Dip into some desert sunshine

By: Roger Coryell
Dogs by the Cool Dog ranch
Photo by Cool Dog Ranch.

California’s desert regions are at their most compelling in winter, when cool weather and clear skies combine to energize people and pets alike. If you’re planning a trip, don’t think only of cactus and rock. Southern California’s high-desert wine country invites visitors with vines, wines and a swaggering touch of the Old West. It’s all centered around the town of Temecula, 60 miles north of San Diego, 80 miles east of Greater Palm Springs and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Dog-friendly lodging, shops, restaurants and wineries abound in this casual community that takes great pride in its Western heritage. Start by leashing up for a stroll around Old Town, popping in, perhaps, to a dog-friendly establishment like Texas Lil’s Mesquite Grill, offering complimentary treats and even a doggie menu featuring grilled chicken breast and burger patties. Soro’s Mediterranean Grille and Baily’s Old Town Temecula (which has outdoor live music on weekends) are among many other Old Town establishments with dog-friendly patio dining.

A bit out of town, Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Vineyard & Winery offers patio dining with vineyard views. It’s a great spot for lunch, especially on “Dog Day Sundays,” when a special menu is offered for pets. More than 30 other wineries dot the landscape around Temecula, and while they don’t all offer food, many provide a warm welcome for pets. Among establishments to check out are Avensole, Churon, Cougar, Danza del Sol, Frangipani and Vindemia. Or, visit some of the nine family-owned wineries along the De Portola Wine Trail, spread throughout the Temecula Valley. (Be sure to check tasting room hours before setting out; some establishments are open only on weekends in winter.)

When it comes to lodging, the Temecula Creek Inn, a golf resort on 350 oak-studded acres, welcomes dogs of all sizes and has a dog-friendly snack-bar area, as well. Extended Stay America, La Quinta, Quality Inn Wine Country and Motel 6 offer economical lodging convenient to Old Town and wine country.

Need to stretch your (and Fido’s) legs? Dogs can run free at Red Hawk Community Park, and the two of you will enjoy desert views while hiking the Sylvan Meadows Multi-Use Trails near Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.


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