Sniffing out exceptions to state park rules

coastal view of ocean and boulders at MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher State Park. Photo by Don Kawahigashi.

Most California State Parks restrict canine companions to campgrounds, day-use picnic areas and paved roads, but we’ve found a trio that allow four-paw venturing on dirt trails.

Samuel P Taylor State Park: This lush redwood retreat 15 miles west of San Rafael has dog-friendly picnic areas, campgrounds with showers and the 5-mile Cross Marin Trail, shared with cyclists, that visitors with leashed dogs are welcome to enjoy. For DogTrekkers who like to camp, there’s a bigger attraction: The park makes an ideal, low-cost base camp for forays into the adjacent Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate Recreation Area, both of which hold many options for hikers and sightseers with leashed canine companions.

Georgie smiles big at South Yuba River State Park. Photo by @una.bella.vita.

South Yuba River State Park: This isn’t a contiguous park, but a patchwork of lands in Nevada County along the scenic Yuba River. In summer, you’ll find idyllic, dog-friendly swimming holes at Kneebone Beach near park headquarters and the iconic covered bridge in Bridgeport, and at Jones Bar alongside the partially wheelchair-accessible Independence Trail constructed along a series of old mining ditches and flumes.

MacKerricher State Park: The inconvenience of a leash is a small price to pay for the privilege of enjoying numerous dog-friendly trails and beaches with your furry friend. The Mendocino County park is diverse, with habitats ranging from bluffs to beaches, tide pools, and one of California’s longest coastal dune systems. The three dog-friendly campgrounds are extremely popular, so you’ll likely have to strategize and be flexible to land a site in summer.

Posted on: June 29, 2022

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