There’s something about fresh ocean air that makes a day at the coast restorative as well as memorable. Add some gasp-worthy scenery, and neither you nor your pup will mind the road time required to put paws to sand.
Every good bird deserves watching at Bodega Bay, an hour and a half north of San Francisco. A great place to observe avians strutting their stuff is on the 1.2-mile Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, which follows a levee around two ponds in a 14-acre revitalized saltwater marsh area. It connects to Doran Regional Park, a sandy, 120-acre spit that forms the northern border of Bodega Bay and features a 2-mile beach where leashed dogs are welcome to accompany you on an invigorating walk. Or, choose the Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail, which leads to spectacular coastal views and can be hiked as a 1.9-mile loop with the Shorttail Gulch Coastal Access Trail.
At the far north end of Sonoma County, near the border with Mendocino County, Sonoma County Regional Parks manages six public-access trails starting at Highway 1 parking areas and crossing bluff-top meadows and forests to end up at the rugged coastline. Longest is the Bluff Top Trail, which runs 3 miles along the headlands from Walk On Beach to Gualala Point Regional Park. Staircases from each of the trails lead down the cliffs to beaches with sandy coves, tide pools and rock formations. To play by the rules, your dog will need to be leashed and licensed.
When it comes to rivers, Sonoma County has one of the state’s true gems in the sparkling Russian River. The stretch between Geyserville and Guerneville can be a floating party in summertime, but crowds disappear like magic after Labor Day and a mellower atmosphere rules. Russian River Adventures’ inflatable, custom-made SOAR canoes are stable, easy to maneuver and as much fun for your dog as for you. Standard trips start in Healdsburg, with a shuttle bus meeting paddlers at the take-out point 8.5 miles downstream.
Photo Credit: Beny Shlevich (CC)