Lake Tahoe is one of those destinations that can be visited year round. In the summer, visitors can take advantage of the lake and hiking trails. The winter attracts downhill skiiers, snowshoers, and cross country skiiers alike. Most visitors come to Tahoe in the winter for the world renowned ski resorts, but our family doesnt ski so we spend most of our time exploring snowed in trails. We’ve been able to enjoy snowy trails in North Lake Tahoe until mid-april. Here’s a list of our favorite winter hikes in lake tahoe:
South Lake Tahoe
Van Sickle Bi-State Park & Heavenly Mountain Resort
Fallen Leaf Lake
Echo Lake SNO Park
North Lake Tahoe
Pacific Crest Trail to Peter Grubb Hut
Pacific Crest Trail to Mount Judah
What do you need for a snow day in Tahoe with your dog?
Can dogs walk off leash on the snowy Lake Tahoe trails?
The answer to this question depends on how heavily trafficked the trail is. During the summer, our dogs remain leashed as the trails are officially open and trafficked. During the winter, trails are often on closed roads , and the areas around the trails are closed. Our rule of thumb on the Tahoe winter trails (and the rule that dog owners follow in Tahoe) is that the dog must always be on leash when passing by other hikers or dogs. If the dog does not come to a heel immediately when another hiker or dog is visible, then the dog cannot be off leash. We have never had any issues with off leash dogs in Tahoe – we have always found that trail dogs tend to be under voice control and our dogs are immediately called back to a heel and leashed for the comfort of passing other winter hikers.
South Lake Tahoe – Explore Heavenly Mountain Resort with your dog then check out Van Sickle Bi-State Park
South Lake Tahoe is home to the popular Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort – grab some hot chocolate and take a walk with your dog around the resort. During the winter months, the area around Heavenly is bustling with people but we found the Van Sickle Bi-State Park trails to be relatively quiet as most visitors are hitting the ski slopes. The trailhead starts just a few hundred feet from parking (we parked in the Heavenly parking lot). In the deep winter snow, the trail isn’t clearly marked so it’s best to follow the paths that have been paved by prior visitors.
If you visit the day after a large storm, you’ll have to blaze the trail with your snowshoes but luckily there isn’t much of a risk of getting lost – the resort is nearby and cellphone service is available throughout the area. When we visited after a storm, we explored different paths until the snow got too deep for the snowshoes.
South Lake Tahoe – Winter at Fallen Leaf Lake with your Dog
Fallen Leaf Lake Trail is another well trafficked trail in South Lake Tahoe. The road to the trailhead is closed during the winter so it is best to park on Emerald Bay Road and then follow Fallen Leaf Road to the trailhead (see map above). The Fallen Leaf Lake trail was heavily trafficked by snowshoers so it was easy to follow.
South Lake Tahoe – Hike to the frozen Echo Lake with your dog
During the winter, the road to Echo Lake is closed and snowed in. The road turns into a 1.5 mile trail to the lake with the optionality of continuing the trail around the lake. Since Porcuine/Echo Lakes Rd (Forest Rte 11N05) is snowed in, parking is available across the street from Lincoln Hwy. Navigating to “Echo Lake SNO-Park” should bring you right to the parking lot. We used Snowshoes for this entire hike as the powder can get deep. The trail starts where Forest Route 11N05 meets Lincoln Highway – you can see the exact path we followed on this google map.
The trail begins follows along cabins (most of which are abandoned for the season) on the left side and eventually comes upon the closed campground on the right. Even though trail markers are hidden by the snow, the trail is clearly marked by footsteps. The trail to the lake follows a slight incline for about a mile until it curves around a hill.
After about a mile, the trail curves around a hill and then opens up into a large open field of snow. As it turns out, this snow meadow is actually a covered parking lot that is used during summer months when the road is open. The dogs loved zooming through the open field, and we enjoyed the view of the lake peaking in through the trees.
At this point, the final destination is visible through the trees. Continue walking down the trail and it will lead you directly to the snowy beach and docks. During the middle of winter, the lake is frozen solid enough to walk on, but when we visited, the lake had already started thawing so we did not attempt to walk on it. Proceed with caution.
The trail continues across the bridge to the right of the lake and can be followed around the lake. If you choose to continue the trail, be sure to come equipped with snowshoes and poles as the snow is especially deep if you continue along the lake.
North Lake Tahoe – Follow the Pacific Crest Trail to Peter Grubb Hut
The Pacific Crest Trail to Peter Grubb Hut is the most picturesque of the Tahoe winter trails. The trail goes through open fields, wooded areas, and up a ridge that leads to panoramic views of the Tahoe valley. Parking is available on Bunny Hill Drive (buy a “Donner Summit California State SNO Park” permit online or in person to avoid a ticket). The trailhead is directly on the other side of the freeway underpass.
The trail to Peter Grubb Hut is almost 5 miles out and back, and crampons/microspikes are definitely required for this hike. The trail is crowded so the best time to start is in the early morning. Like the other winter trails, it is difficult to spot trail markets in the snow. The best way to find Castle Peak (the first destination) is by following the footsteps in the snow – once you reach the incline, Castle Peak is at the top of the ridge. The Peter Grubb Hut is about a 30 minute walk downhill from Castle Peak.
North Lake Tahoe – Trek through the deep snow on the Pacific Crest Trail to Mount Judah
The Pacific Crest Trail to Mount Judah was covered by so much snow when we visited that we were unable to find a trail. Instead, we explored the area for about an hour before heading back to the car. The snow is very deep and snowshoes are definitely required for exploring this area. The trail is frequented by cross country skiers and snowboarders making their way down from the top of Mount Judah.
In November, we took a roadtrip with our dogs through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. We went through the Desert with a pit stop in Las Vegas. We got caught in a wicked storm passing through the region but were still able to enjoy the dessert and sin city with the dogs. Due to the heat throughout the Nevada, Utah, and Arizona desert landscape, October – April are the best times to visit with your dog. The weather in the desert changes quickly so come dressed in layers. Over our five day roadtrip, we experienced heat, rain, snow, hail, and cold winds.
Essentials to pack when visiting the desert with your dog
During the summer months, the heat in desert climates is brutal and reaches dangerous temperatures. It is best to visit in late fall, winter, or early spring to avoid heat related injuries, especially when hiking with a dog. At any time of year, when you visit the desert with your dog, be sure to bring a backpack with the following:
The Mojave Desert extends through Southeastern California into Nevada and has become one of the most visited tourism destinations in North America (due to its proximity to Las Vegas). The desert receives less than 2 inches of rain a year – which happened to be while we were visiting. The desert includes the major National Parks of Death Valley and Joshua Tree as well as multiple state parks and recreation areas. National Parks are always less dog friendly than state parks/national preserves so we did not visit National Parks on this trip. As a general rule of thumb, you can almost always find pet friendly alternatives to National Parks close by. We visited Joshua Tree National park in early 2019 but enjoyed the pet friendly options more on this road trip. Pro Tip: always opt-out of National Parks if you are visiting with your dog and look for alternative attractions. The top pet friendly destinations of the Mojave Desert are the Mojave National Preserve, Valley of Fire State Park, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Mojave National Preserve – California
The first day of our road trip, we drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas by traveling through the Mojave National Preserve. There are many pet friendly destinations throughout the preserve but we have highlighted the two most unique experiences. Before entering the Mojave, be sure to fill up your gas tank as there aren’t any gas stations once you are inside.
Kelso Sand Dunes with your Dogs
Our first stop in the Mojave with the dogs were the Kelso Sand Dunes. The dunes tower at over 600 feet so you can’t miss them – depending on the direction that you are traveling, you will turn off Kelbaker Road onto Kelso-Dunes Road where you will continue for 4 miles until the trail restrooms at the trailhead. Kelso-Dunes Road is unpaved and bumpy but is passable by most vehicles without 4WD.
The dunes cover 45 square miles and due to the shifting sand, there is no marked trail to the top. Keep your eyes on the tallest summit as your goal or follow the footprints in the sand. The trail trends upwards with up and down hills of sand until the final climb to the top. If you are walking upwards, you know you are going the right way. Luckily, it is impossible to get lost as you will always be able to see your goal (the highest sand dune) in front of you and the parking lot behind you.
As the crow flies, the entire experience covers around 3 miles, but the climb is strenuous – not a walk at the beach. As you climb, each step becomes more difficult and you will find yourself falling into a 2 step forward, 1 step back pattern. The final summit is the hardest so rather than going up the largest dune, try to find an easier path (on the right side of the ridge). Walking along the ridge is easier than climbing the largest dune head on. As you walk, your steps will create little sand avalanches below but eventually, you will make it to the top.
Once you make it to the top of the summit, have a seat and take in the views before you roll or run back down. When we visited, a sand storm started without warning once we reached the top. The storm made it difficult to see our way back down and the wind turned the sand into tornados. As we made our way back down, many of the hikers had to turn back as the winds continued picking up. We got back to the car covered in sand but satisfied with the beautiful views we enjoyed from the dunes.
Bring your dogs to the Mojave Desert Lava Tube (4WD Needed)
What is a lava tube?
A lava tube is an underground cave that has been formed by hardened lava. Lava tubes are made interesting by spotlights from above where holes in the molten lava let in light. Without the spotlights from the sky above, the tube would just be a dark cave.
When is the best time of day to visit the Mojave lava tube?
We visited the lava tube at sunset and found that the lighting was very dim compared to what we would have experienced around mid day (11am-2pm) with the sun higher in the sky. From research I have done online, the best time to visit the lava tube is right around noon. The strength of the light beams you experience from the holes in the ceiling of the tubes will depend on the sun’s strength on the day you visit.
The road to the trailhead
The pet friendly Mojave Desert lava tube is another unique desert experience – If you decide to go to the lava tube, make sure to look up the route beforehand and familiarize yourself with the path to the trailhead: the turnoff from Kelbaker Road is unmarked (about 15 miles from the Kelso Depot). If approaching on Kelbaker Road from the Kelso Depot, turn right on the unmarked Aiken Mine Road. Keep left when you eventually get to the fork to remain on Aiken Mine Road. Eventually, you will reach what appears to be a parking lot and the lava tube is about 1/4 mile from parking. The road to the trail head is very bumpy – do not attempt without a high clearance or 4WD vehicle. The sand is relatively deep in parts and there are alternating areas of rocks and holes on your way to the trailhead. We were perfectly safe with our 4WD Subaru Outback but would not have attempted with a normal sized Sedan.
Once you park your car, you will head up a path lined with lava rock. Keep to the right and within a few minutes, you will see a few mounds of lava rocks. Continue towards the mounds of lava rocks until you see holes in the ground. The holes indicate that you are walking over the lava tube! Those holes are where the light shines through from above once you are in the tube. Finding these holes in the ground means you are close to the entrance!
Steep staircase with a dog: the lava tube entrance
Once you reach the large hole in the ground with the metal staircase, you’ve found the lava tube! The entrance to the lava tube is to the left once you get down the steep (but stable) staircase. I was alone with the two dogs and luckily they were confident enough to make their way up and down the staircase. In order to stay safe, I went down first and then called the dogs down one by one. If your dog is afraid of open back or steep stairs, you may have to carry them down. The staircase is very stable but is almost a 90 degree incline. Calvin and Samson were so ready to explore the lava tube that they nearly flew down once I called them to meet me.
Explore the lava tube with your dogs!
Once you reach the bottom of the staircase, you are almost to the final attraction! The tube begins to the left of the staircase – you need to walk down and into the darkness for a few moments (use your phone flashlight) before you find the wide, open cavern on the other side. The opening to the tube is only about 3 feet tall so you will crouch down (watch your head!) and walk a few steps into the dark. Don’t worry, it’s only a few steps to the main cavern. The main cavern isn’t particularly long – only a few hundred feet but the adventure to getting there was all part of the experience. Take a moment to enjoy the quiet peace-fullness alone with your dogs. We spent about thirty minutes enjoying the lava tube and by the time we emerged, the sun was setting over the desert. Our next stop – Las Vegas.
As we drove onwards to Las Vegas, we watched the sun continue to set over the desert. We were meeting up with the rest of our family in Vegas, so the day in the desert had been just me alone with the dogs. It was a strange experience spending the day with my two companions who asked for nothing but my presence. At first, I was worried that I would get lonely without speaking to (or seeing) any humans for a entire day. Instead, I felt far from alone even as we crouched into the darkness of an underground cave.
Las Vegas with Fido – Nevada
Is Las Vegas Pet Friendly?
The top reason we stopped in Las Vegas during this road trip was to take a rest and explore the pet friendly attractions that are driving distance from the Vegas Strip. Many of the hotels in Las Vegas are pet friendly and have dog relief areas throughout the complexes. However, pets are only allowed to walk on the Las Vegas strip between the hours of 5am to noon so we do not consider Vegas to be particularly pet friendly. Pets are allowed to walk through casinos if they are going to and from their hotel rooms but not allowed for any other reason. Additionally, pets are not permitted in the dining or shopping areas If your dog is a legitimate service dog (ESA is not included), it is exempt from these regulations. We stayed in Las Vegas as we were passing through to Utah during our road trip and the hotel had no issues with two dogs in the hotel room. Calvin adhered to the rules and still had a lot of fun in the hotel room during out visit, while Samson (a service dog) accompanied us throughout the day.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Nevada
20 minutes from Las Vegas, your dog is welcome at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. During our stay, a massive storm was crossing through the region so we were unable to fully enjoy the red rocks. Start at the visitor center area to check out the trails, use the restroom, and fill up on water. Check out the available trails here to determine the right distance for you and your dog.
Valley of Fire State Park – Nevada
The Fire Wave is dog friendly!
The famous “Wave” at Coyote Buttes in Utah is breathtaking but unfortunately requires an almost impossible to acquire permit. Luckily, you can enjoy a smaller version of the famous wave for free and without permits in the Valley of Fire State Park! The Fire Wave’s orange and white stripes are wild – until you actually approach and walk on the sandstone you may be convinced that the stripes are painted on. The stripes are a natural phenomena found in sedimentary rocks accumulating in layers over thousands of years. Parking is available at the Fire Wave trailhead and the 1.5 mile out and back trail is well marked.
White Domes Trail
The White Domes Trail packs all of the magic of the Valley of Fire into a short 1 mile loop – sandstone formations, slot canyons, colorful rocks. The trail starts off with a steep rocky slope but flattens out after the initial descent. The trail leads to a wide slot canyon and then ends with a sandy path surrounded by red rocks. Ample parking and restrooms are available at the trailhead.
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness – Utah
On what ended up being the last night of our road trip, we found ourselves in Hildale, Utah….in a snowstorm. We cuddled up in an airbnb that was essentially just a bed surrounded by 4 walls of wood planks…and a makeshift “roof”. We slept with all our winter gear on and woke up to a fresh layer of snow the next morning. This was Samson’s first snow, and he loved it!
Unfortunately, we were unable to complete most of the items on the list below due to the storm that followed us along the trip. We were only able to visit the Toadstools Hoodoos but wanted to include the other items as they were at the top of our list if we had been able to. The weather conditions were so sketchy, that when we arrived at the Bureau of Land Management visitor center, the rangers warned us not to try any of the more difficult to access trails. Slot canyons can become extremely dangerous during inclement weather as they can fill up with water and flood. Additionally, the clay along the canyons becomes very slippery in the rain so even the one trail we did complete was very dicey. We didn’t even attempt to try the sandy roads as those had turned into slush.
After checking out the Bureau of Land Management for trail information, the rangers recommended that we attempt the Toadstools Hoodoos trail down the road. The Toadstools Hoodoos trail is a 1.8 mile out and back hike that under good weather conditions should be relatively simple. Due to the storm passing through, the clay on the trail was especially slippery and we had to get on our hands and knees to get up some of the hills. The creek was flowing and our easy hike turned into quite an adventure over the soft clay soil. This trail starts at the wide canyon opening that eventually narrows and leads to the rock formations that resemble mushrooms.
White Pocket (High clearance vehicle needed)
White pocket is another destination that allows you to enjoy an alternative to the famous “Wave” at Coyote Buttes. Getting to the white pocket is part of the adventure but should not be attempted without a high clearance vehicle and/or 4WD. Check the current road conditions at the BLM office before attempting to get to White Pocket. The sand is very deep and the road sees little traffic in the event of your car getting stuck. See here for more information on how to access white pocket plus some additional landmarks to visit.
The Wave at Coyote Buttes (Lottery required)
Although we did not win the lottery to hike The Wave at Coyote Buttes, we do want to call it out as a highlight of the region. We have some friends who were lucky enough to visit with their corgi and documented their adventure here. If you are planning on visiting the region, try your luck with a lottery ticket to “Surf the Wave” at Coyote Buttes.
Lake Powell & Antelope Canyon (Dogs only allowed if kayaking into the canyon)
Antelope Canyon remains on our bucket list after this trip but we wanted to include it as it is a once in a lifetime experience with your dog if you are willing to kayak into the canyon. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on the guided tours but with some online research and help from some great Dog Moms, we found that a good amount of the famous canyons can actually be explored as long as you kayak into an alternate entrance. If you are interested in this adventure, check out Born Wild & Fancy and Pawsitive Development as they have detailed descriptions on how to have a pet friendly adventure in Antelope Canyon with the dogs. Check out Amber’s great video of her Antelope Canyon Adventure below:
Horseshoe Bend – Arizona
Our road trip was supposed to extend further into the Grand Canyon, but as weather conditions worsened, we made the call to see Horseshoe Bend and then turn back to sunny Los Angeles. We are grateful to have been able to see Horseshoe Bend right before the hail began but definitely need to redo this road trip with better weather in the coming years.
Getting to the Rim of Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend refers to the beautiful aerial view of the Colorado River looping around Glen Canyon. To get to the trailhead, pay the $10.00 parking fee per vehicle and follow the crowds. To avoid the worst crowds, it is best to visit Horseshoe Bend at sunrise. From the parking lot, it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the famous view over Glen Canyon. A lot of the viewpoints are not fenced so please exercise caution when taking photos or approaching the edge. Additionally, dogs must be kept on leash – the photos below have experienced some photo magic and are also taken from an angle that creates the illusion of being close to the edge while actually being very far from it.
It was a shame that our trip was washed out from the storm but we still managed to enjoy our time together as a family. The areas we visited were extremely dog friendly and we will definitely be back soon hoping for better weather conditions. Next time, we’re hoping to check off Antelope Canyon and White Pocket.
After visiting Paris, we visited the Loire River Valley with our Dog
The Loire River valley is about 2.5 hours from Paris by car and built along the longest river in France. Turns out, a lot of the attractions in the Loire welcome dogs with open arms. Our dog loved exploring the castle grounds, swimming in the river, and trotting through the countryside during our visit. The beautiful Châteaus (Castles) bring tourists to the Loire from around the world. Beyond the castles, the Loire is home to wineries, small towns, and the beautiful French countryside. The region is filled with historical significance in the towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Orleans, Chinon and Tours (to name a few). Check out the Loire tourism website to see the full list of towns and castles.
Where to stay in the Loire with your dog
We decided to stay in a dog friendly AirBnb near Amboise as a central point between all the castles we wanted to visit. Amboise ended up being our favorite town so we were pleased with our decision – AirBnbs in the Loire River Valley are affordable and spacious. We stayed in a converted watch tower for less than 100€ per night.
Tips for making the most of your trip: organize by location
The Loire River Valley covers 310 square miles so it is important to plan beforehand. Here are some tips for optimizing your visit with the dog:
Group your activities by location – Research the towns of the Loire in advance to understand the location of dog friendly castles, towns, and walks. The map below shows how we clustered our visit. The Loire is known for its castles so we built our activities around the castles we wanted to see each day. Our routine generally included a castle visit, a nearby walk, and a romp through town before moving onto the next castle on the list.
Set a path – To make the most of your time, you’ll want to stay on a set path to avoid driving back and forth. Backtracking your steps can add hours in the car. We started with the castle closest to Paris and continued away from Paris until it was time to come back. We took a different route back to Paris to visit different castles on the way home.
Prioritize & Plan – The Loire is too big to see in a single trip. You’ll have to decide what you want to see most and put together a detailed itinerary. Unlike Paris, where wandering aimlessly is a wonderful way to enjoy the city, it is best to go into the Loire with a detailed plan. This page includes a great itinerary through the Loire with your dog but we encourage you to tailor your visit to your preferences.
Stay in a countrysideAirBnB- AirBnbs in the Loire are cheap and many are pet friendly. Staying in a someone’s home rather than a hotel adds to the cultural experience of the Loire. We stayed 20 minutes from Amboise in a family’s converted watchtower on top of a hill.
Bring an Umbrella & rain coat – France is unpredictable with rain. We got stuck in a few storms without an umbrella.
Restaurants in France have different schedules than in the United States – we were surprised to find it difficult to get a bite to eat in the towns after 1pm. Most restaurants close from 1pm-6pm. Restaurants wouldn’t even serve us a coffee if we arrived after they had stopped serving food. We moved our schedule around to visit castles during the hours that the food shops were closed.
Map of dog friendly activities in the Loire
Follow our sample itinerary or the Loire
Day 1: Leave Paris, Château de Chenonceau, explore and grab dinner in Amboise, check into airbnb
Day 2: Château Villandry, country walk at Candes-Saint-Martin, Château du Rivau, country walk Bréhémont, Dinner in Tours
Day 3: Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, Château de l’Islette, explore Chinon, Château de Chaumont, Visit Wine Bar, country walk Saint Ouen les Vignes, dinner in Amboise
Day 4: Country walk Azay-sur-Cher, Château de Chambord, dinner & cathedral in Cartres, return to Paris
Dogs are not allowed inside the castles but there are plenty of pet friendly castle grounds to visit. In most cases, the outdoor gardens are even more breathtaking than the castle.
Château de Chenonceau – 2nd most visited castle in France
Chenonceau was our first stop after leaving Paris – this castle is an example of the gardens being even more beautiful than the castle itself. The castle is built into the river bed of the river Cher so the grounds are surrounded with flowing water. Turns out, Château de Chenonceau is the second most visited castle in France (after Versailles) – not bad for a castle that Henry II gifted to his mistress.
The visit starts with a corridor of trees leading to the main castle. The side paths along the road each lead to different gardens on the grounds. The largest garden will be to your right once you get to the castle – the garden is covered in geometric topiaires and purple flowers. Climb up to the top level of the garden to get a better look at the patterns made by the paths.
After touring the main garden, it is worth wandering the grounds to explore the secret gardens sprinkled throughout – we loved the vegetable garden and the rose garden.
Château de Villandry – The most beautiful gardens
Château de Villandry had our favorite gardens, but unfortunately we were got caught in a downpour so it was difficult to fully enjoy.
Grab a map to follow the walking path through the gardens. Each section is perfectly curated with themed flowers, geometric shrubs, and fountains. Once you visit the main gardens, there is an optional trail for visitors to see the castle from above.
Château du Rivau – Fairytale themed gardens
This was our least favorite castle of the trip – the castle grounds are decorated with different figurines and gnome statues which seemed out of place in the presence of such a historical structure. The castle grounds are meant to be fairytale themed but a lot of the decor appears anachronistic. This is the castle we would have skipped if running low on time.
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau – Cinderella castle in a cute town
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a fairytale like castle that appears to be right out of a Disney movie. Unlike the other castles we visited, the gates are located in a bustling town. After exploring the castle grounds, we walked through town to grab a bite to eat. The town is a wonderful place to grab a coffee and explore the cute shops. We arrived early in the morning before the crowds – this is a popular castle for the tourists. Get a map and be sure to check out the secret garden!
Château de l’Islette – Less crowded. Peace & Quiet
We made our way to Château de l’Islette and were surprised to find that not a single soul was at the castle – we didn’t see any people on our entire visit (albeit it was drizzling). We found the quiet puzzling since the castle was magnificent – there are so many castles in the Loire River Valley that not all of them can get the love they deserve. Additionally, Château de l’Islette is currently occupied by a family and therefore the inside is known to have a more homey rather than historical feel.
The castle grounds are great for a picnic and there are deck chairs along the river to enjoy some refreshments. This castle is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Loire tourists and turned out to be a peaceful hidden gem.
Château de Chaumont – Castle built onto a cliff during the 10th century
Chaumont had such impressive grounds that we barely noticed the castle (which was equally impressive). The castle is built on a cliff overlooking the hills. The Loire flows to one side of the grounds and the other side offers multiple walking paths to various gardens.
The castle grounds are so large that you could easily spend hours wandering. Some parts are purposefully less manicured – an interesting juxtaposition compared to the main gardens.
We visited during the international garden festival which features themed installations from artists all around the world – each mini garden is judged on various metrics at the end of the festival. We found that Chaumont featured more modern art installations throughout the grounds than the others that we visited, this seemed a bit odd next to the 10th century castle but did not take away from our enjoyment.
Château de Chambord – The most magnificent castle
Chambord was the last castle we visited before flying back to California. Château de Chambord was the most magnificent castle we saw but unfortunately, dogs were not allowed in the main gardens. We found the dog rules at Chateau de Chambord stricter than any of the other castles. On the plus side, visiting this castle with a dog is free since dogs are only allowed around the perimeter and not through the gates to the gardens. Despite the dog restrictions, Chambord is worth a visit just to enjoy its extravagant structure. There are an expansive set of paths around the castle perimeter that are worth checking out with your dog.
There isn’t much food in the area but picnics are welcome on the grass. Additionally, there are multiple stalls just beyond the parking lot. Prices are higher than usual, but nothing prohibitive.
Favorite Country Walks in the Loire
The Loire River Valley has a dedicated tourism website featuring hidden gems throughout the region. Most tourists come for the castles but there is so much more to see – the Loire Valley is home to world class wineries & picturesque country walks. See the 25 hikes with maps here. The country walks are great to check out if you are looking for less crowded destinations in between castle visits. We rarely ran into any other people on our country walks and Calvin had a blast running through the fields. Many of the trails are unmarked so be sure to reach the directions and download the maps from the Loire Tourism Website here. Some of the trails can be obscure to find so make sure to download all the maps beforehand.
Walking Trail: Saint-Ouen-les-Vignes
The Saint-Ouen-les-Vignes trail map covers 8 km and starts at Place de l’Eglise. The walk starts in town, then winds through vineyards, fields of grazing animals, and offers a panoramic view of the Ramberge Valley.
Walking Trail: Azay-sur-Cher
The 10km trail in Azay-Sur-Cher takes you along both the right and left banks of the river Cher. Park your car at Place Besnard and follow the directions on the Loire Tourism Website for trail markers. The trail follows the banks of the river so as long as you are near the river you are heading in the right direction. About halfway through, you will switch to the opposite side of the river and make your way back to the starting point. This peaceful walk is accompanied by the sound of a flowing river on one side and lush greenery on the other.
Walking Trail: Bréhémont
The Bréhémont Country walk starts in town and passes through the rural countryside – the walk mostly brings hikers through open fields and small clusters of country homes. The entire trail is 12km long but can be any length you’d like. See the Bréhémont trail map for details. We passed local residents hanging around their homes but no other people on the actual trail. One thing to note is that because this trail passes through residences, you will almost definitely run into dogs. Because the town is so rural, most homes have designated guard dogs. The guard dogs are kept behind gates but their snarling and barking made us nervous worrying what they would do if they escaped. We didn’t have any issues and met a lot of friendly local dogs as well.
Stop at a Winery for some Wine
The Loire Valley is dotted with wineries nestled into the cliffs along the river. We stopped at the Volupia wine bar and enjoyed our wine at the patio seating overlooking the water. We enjoyed our wine tasting while Calvin swam in the Loire. Volupia was the most unique wine bar we came across – The wine cave opens out onto a waterfront patio where guests can enjoy world class wine with a gorgeous view. We enjoyed our wine while Calvin swam in the Loire River.
Our Favorite Cities of the Loire
In between castle visits, we walked through the different towns of the Loire. Each town has its own unique charm and quaint streets to explore. Keep in mind, that many restaurants in France will stop offering food service around noon and reopen for dinner We found this to be especially true in the Loire and got stranded a few times when our town visits weren’t properly timed.
Tours: Medieval architecture and bustling nightlife
Place Plumereau in Tours is worth a visit for dinner. This main square is part of the old town and resembles a charming medieval village. Tours is home to the Cathédrale Saint-Gatien but we skipped the Cathedrals and only visited for dinner on the main plaza of Place Plumereau. The medieval architecture in the square has been perfectly preserved and is surrounded by a picturesque streets worth strolling through. The square was wonderful for people watching while surrounded by breathtaking architecture. The pubs at Place Plumereau are also the place to be for nightlife in the Loire as Tours is a college town.
Amboise: Leonardo Da Vinci’s home and resting place
Amboise was our favorite town in the Loire River Valley. One of the castles, Château du Clos Lucé , is known as Leonardo Da Vinci’s home and resting place. The castle is still in good shape but is now used as a museum showcasing the work of Da Vinci. The castles in Amboise are not dog friendly but the town and restaurants are very welcoming. Our Airbnb was near Amboise so we ate at multiple places during our stay. We ate at Chez Bruno one night and loved the filet paired with local wine. The town center gets crowded with tourists but we discovered a hidden gem across the river. Le ShakerLe Shaker is right on the banks of the Loire and has the best view in town. The restaurant offers delicious bar food and drinks with a direct view of the river and the Amboise castle. We ordered the charcuterie plate and the goat cheese tartines (delicious!).
Chartres: world class cathedral 55 miles from Paris
We made a quick stop in Chartres on our last night in France – Chartres is best known for its Gothic Cathedral built in 1220. The cathedral has remained preserved since the 13th century and survived World War 2 even when the rest of the city was largely destroyed. By the time we arrived, most of the shops had closed for the night but we found an open restaurant overlooking the cathedral. During business hours, the shops around the cathedral are bustling with life.
Chinon: a fortress built into a rocky outcrop
We visited Chino in the early afternoon right as the brasseries were closing for the afternoon. The main attraction is a hike from the main square (La Fontaine) to the Royal Fortress of Chinon. Due to the topography of the city, the castle is located at the top of a rocky outcrop with the town built to surround it from below. As you ascend towards the fortress, the views become magnificent.
The Loire River Valley is a wonderful dog friendly (and kid friendly) destination near Paris – we spent a few days visiting the castles but the visit could be done as a day trip if you are only interested in visiting a few castles.
Is Joshua Tree Pet Friendly? Yes, but National Parks are not very pet friendly.
The short answer is yes, pets are allowed in Joshua Tree National Park. However, National Parks in the United States are not very dog friendly as dogs are only allowed on a limited number of trails. National Parks generally exclude dogs from the “prettiest trails” but we make it work. At Joshua Tree National Park, dogs are only allowed on roads that cars can drive on. This includes roads that require four wheel vehicles. We have indicated the dog friendly trails on the Joshua Tree Map below but take a look at the official pet friendly trails online in case any rules change.
Winter is the best time to visit Joshua Tree with your Dog
Because of the brutal summer heat, November – March are the best months to visit Joshua Tree with your dog. We visited Joshua Tree National Park in January and found the weather perfect for being outside. Winter in Joshua tree is warm in the sun (mid 60s), cool in the shade, and cold at night. Dress in layers during the day and bundle up at night.
Temperatures start to hit the 80s in April. By May, temperatures are in the mid 80s and then reach the 100s through September. The summer temperatures in Joshua Tree are far beyond the safe threshold for dogs.
Where to stay in Joshua Tree with your Dog
The two closest towns to park entrances are Joshua Tree and Twenty-Nine Palms. We stayed in Joshua Tree in a renovated trailer (get a discount on your first AirBnB stay here) – the trailer had running water, a bathroom, and plenty of Joshua Trees on the property. Some of the most beautiful views we had all weekend were from sunrise and sunset over the dessert from our AirBnb. For a Joshua Tree National Park visit, we recommend staying as close to nature as possible to get the most out of your stay. There are plenty of pet friendly tents, trailers, bungalows, and houses that allow pets and offer an amazing view of the desert. Check out Booking.com for additional pet friendly accommodations.
We watched sunrise each morning and then went into town for coffee at Joshua Tree Coffee Company….
Each evening, we returned back to the trailer to watch the entire sunset from golden hour to dark. We enjoyed pizza from “Pie for the People” by the fire and were asleep by 8pm……
As the sun sets over Joshua Tree, it turns a cotton candy pink. The sky appears even larger than usual in the vastness of the dessert…..
What to Bring to Joshua Tree
WATER – The only sources of water are at the edges of the park. The nearest source of water may be 45 minutes away. We made the mistake of letting our water run out and had to drive through the entire park to get a refill. Keep all the humans and dogs hydrated -at least two gallons (8 liters) of water per person, per day.
Portable dog bowl
Sunscreen (even in the winter)
Hat (even in the winter)
Wear Layers (during the winter)
Keep Dogs on Leash (Rattlesnakes & Scorpions)
Other than for a few photos, we kept Calvin attached to us. Dogs are to remain on leash by park rules to preserve the ecosystem but also for their own safety – Joshua Tree is home to 7 different types of venomous rattlesnakes. You likely won’t see any on the pet friendly trails as these are wider and more frequented by cars – still keep your dog on the trail at all times.
Map of Pet Friendly Activities in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree Pet Friendly Trails
Dogs are allowed on any “road” that cars are able to drive on and must remain on leash. Below are the roads listed on the National Park Service website as pet friendly. Although these are all considered “roads”, we didn’t see cars on any of them and felt like we were just on any other trail.
All Vehicles Trails
Bighorn Pass Road: 3.2 miles (5.1 km) one way
Desert Queen Mine Road: 1.2 miles (1.9 km) one way
Geology Tour Road (to mile 5.4): 11.7 miles (18.8 km) one way
Odell Road: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
Stirrup Tank Road: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
Queen Valley Road: 2.9 miles (4.7 km)
4 Wheel-Drive Trails
Berdoo Canyon Road: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
Black Eagle Mine Road: 9.6 miles (15.4 km)
Geology Tour Road (past mile 5.4): 11.7 miles (18.8 km)
Old Dale Road: 12.6 miles (20.3 km)
Pinkham Canyon Road: 19.2 miles (30.9 km)
Covington-area roads: 9.9 miles (15.9 km)
Geology Tour Road:
Geology Tour Road is a flat, wide & sandy trail that offers a full experience of Joshua Trees. The rangers recommended this trail as the best one to check out with a dog. There are restrooms and plenty of parking at the trailhead. The trail continues for more than 10 miles so there is flexibility over how far to walk. We followed the trail for about 5 miles. We passed a few hikers but no cars.
Joshua Tree Picnic Areas are Pet Friendly:
Joshua Tree National Park with your dog can also be enjoyed by stopping at picnic areas to enjoy the atmosphere. Dogs ARE allowed at all campgrounds and picnic areas – The photo below was taken at Keys Ranch Road. Dogs are not allowed on the Keys Ranch trails but they are allowed at the picnic area which lies in the shade of a massive rock formation.
Spend a night in Palm Springs
The Town of Joshua Tree is a 45 minute drive from Palm Springs – The Joshua Trees are a wonderful experience, but after two days of the desert, we were ready for Palm Springs. The main street in Palm Springs – “South Palm Canyon Drive” – is lined with shops, colorful lights, restaurants, and entertainment. The patio at Lulu California Bistro was great for dinner and people watching.
We spent a night at the Pet Friendly Saguaro Palm Springs and explored the town before heading home bright and early.
Whitewater Preserve Trails
On our way home to San Francisco, we stopped at the Whitewater Preserve (30 minutes north of Palm Springs). Check the website beforehand to ensure that the trails are open. The trails will close periodically during wildfire season. We chose the 3.5 mile Canyon View Loop Trail but there are multiple other well marked trails to choose from. Access the trail heads at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road, northwest of Palm Springs, off Interstate 10 (9160 Whitewater Canyon Road). Parking and restrooms are available at the visitors center.
It’s easy to bring your dog to Paris from the United States
Thinking of bringing your dog to France? Wondering how to get your dog from the United States to Paris? International pet travel from the United States to the EU is straight forward. Start by checking out our international pet travel checklist for all the rules around bringing your dog on a plane internationally. We found France to be very dog friendly, and the only requirements for border entry are a USDA stamped health certificate, microchip, and rabies vaccine. Having spent 2 months a year in France while growing up, we are no strangers to Paris – we have put together a guide with the top destinations that are dog friendly. Luckily, Paris is very dog friendly so the outdoor monuments are pet friendly!
Where can you bring your dog in Paris?
Yes! Dogs Allowed & Welcome at these places in Paris…
At cafes with outdoor seating are very dog friendly!
In the metro (dogs are supposed to be in a bag or muzzled – we used the gentle leader but saw many dogs in the Metro and none were muzzled)
“G7” Taxi service has a dog friendly option
In the outside portions of tourist attractions
At stores that do not sell food
Sorry, No Dogs allowed here….
At any Museums
At many small fenced in parks (I.e almost all the parks not listed in this post)
In normal taxis (took us a long time to get a taxi from the airport as even working dogs aren’t often accepted)
Inside food stores (same as the United States)
You’ll find that most cafes have outdoor seating and most tourist attractions have outdoor areas. Since museums and all indoor locations in Paris aren’t pet friendly, make sure to bring your walking shoes to see the city by foot or leave the dog in your hotel.
Most of Paris’s smaller parks do not allow dogs but surprisingly the Metro IS dog friendly as long as the dog fits into a bag OR wears a muzzle. We rode the Metro twice and had Calvin on a very thick gentle leader. When we returned with Samson, we visited in February so we rode the Metro multiple times a day to avoid the cold. We saw many dogs on the train and didn’t have any issue. Our biggest mistake was trying to find a taxi that would take us into the city from the airport – the concept of a Working Dog is not well known in France and does not hold up with small businesses. When we finally found a taxi, Calvin was required to stay in the trunk. On our second trip to Paris, we were able to order a taxi that allowed dogs through “G7” by indicating that we wanted a taxi that could accommodate dogs. We wish we had known about this on our first visit, because we had no issue getting into the taxi with Samson.
What are the dog leash laws in Paris?
The level of obedience we witnessed in Parisian dogs is unlike anything we have ever seen in the United States. It is unclear what the leash laws are in Paris as we rarely saw any dogs on leash – dogs trot calmly beside their humans, wait patiently outside of stores, and seem very seamlessly intertwined in the daily life of the city. Many businesses have a resident dog just hanging out outside the shop greeting people who walk by. Pups sit around at cafes while their humans read the morning news. No treats or commands needed – these dogs know where to be and are never far behind their human. It was such a magical dynamic to observe and definitely ought to set an example for dog obedience in the United States.
Best time to visit Paris with your Dog
We have now visited Paris with both of our dogs at different times of year. We have visited in May and February. In May, the crowds are beginning but haven’t gotten to the peak levels that the city sees during summer vacation. May wasn’t quite as hot as visiting in July/August so we found the weather quite pleasant. Our more recent visit was mid February. Paris winter is cold, but nothing compared to the cold in New England USA. The cold was not painful, and there was little wind. We dressed in boots, down jackets, hats, and gloves and were able to have a very pleasant visit. Because of the strong smoking culture in Paris, most restaurants and cafes have outdoor seating even in the winter. The cafes have heat lamps and we had no trouble staying warm
while sitting for meals and coffees. We didn’t find the tourists to be any more manageable in February so it seems as if Paris is just tourist filled year round (not surprising).
Where to stay in Paris with your Dog
There are ample pet friendly hotels and airbnbs in Paris so check out neighborhoods based on the activities you are interested in. We stayed in the Marais but here our thoughts on other neighborhoods:
If you are a first time visitor, check out the neighborhoods near the biggest tourist destinations (1st & 7th arrondissement). In the 1st, you’ll be walking distance from Notre Dame, the Tuileries, the Louvre which are pet friendly on the outside. In the 7th, you’ll be near the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower.
If you are looking for a trendy neighborhood with great nightlife, check out the Marais or St. Germain neighborhoods. Nightlife is always bustling and the Seine is animated through the night.
If you are looking for a charming and romantic neighborhood with great views, Montmarte is a great choice. Although Montmarte is home to Scare Coeur and views of Paris, it is further away from the rest of the famous sights.
Map of Dog Friendly spots in Paris, France
4 days & 50 miles through Paris with our Dog
After a 12 hour flight with our dog, we were ready to hit the ground running (See here for international travel rules for dogs). We figured that if let ourselves nap, the jet lag would take over and we’d lose a day of seeing the city. Lucky for us, Paris has cafés on nearly every block. Fueled by espressos and baguettes, we managed to see most of Paris’s biggest sights by foot on our first day. This page is organized by groupings of activities that are in close proximity to each other. Refer to the dog friendly map above for a better look at the relative locations of Parisian sights. Over 4 days, we covered over 50 miles by foot and returned to our favorite places multiple times. We have since returned to Paris again with our younger dog and revisited all of our favorite stops.
Bringing Dogs to Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg & The Panthéon
Cross the Pont Neuf to Île de la Cité to see Notre Dame. Then take a short walk to the pet friendly Jardin de Luxembourg – stop at the Panthéon on the way.
the Cathedral of Notre Dame is located on Île de la Cité (basically a small island in the middle of Paris). We crossed the famous Pont Neuf to get to Île de la Cité and made our way to Notre Dame (10 minute walk). At the time of our visit, Notre Dame was still recovering from the fire and therefore could only be enjoyed from afar. Standing in front of such a fine piece of architecture is humbling, especially when reminded that it was built in the Middle Ages…..over 600 years ago!
After Notre Dame, the next logical stop is the 15 minute walk to the Jardins du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). We took the route that passed in front of the Panthéon to get a glimpse of Roman architecture in France. The facade of the Panthéon in Paris is modeled after the one you would find in Rome. The Luxembourg Gardens are a straight shot from the Panthéon down Rue de Soufflot.
The dog rules at the Luxembourg Gardens are unclear – there are certain entrances that have “no dog” signs but others have “dogs on leash” signs. After doing research online, we found that the Luxembourg Gardens have an entire section of the park called the “dog path” that even has a dog fountain….we figured that dogs must be allowed. By asking the security guards upon arrival, we learned that dogs ARE allowed but it is preferred that they enter through the Blvd. Saint Michel gates. Turns out this park has more dogs than any other park we visited – we met lots of friendly pups at all parts of the gardens.
Dog Friendly Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro & Champ de Mars
We stopped by the Eiffel Tower a few times during out time in Paris and met lots of great dogs wandering around the area with their humans. We visited briefly on our first day in the late afternoon and then returned a few days later at 7:30AM. This area is probably one of the most crowded tourist attractions in the entire world so the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower & Trocadéro is in the early morning. We did our family photoshoot at 7:30AM and found the area to be more peaceful than our visit earlier that week.
Geographically, the Champ de Mars (Field of Mars) is the large grassy area directly adjacent/underneath the Eiffel tower. The Trocadéro is the area across the bridge that overlooks the Eiffel Tower from above. Most iconic Eiffel Tower photos are taken from the Trocadéro staircase and fountains.
One great way to enjoy the Eiffel Tower with your dog is to take some photos at the Trocadéro and then wander through the fountains to make your way to Champ de Mars across the Seine. Set up a picnic blanket on the grass and enjoy some cheese & wine. Calvin played some fetch off-leash while we enjoyed our snacks.
Dogs at Jardins des Tuileries, the Louvre Pyramid, and the Palais Royale
The Jardins des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens) is the park located between Place de La Concorde and the Louvre. We approached the gardens from Place de La Concorde and made our way to the Louvre via the Gardens.
Walk across Place de La Concorde to get to the entrance of the Tuileries Garden. Place de La Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. Note: traffic in the roundabout does not yield to pedestrians….so follow a crowd of tourists to get across safely.
Dog rules at the Tuileries Gardens: As with many other places in Paris, the pet walking rules are unclear. After some research, we found that dogs are officially allowed in the upper section of the Tuileries Gardens. This means that they may not enter through the main entrance but rather any of the side entrances that have steps leading up to the upper sections. These parts of the Tuileries Gardens are known as the “terraces” and overlook the gardens from above. Once you get to Avenue du Général Lemonnier (on the Louvre side of the Gardens), dogs are allowed anywhere. This means you can absolutely walk your dog through the Carrousel Arch, along the grass, and around the fountains. Dogs aren’t allowed in the museum but can get up cloase to the Louvre Pyramid and walk around the Napoleon Courtyard.
Near the Louvre you will find the Palais Royale with its adjacent gardens. Take a moment to admire the remarkable architecture in the Palais Royale courtyard.
Outdoor seating with your dog at Rue Montorguiel for Dinner
Rue Montorguiel is known as the “food street” of Paris. It is a pedestrian only stretch of casual restaurants and bars about an 18 minute walk from the Louvre. This street boasts casual but high quality food at affordable prices. In the evening, the area is animated with locals and tourists alike. Most restaurants have outdoor “bistrot” style seating with the tables facing outwards for people watching. We ate at a casual crêpe shop one night (nothing to write home about), and the fabulous Le Compas another night.
Bringing your dog to Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Montmarte
Sacré-Cœur and the surrounding neighborhood (Montmarte) is located away from the center of Paris, but worth a visit for the great views and stunning architecture. The Montmarte neighborhood is essentially a massive hill with Sacré-Cœur at the very top – The “Anvers” or “Abbesses” Metro stops will get you most of the way to the Basilica but you’ll have to walk up the rest of the way. Bring plenty of water as the walk will break a sweat, especially in the summer. At the top of the hill, you’ll have a birds eye view over all of Paris on one side and a breathtaking Basilica on the other. After exploring Montmarte, we made the long walk back towards the center of Paris.
Park Monceau is Dog Friendly!
Our goal was to eventually reach the Arc de Triomphe, but we took the long route through Paris to explore new parts of the city. First, we made our way towards Park Monceau (Metro Stop: “Monceau”). We picked up some bread and cheese for a picnic and let Calvin play with the children in the grass while we ate. He had a blast fetching sticks for the French kids who had just gotten out of school for the day. Park Monceau is located in a very fancy neighborhood – exit through Avenue Van Dyck for a direct 15 minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We stopped for an espresso along the way and eventually got to Place Charles de Gaulle, home to the Arc de Triomphe.
Arc de Triomphe & Les Champs-Élysées
The Arc de Triomphe stands at 164 feet tall in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, one of the busiest roundabouts in Paris. It connects 12 different avenues – the most common avenue to follow from Place Charles de Gaulle is the famousChamps-Élysées
If you opt to go down the Champs-Élysées, you’ll end up back at Place de La Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens. We recommend walking down the Champs-Élysées if you are first time visitor to Paris. This is a great way to get to the Louvre Pyramid via a different route than described earlier.
Les Champs-Élysées is the 2 kilometer corridor from Place Charles de Gaulle to Place de La Concorde. Les Champs-Élysées is probably the most famous avenue in the world, and is lined with cafés and shopping. Everything from H&M to the flagship Louis Vuitton store can be found on the ~60 minute walk down Les Champs-Élysées.
Bois de Bologne is Off Leash Doggie Heaven
If you don’t care about experiencing the Champs-Élysées (or have already experienced it), Avenue Foch leads to the pet friendly and off-leash Bois “Forest” de Bologne. This park doesn’t have any cultural significance so we only recommend this if you have already been to Paris and seen all the sights. Bois de Bologne is a favorite among locals for off leash dog fun – it has multiple wooded and river front trails. We meandered around the park before making our way back to the Eiffel Tower again for sunset.
Basin de La Villette & Parc de La Villette
Basin de La Villette is a quiet, off the beaten path destination and is wonderful for a stroll with your dog. The area seemed frequented by locals and a few curious tourists. We actually started off this adventure at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a stroll along a local park and then made our way to Basin de La Villette. Basin de La Villette is a rectangular artificial “lake” that meanders like a river through the 19th arrondisement. We sat along the water at Le Pavillon Des Canaux….a cute cafe with a French bulldog mascot.
Basin de La Villette leads to the park which is home to the largest Science Museum in Europe (Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie), large concert venues and the Paris conservatory. We walked through the park to check out the 10 themed gardens
Some (Not) Pet Friendly Activities
If you are looking to leave Fido in the hotel (only if he is comfortable enough to do this!) there are plenty of museums to check out in Paris. We did not museum hop this time around as we’ve already been to Paris enough times to never want to step into a museum again. Needless to say, the historical significance of Parisian galleries is unprecedented so here are our favorites.
Museums to visit in Paris without your pet:
The Louvre (the World’s largest and most visited museum)
Musée d’Orsay (for some Monet, Renoir, and Van Gough)
The Centre Pompidou (equivalent of NYC’s MoMa)
Other no pets activities:
Riding to the top of the Eiffel Tower
View of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe
Dinner or Lunch on a boat that is cruising down the Seine
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
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…..
At sunset, the remaining sunlight beams off of downtown…..
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….
In stormy weather, the hill can become enveloped in fog and dark clouds….
During midday, the hill is very bright but the views do not disappoint…..
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.
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
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.
More Dog Friendly Urban Hikes in San Francisco
Mt. Davidson Trail: Quiet Stroll on Windswept Hill
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.
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.
Navigate: 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.
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.
For our second trip to Mendocino, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the Little River Inn with the dogs. Mendocino County combines coastline, with redwood forests, and wine country for a perfect weekend getaway. Now that we’ve been able to fully explore the area, we put together a guide to our favorite pet friendly activities throughout Mendocino County.
Getting to Mendocino from San Francisco
Mendocino is the perfect weekend trip for anyone in Northern California. It is also a great stop for anyone driving up or down the coast to the Pacific Northwest. The town of Mendocino is located on the coast but the county has everything from wine tasting, hiking trails, to water sports.
If you are coming from San Francisco, be sure to leave before the start of Friday afternoon traffic. Without traffic, you can get to Mendocino from San Francisco in about 3.5 hours. If you leave early enough you will get to fully enjoy sunset over the coast when you arrive – We made the mistake of leaving during traffic on our first visit and missed the beautiful sunset drive. For our second trip, we did not make the same mistake and the trip was much more enjoyable.
Accommodations in Mendocino with your Pet
To get the most of your Mendocino experience, we recommend staying on the coast. The Little River Inn has a variety of pet friendly ocean front rooms to choose from – Being able to wake up to the sound of the ocean and drink morning coffee on the balcony allowed us to get the full Mendocino experience.
Besides the ocean view, our room had a fireplace, balcony, jacuzzi tub, king bed, and plenty of room for the dogs to zoom around. Explore all the available rooms here to find your perfect match.
Not only are the ocean views breathtaking from the rooms, but the food at the Inn was top notch from 5 star chef Marc Dym. We were able to enjoy breakfast from our ocean front balcony – hotcakes, eggs benny, and fresh OJ (it was amazing). For dinner, The oysters and fried calamari were spectacular. As an added bonus, there is a pet friendly dining area for breakfast and dinner with advance reservation. We will definitely be bringing out parents here next time we visit Mendocino.
When to Visit Mendocino with your Dog
Because Mendocino weather does not vary much throughout the year, it is always a good time to visit Mendocino with your dog. Dress in layers as the ocean pulls in a cool breeze throughout the day and the temperatures drop at night. You’ll dress lightly during the day, but will be bundled up in sweaters at night.
Map of Pet Friendly activities in Mendocino, California
Take your dog canoeing down Big River
Canoeing down Big River is a MUST when visiting Mendocino with your dog. Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too offers Canoes, Kayaks, SUPs, and bicycle rentals. If you are interested in biking, the 10 mile Big River bike trail begins at the facility. The most unique part about renting a canoe with Catch a Canoe is the “Canine Cruiser” which is designed specially for stability. These are the only human powered boats in the world that are specifically made for pets! Even with Calvin running around on it, we stayed dry and stable.
Calvin was so excited to get into the canoe that it took our full strength to keep him from jumping over the dock and into the water. Be sure to allow your dog to take breaks from swimming – On the other hand, Samson was happy to relax and enjoy the breeze.
As you canoe down the calm Big River Estuary, it is not uncommon to see harbor seals bathing on the shores and river otters playing in the water. We saw at least 10 harbor seals bobbing in the water. Don’t miss out on this unique experience in Mendocino.
Ride the Pet Friendly Skunk Train through the Redwoods of Fort Bragg
The Skunk Train is a best way to experience the Mendocino redwoods without having to break sweat on a hike. The pet friendly train leaves from Fort Bragg and travels for a 7 mile, one hour, round trip through the historical landscape of northern California. The experience felt AND looked like what you’d expect on a real life Hogwarts Express (minus the wizards). The dogs loved the breeze on the outdoor railcar and they all got plenty of attention from fellow passengers. Before your visit, check out the seasonal activities like the Magical Christmas rides and Pumpkin Express.
Relax with some wine at Maple Creek Winery
The highway 128 route to Mendocino from San Francisco winds through the hills of wine country. We stopped by “Artevino” Maple Creek Winery for a signature wine tasting. We sat with the wine maker for over an hour, learning about the history of the vineyard. Tom & his staff were so welcoming and stick true to their motto “enter as strangers, leave as friends”.
Check out the Beaches
The “Glass” Beach at Fort Bragg
The glass beach was the most heavily trafficked part of Fort Bragg, but frankly did not live up to its expectation as a “glass” beach. We’ve chosen to include the Glass Beach here since it is a neat spot to check out after the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg. The disclaimer to add is that the shores are no longer lined with beautiful sea glass as they have historically. The smooth glass that is found washed up on the beach is a result of extensive dumping of trash into the ocean in the 20th century. Today, only small pieces of glass are still visible if you look closely enough – mostly in whites, greens, and browns. It was a fun search to collect the pieces of smooth glass, but definitely underwhelming and disappointing. Dogs are welcome on the beach but must be kept on leash.
Off Leash Big River Beach
The Big River Beach is located directly across from the Catch a Canoe rental facility. It’s a great place to visit after or before canoeing. The beach is relatively abandoned except for some dogs chasing frisbees and swimming in the gentle tides. The water is perfect for swimming as it’s right at the beginning of the estuary so it is clean but there are no waves.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
The pet friendly Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are a great way to enjoy beautiful flowers and ocean views all on one visit. We spent about 2 hours following the loop through the flower gardens and open fields to the coastal trail. We found the walk a lot more tranquil than we expected – we found our way to different gardens and sat on benches to enjoy the fresh air in each other’s presence. The gardens are scenic, inviting, and truly a hidden gem of Mendocino. The best part – the gardens are entirely dog friendly!
Walk along the Mendocino Headlands Trail
The Mendocino Headlands trail is a 4 mile out and back stroll located along the coastal bluffs of the town. Even if you do not complete the entire trail, this is a great way to take in the coastal views. The trail follows the coast with the sounds of waves crashing below. The trail is overgrown at some parts, but we just trudged through without difficulty. The trail is best paired prior to or following a walk through town – we loved stopping into the cute shops and coffee bars.
Weekend Seattle trip with your dog? No problem. Find the best places to have fun in Seattle with your dog even if you are only visiting for the weekend. There are more than 20 dog parks within the Seattle Metropolitan area and countless off-leash dog trails through the forest. Most restaurants in Seattle have pet friendly patios where you and your pet will be treated like royalty. Even better yet, dogs are allowed on the bus, seaplanes, and boats throughout Seattle! From city adventures to nature, the Space Needle City will welcome your dog with open arms. We finally checked the fido friendly Seattle off our bucket list with a super quick trip. We were able to see the greatest sights but will be back for more in the years to come.
The best time of year to visit Seattle with your dog
As always, we recommend visiting the Pacific Northwest in the late spring and summer. The temperatures do not get too hot so you your dog will stay safe and the weather is generally sunny. It can be diff