Paws-itively Awesome Trails

Paws-itively Awesome Trails: Hiking with Your Dog in California

Oh, the Golden State! California boasts a wide variety of landscapes, from sun-soaked beaches to breathtaking mountains. And who better to explore these natural wonders with than your four-legged friend? Whether you’re a new dog owner or have a seasoned hiking buddy, we’ve got the ultimate guide to the best dog-friendly trails in California. Lace up your hiking boots and grab your furry friend – adventure awaits!

While any dog can be a great hiking companion with the right training and preparation, some breeds are particularly popular and well-suited for hitting the trails in California. Here are five popular dog breeds in the Golden State that make excellent hiking partners:

Labrador Hiking


Friendly and energetic, Labradors make excellent hiking companions for active families who enjoy outdoor adventures.

Golden Retriever Hiking

Golden Retriever

Goldens are intelligent, loyal, and energetic, making them a perfect companion for long hikes and outdoor activities.
Australian Shepherd Hiking

Australian Shepherd

These agile and intelligent dogs thrive on physical activity and mental stimulation, making them well-suited for hiking and outdoor adventures.

German Shepherd hiking

German Shepherd

As a working breed, German Shepherds have the strength and stamina to tackle challenging trails, making them a great option for experienced hikers.

Border Collie Hiking

Border Collie

Known for their intelligence and athleticism, Border Collies are excellent companions for hikers who enjoy long treks and challenging trails.

When choosing a dog breed for hiking in California, consider factors such as the dog’s energy level, stamina, and ability to handle different terrains and climates. Always take your dog’s specific needs into account, and make sure they are well-prepared for any hiking adventure you embark on together.

Best Dog-Friendly Trails in California

Redwood Regional Park

1. Redwood Regional Park, Oakland

Nestled in the East Bay hills, Redwood Regional Park offers a stunning forest retreat that both you and your canine companion will adore. With over 40 miles of trails, this dog-friendly park is perfect for hiking with dogs. Some highlights include:

  • Stream Trail:

    A popular, flat, and shaded path that’s perfect for leisurely strolls.

  • French Trail:

    A more challenging route that offers breathtaking views of the redwood forest.

Remember to keep your furry friend on a leash, and always clean up after them.


Runyon Canyon Park

2. Runyon Canyon Park, Los Angeles

Looking for a workout with a view? Runyon Canyon Park is a favorite among celebrities, fitness enthusiasts, and dog owners. Enjoy panoramic views of the city while hiking with your dog on these popular routes:
  • Runyon Canyon Loop:

    A 3-mile loop trail that offers stunning views of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith  Observatory.

  • Inspiration Point:

    A short, steep climb to a scenic overlook, perfect for photo ops with your pup.

This park also features a 90-acre off-leash dog area, so your pup can roam freely and make new friends.  
Point Reyes National Seashore

3. Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County

With over 150 miles of trails and stunning coastal views, Point Reyes National Seashore is a haven for hikers and their canine companions. While dogs are not allowed on all trails, there are still plenty of options to explore with your pup. Some noteworthy dog-friendly trails include:
  • Limantour Beach:

    A beautiful, dog-friendly beach where your pup can frolic in the surf (on a leash).

  • Kehoe Beach Trail:

    A 2-mile round-trip trail leading to a picturesque, dog-friendly beach.

  • Bolinas Ridge Trail:

    A scenic, moderate 11-mile trail that boasts incredible views of the coast and surrounding hills.

Always keep your dog on a leash and follow park regulations.  
Mission Trails Regional Park

4. Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

Mission Trails Regional Park is a sprawling, dog-friendly park located in San Diego, boasting over 60 miles of trails. Some popular routes for hiking with dogs include:

  • Cowles Mountain Trail:

    A challenging 3-mile round-trip hike to the highest point in the city, offering panoramic views of San Diego.

  • Oak Canyon Trail:

    A moderate, 3.2-mile trail that winds through a beautiful oak-filled canyon with a seasonal creek.

Dogs must be leashed at all times, and be sure to pack enough water for both you and your furry friend.



Topanga State Park

5. Topanga State Park, Los Angeles

Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga State Park offers a variety of dog-friendly trails that will satisfy both novice and experienced hikers. Some top trails to explore with your pup include:
  • Eagle Rock Trail:

    A moderate, 4.2-mile round-trip hike that takes you to the iconic Eagle Rock, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

  • Santa Ynez Canyon Trail:

    A peaceful, 2.5-mile round-trip hike that features a beautiful seasonal waterfall.

Keep your dog on a leash at all times, and always clean up after them.    
Mount Tamalpais State Park

6. Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin County

Offering spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mount Tamalpais State Park is an idyllic spot for hiking with dogs. The park features a variety of dog-friendly trails that cater to different skill levels and preferences. Some top trails include:
  • Dipsea Trail:

    A challenging 9.5-mile trail that takes you through a diverse landscape of forests, grasslands, and coastal views.

  • Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop:

    A moderate 7.3-mile loop that winds through lush forests, open meadows, and offers glimpses of the ocean.

Dogs are allowed on specific trails and must be leashed at all times.    
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

7. Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, San Diego

Located in San Diego, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a haven for hikers and nature lovers. With over 12 miles of dog-friendly trails, you can enjoy a leisurely walk or an invigorating hike with your canine companion. Highlights include:

  • Waterfall Trail:

    A 6.4-mile loop trail that leads to a picturesque waterfall.

  • Creekside Trail:

    A scenic 4.2-mile route that follows the creek and offers plenty of spots for your pup to splash around.

Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails, so make sure to keep your pup close while exploring the preserve.

Hiking trail with dog

Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

Preparing for Your Hike

To make your adventure as enjoyable as possible, follow these tips to prepare for hiking with dogs:


  • Check the trail regulations

    to ensure it’s dog-friendly and learn about any leash requirements.

  • Pack enough water

    for both you and your pup, as well as a portable water bowl.

  • Bring doggy bags

    for waste disposal, and adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principles.

Trail Etiquette

While on the trails, practice proper etiquette to ensure a pleasant experience for all:

  • Keep your dog on a leash

    if required by park regulations or if your dog doesn’t have reliable recall.

  • Yield to other hikers

    and let them pass if your dog needs space or is easily excited.

  • Clean up after your dog

    and dispose of waste properly.

Post-Hike Care

After your adventure, follow these steps to ensure your dog’s well-being:

  • Check for ticks

    and remove any you find using a tick-removal tool or tweezers.

  • Inspect your dog’s paws

    for any cuts, scrapes, or debris lodged between their toes.

  • Reward your pup

    with some well-deserved rest and maybe even a treat for their hard work!

Hiking with dog

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there any restrictions on dog breeds for hiking in California?
While there aren’t specific breed restrictions for hiking, some parks or trails may have rules regarding dogs. Always check the regulations for the specific park or trail you plan to visit. Additionally, consider your dog’s breed, age, and fitness level when choosing a trail, as certain breeds may struggle with challenging hikes or extreme temperatures.
How do I know if a trail is too difficult for my dog?
Start by considering your dog’s breed, age, and fitness level. If your dog is a senior, has health issues, or is a breed that may struggle with intense physical activity, choose easier and shorter trails. If you’re unsure, consult with your veterinarian for guidance on the best type of hikes for your dog. Always monitor your dog’s body language and energy levels during a hike, and take breaks when necessary.
What should I do if my dog gets injured while hiking?
Carry a basic first aid kit for both you and your dog. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid for dogs, including how to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites. If your dog sustains a more serious injury, remain calm and assess the situation. If necessary, carry your dog out of the trail or seek help from other hikers. Once you’re off the trail, consult your veterinarian for further evaluation and treatment.
How can I ensure my dog stays safe while hiking in hot weather?
If you plan to hike during hot weather, take extra precautions to keep your dog safe and comfortable. Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day, and opt for early morning or late afternoon hikes instead. Provide plenty of water and take frequent breaks in shaded areas. Watch for signs of overheating, such as excessive panting, drooling, or weakness, and take immediate action if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s also a good idea to protect your dog’s paws with booties or paw wax if the trail surface is hot.
Is it necessary to bring a first aid kit when hiking with my dog?
Yes, it’s a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit for both you and your dog when hiking. This should include items such as tweezers, tick-removal tools, antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive bandages, and a small pair of scissors. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid for dogs, including how to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites.
Can I let my dog swim in rivers, lakes, or the ocean during our hikes?
It depends on the specific location and park regulations. In some areas, dogs are allowed to swim in designated bodies of water, while in others, they may be restricted to protect the local ecosystem. Always check park rules before allowing your dog to swim during your hike. Additionally, be aware of your dog’s swimming abilities and any potential hazards such as strong currents, sharp rocks, or toxic algae blooms.
How can I help my dog build stamina for longer hikes?
Start with shorter, easier hikes and gradually increase the length and difficulty as your dog becomes more comfortable and fit. Regular exercise, such as daily walks and play sessions, can also help improve your dog’s stamina. Always pay close attention to your dog’s body language and energy levels during a hike, and take breaks when necessary. If your dog shows signs of fatigue, such as excessive panting or reluctance to continue, it’s time to stop and rest.


Hiking with your dog in California can be a paws-itively amazing experience, as long as you’re well-prepared and choose the right trails for your canine companion. With so many dog-friendly parks and trails to explore, you’ll never run out of adventures to share with your four-legged friend. So, grab your hiking gear, leash up your pup, and hit the trails for a day of bonding and exploration in the great outdoors!

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