friend, even offering welcoming doggy packs! Just be sure you are aware of their pet policies and reserve a room for you both in advance.

couple with dog on beach

San Diego

This is another wonderful pet paradise in California full of dog-friendly adventures. San Diego’s weather is perfect for both people and their pets, and they have a fantastic collection of dog-friendly beaches (including the original dog beach!) and a plentiful supply of wide-open spaces.

San Diego also offers many excellent dog-friendly hotels, which even include pampering services. This city also offers all sorts of doggy-inspired events for your both to enjoy including the DogFest and Annual Bow Wow Brunch Cruise.

Sections of Del Mar Beach, Ocean Beach, Coronado North to Mission Bay’s Fiesta Island are all  dog friendly, and there’s also a great selection of dog-friendly parks including Balboa Park’s two-dog parks. Have a super friendly dog? Make sure you head to one of the city’s summer events such as Imperial Beach’s Unleashed Surf Dog tournaments or the Hornblower cruise’s annual Pet Day on the Bay. Alternatively, just opt for some Doggie Yoga and Pup Paddle-boarding instead – yes really!

Lake Tahoe

The alpine paradise of Lake Tahoe is a scenic doggie heaven with lots of adventurous options for both dogs and their parents. Campers will find MacKerriecher State Park’s three campgrounds dog-friendly and ready, including Nevada Beach campground with a wonderful dog spot. You can even take your dog swimming at a dog-friendly beach like  Homewood’s Obexer General or hike in a lift at Squaw Valley’s aerial tram and Northstar’s lifts as long as your dog is leashed.

What dog-friendly adventure is complete without renting a raft like dozes of other summer  pet travelers and float  for miles down the Truckee River. You can also try out a dog-friendly canoe with spacious cockpits for a furry member and their parent at the Tahoe City Kayak. What fun for you both!

Summer estate outbuildings and homes are  plentiful too at the Tallac Historic Site where your dog is invited assuming it is leashed.

Lake Tahoe has trails that span hundreds of miles and you and your dog will love exploring them as much as Tahoe City Lakeside Trail and Van Sickle Bi-State Park.

The area also has delightful treats for dogs in any of the diverse dog specialty stores, including spa treatment, dog toys among others.

Cannon Beach

dog-friendly adventure on California beach

Cannon Beach will remind you of Carmel with its lush forest extended in a way that seems to meet the sea. You can hike local trails with your dog through tall trees as you observe your furry companion’s reaction to elk, deer, chipmunks and raccoon scents. Dogs are allowed at the beach without a leash, if well behaved.  Natural trails such as Elk Creek Nature Preserve is a special place to walk your furry pet. You can also enjoy the natural flora and fauna of Ecola State Park.

Local doggie stores in Cannon Beach offer both human and pet products as well as dog-friendly outdoor spaces and seating. Water bowls are abundant with most local hotels allowing pooches with hospitable pet services.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz offers both enjoyable pet outings and hearty dog-friendly adventures as well as dog-friendly resorts and restaurants, redwood hikes and pet-friendly beaches.

The county includes lots of picnic sections and campsites, natural hiking spots like the Big Basin Redwoods State Park or miles of paved surface along the North Escape Road. Others include an immense number of trails from the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to Byrne-Milliron Forest and Roaring Camp Railroads perfect for families and their furry companions.

If you fancy a picnic, then head for the Felton Covered Bridge Park and enjoy the San Lorenzo River together or enjoy the pet-friendly wineries and beaches in Santa Cruz where dogs are welcome.

Leashed dogs are allowed in downtown Santa Cruz while surfer points such as East Cliff Parkway is an enchanting point to watch surf duels and wave runners with your dog. Leashed dogs are also allowed in tide-pooling adventures, particularly around Live Oak’s Santa Maria Beach.

Newport Beach

Be sure not to miss Newport Beach, a unique pet-friendly place with dogs invited to so many places from high-end hotels such as the Island Hotel and Hyatt Regency Newport Beach to West Coast food and fashion locations like Fashion Island that are very friendly to well behaved pups and their companions,.

The open sea is always a delight for every dog walker and owner where Duffy boats are perfect for pooches and their parents who love their cocktail cruises just right. The water’s edge is a perfect place to wind down with your dog by watching the sunset and making evening runs along the way.

Mornings along Newport beaches are truly special, including hikes along El Moro Canyon or Back Bay with your pet. Be sure and check out beaches from Newport Beach Dog Park, Municipal Beach to Crystal Cove State Park. Doggy day care and shopping centers open for dogs including Fashion Island, Petco, Charlie & Me to Russo’s Pets are fun places to bring your best friend.

Groom your  dog at a dozen of places such as Paw Spa, Ace Pet to One Bark Avenue.

Newport Beach includes lots of pet friendly resorts and hotels that welcome dogs with great fanfare including treats and water bowls.

Half Moon Bay

dog in front of surfboard

Like in most of dog-friendly California and nearby areas, beaches are all the rage in Half Moon Bay such as Half Moon Bay’s State Beach and Poplar Beach, perfect places for ball tossing and picnics. Right off Wavecrest Road is Half Moon Bay Dog Park, a community funded and supported park where furry friend meet-ups are aplenty. Enjoy scenic biking, running and leisure strolls with your leashed dog in the Coastal Trail.

Half Moon Bay includes dog-friendly hotels and motels, posh packages for pooches and tight budget options for those with dogs in local inns. Overall, Half Moon Bay is largely a dog-friendly area with top natural surroundings and commercial establishments with their doors open to both pooches and people.

So, no matter what you and your dog are up for, whether enjoying the outdoors or shopping in unique pet boutiques or sharing a spa experience, California will not disappoint. There are truly all sorts of dog-friendly adventures here.

Becky Moore is a semi nomadic traveller and owner of Global Grasshopper – an award winning blog. Here she writes about under the radar destinations and dog friendly travel. 

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