San Francisco Urban Hikes for your Dog

off leash dog at Baker Beach in San Francisco

The Best Dog Friendly Hikes in San Francisco

When it comes to pet friendly, San Francisco is the place to be – San Francisco is one of those cities where dogs outnumber children. Most beaches, parks, and green areas are open to dogs and most are frequented by off leash pooches. We are finally going to be covering all the dog friendly hikes and trails in San Francisco. Although San Francisco is a dense urban city, it boasts over 200 parks and outdoor areas within the city limits. Over the past few years, we have explored all the urban hikes of the city and have come up with a list of our favorites.  These hikes only include green areas within the city limits, and not all the wonderful hikes in Marin and East Bay (these would need an entirely separate post). Enjoy our top 5 favorite trails plus some honorable mentions.

Map of Dog Friendly Trails in San Francisco

1. Lands End Trail: Must see for first time SF visitors 

Length: 3.4 mile loop
Skill Level: Easy to Moderate (some stairs)
Trail Conditions: Wide, mostly paved, Crowded
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Touristy & crowded
Navigate: 680 Point Lobos Ave

The pet friendly Lands End Trail in San Francisco is the most famous and heavily trafficked San Francisco urban hike. The trail is built along a cliff and has multiple lookout points over the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail passes through the famous Cliff House, Legion of Honor, Sutro Baths and provides easy access to Ocean Beach. You’ll have the best views at sunset on a clear day, but unfortunately the area is generally covered by a thick layer of fog and strong winds. On a foggy day, enjoy the mysterious vibes of the fog rolling off the cliffs. Start at the visitors center at the cross streets of Point Lobos & El Camino del Mar.

2. Bernal Heights Park & Summit: Panoramic view of the city

Length: 2 minute walk to viewpoint, optional trails around the hill
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved path to viewpoint, best on clear days
Leash Rules: Off-Leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners
Navigate: Bernal Heights Blvd (drive to the top)

The dog friendly Bernal Heights Park is one of the most underrated viewpoints in San Francisco. Tourists generally head to Twin Peaks, but the real gem is the view from the top of Bernal Heights Park. There is nothing more stunning in SF than sunset on a clear day from the summit. On a clear day, you can see the golden gate bridge and all the way across the bay. As an added bonus, this beautiful area acts as an off leash dog park. If you visit on a foggy day, skip Bernal Heights Park as visibility will be low and not worth the visit. The area is often covered by fog but be sure to double check if you are visiting on a clear day.

To access the dog trail, drive all the way to the top of the hill (along Bernal Heights Blvd) and park along the hill. You can park anywhere along the hill except the parts that have clear “no parking” signs. The path to the panoramic view of San Francisco is about a 2 minute walk and there are optional dog friendly trails all around the hill.

Additionally, Bernal Heights is currently one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Francisco. Due to the hills, we recommend driving all the way up to the park and then driving back down to the neighborhood to explore. Check out the pet friendly Precita Park Cafe, The Front Porch, Bernal Star, Cafe St. Jorge.

On a clear day, the hour before sunset is the most beautiful time to visit Bernal Heights Park.  By summertime, the grass has dried out, leaving behind golden fields in the sunset….. 

view of San Francisco from the top of Bernal Heights Summit

golden retrievers sitting in the grass at Bernal Heights Summit

golden retriever sitting at Bernal Heights Park with San Francisco skyline

birds eye view of the San Francisco Downtown from Bernal Heights Summit

At sunset, the remaining sunlight beams off of downtown…..

San Francisco skyline with light reflecting off the buildings at sunset

dog on the Bernal Heights Summit hike in front of the san francisco skyline

During the winter rainy season, the hill regains its color and the dried out fields are replaced with lush green grass. It is hard to find a clear day during the rainy season so check in advance to see if the view will be covered by fog….

dog friendly bernal summit hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal summit hike in front of san francisco skyline

view of san francisco skyline at sunset from bernal heights park

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

In stormy weather, the hill can become enveloped in fog and dark clouds….

dog running towards camera on hilltop

During midday, the hill is very bright but the views do not disappoint…..

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

3. The Presidio: Known for the best views of the Golden Gate

Length: Varies
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved and dirt paths
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Locals & Tourists Collide
Navigate: Depends on the trail

The Presido offers a range of on-leash trails. The area is popular among tourists, but there are also many trails that do not get particularly crowded. Since the presidio is so large, you’ll want to pick the trails you are interested in

Golden Gate Views: California Coastal Trail

Golden Gate Lookout to Baker Beach (2 miles out and back) – This California Coastal Trail follows the coast line from the Golden Gate Bridge down to the iconic Baker Beach. Because of the crowds, we recommend navigating to parking away from the main GG Parking lot. The “CGN Parking Lot,” “Langdon Court Parking,” and “6302 Merchant Road Parking” are good options for parking. Free parallel parking is also available along Lincoln Avenue. The California Coastal Trail can be started anywhere along the coast between the Golden Gate Bridge and Baker Beach. There are multiple lookout points along the walk. Follow the signs to Baker Beach to get the best view of the bridge.

dog friendly california coastal trail hike to golden gate lookout

Baker beach is where locals and tourists collide to get panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Nudists (yes, it is also a nudist beach!) lounge on the sand, people picnic with their friends, dogs run off leash through the waves, and tourists gawk at the beautiful bridge in the background. It is a real cultural phenomena found on a little stretch of land under the bridge. The best time to do this trail is on a clear day at sunset.

Wooded Trails: Less crowded but no views

Ecology Trail & Lover’s Lane (2 mile loop) – Mostly wooded with partial views to the bay. Start at 14 Funston Avenue

Presidio Loop Trail (3.6 mile loop) – Mostly wooded, loops around the golf course with partial views of the water. Start at Finley Road


view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

dog at baker beach at sunset in front of golden gate bridge

dog at baker beach looking at sailboat during sunset

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

4. Twin Peaks Loop: 360 degree view of San Francisco

Length: Varies
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved and well maintained paths
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Touristy & Crowded
Navigate: Clarendon & Twin Peaks Blvd for the Trail

Twin peaks is a great Urban Hike for first time San Francisco visitors.  On a clear day, the area is crowded with tourists trying to get a view of the entire city from the top. This is THE PLACE to get a 360 degree view of the city.  If you don’t want to do the 3.8 mile trail, you can drive all the way up to the top. If you are doing the trail, find the trailhead at Clarendon & Twin Peaks Blvd. Dress warmly as the breeze gets cold at the peak. Hikes like Twin Peaks are only worth it on a clear day – on foggy days there will be no view and you will be covered in cold fog.

5. Glen Canyon Park: Quiet trail in a picturesque neighborhood

Length: 2 mile loop with lower and upper trails
Trail Conditions: Dirt trails with some loose rocks. Very muddy after rain.
Leash Rules: Effectively off-Leash
Vibes: Calm & Quiet
Navigate: Glen Canyon Trailhead on Bosworth Street

If you want a quiet, peaceful walk, Glen Canyon is a good choice. Explore the Glen Park Neighborhood and then head to the Canyon for doggie fun among the rock formations and wildflowers. Glen Canyon Park is located a short walk from the picturesque neighborhood of Glen Park. Glen Park offers a quintessential San Francisco experience away from the crowds of tourists in Downtown. Parking is available at the trailhead and throughout the neighborhood. The trails are generally quiet and offer great views from the top. Enjoy the colorful wildflowers, especially after seasons of rain. The trail always has warnings for coyote sightings but we go at least once a week and have never seen any. If your dog does not have strong recall, we recommend keeping them on leash just in case.

To access the trail, walk through the main entrance, past the children’s playground and athletic fields. At the trailhead, you’ll have a choice at the fork. Because the trail is a loop, it doesn’t matter which side you start on.

For an easy stroll, stay on the lower trail without climbing any steps. The lower trail will give you a forest-style experience through the trees. For great views, take any of the stairs along the trail for access to the top of the canyon. We always choose to climb the stairs and walk along the top the canyon.

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dogs on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

More Dog Friendly Urban Hikes in San Francisco

Mt. Davidson Trail: Quiet Stroll on Windswept Hill

Length: 1.5 mile loop
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Dirt trails
Leash Rules: Effectively Off-Leash
Vibes: Quiet
Navigate: 14 Dalewood Way

The Mt. Davidson trail is one of the highest viewpoints of San Francisco. The trail is located in a suburban San Francisco neighborhood and generally frequented by locals. The trailhead is unmarked but very obvious behind the bus stop at the bottom of the hill. You’ll need a car to get to Mt. Davidson and there isn’t much to see in the area other than the trail. This is one of the quietest trails we have discovered in San Francisco and has been forgotten among the countless other urban hikes. At the viewpoint, you will find the Pacific Ocean visible through the trees behind you and the San Francisco Skyline in front of you. The park offers 40 acres of open space so a lot of opportunities for your dog to run around.

Mount Sutro Loop: Escape the City

Length: 2.2 mile loop
Skill Level: Moderate
Trail Conditions: Narrow dirt trails, Overgrown on side trails, Muddy after rain. Share path with bikers.
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Quiet with Occasional Bikers
Navigate: 4981 17th St

The Mount Sutro loop is a green oasis in the middle of San Francisco but completely covered in thick trees so don’t come here for the views (there are none!). This is the kind of trail to visit for an escape from the city – The Mount Sutro trail is trafficked by bikers and San Francisco residents. You’ll find that the side trails are overgrown especially after a rainy season, but exploring off the main trail will lead you through different SF neighborhoods. The trailhead can be accessed at multiple entry points – It is easy to get lost so consult your phone maps to ensure you are staying on path.

dog on mount sutro san francisco urban hike

Stern Grove: Off Leash & Live Music

Length: Short Stroll
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Paved and dirt paths
Leash Rules: Off-leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners
Navigate: 100 Vale Ave Parking Lot

Stern Grove is a full scale recreational area with plenty of space to stroll on paved paths of explore the switchback dirt trails along the trees. The 33 acre park has an official off-leash dog play area and there are always many dogs chasing frisbees and jogging alongside their humans.

During summer weekends, Stern Grove hosts music events on Sunday afternoons with ample picnicking space and food trucks. The park is hidden about 6 miles from downtown.

John McClaren Park Upper Reservoir & Philosopher’s Way Trail: Dog Lake & Wilderness Trails

Length: Varies
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Dirt paths, muddy after rain
Leash Rules: Off-leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners with a great swimming hole for pets.
McClaren Upper Reservoir (for dog lake), Field of Dogs (for open space), Philosopher’s Way Trailhead (on Mansell Street)

McClaren park is a San Francisco favorite for dog owners. The 300+ acre park is quiet and almost exclusively frequented by dogs. In the dog world, McClaren park is best known for it’s “Upper Reservoir” which acts as an off-leash swimming hole.  The Upper Reservoir has easy access to the Field of Dogs and multiple side trails for long walks.

dog friendly lake in san francisco at mcclaren park

dog friendly swimming hole in san francisco at mcclaren park

dog friendly lake in san francisco at mcclaren park

Beyond the San Francisco city limits, there are countless additional trails for dogs to enjoy.  Stay tuned for our guide to dog hikes in Marin and East Bay.

Keep on trail blazing,
Your Pal Cal