You’ve seen the views a million times in photographs, but if you haven’t soaked them up yourself, what are you waiting for? The Marin Headlands, that hilly peninsula on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge, is best known for views of the iconic structure, but with a little exploring, you’ll come to know it in a different way. Although many hiking trails lace the headlands, dogs are allowed only on three scenic corridors incorporating parts of the Coastal, Wolf Ridge and Miwok trails. Watch the signs: leashes are required in some areas, while dogs under strict voice control can trot free in others. (They can also run to their paws’ content on Rodeo Beach, one of few Bay Area strands where the practice is still allowed).
Another paw-friendly favorite is the Tenderfoot Trail above Mill Valley, which dips up, down and around redwood-cloaked hillsides that stay cool even on hot days. And then there’s the 175-acre Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve, one of 34 tracts managed by the Marin County Open Space District. A 2.2-mile (round trip) trail leads to a waterfall that gushes in spring, when wildflowers also are abundant. It’s a popular spot, so while you’re out there, please practice proper off-leash etiquette. Keep dogs close to you and pick up after them to help keep the trails safe, clean and beautiful.
On the northern outskirts of San Rafael, another DogTrekker stomping ground beckons. The Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve is large (1,104 acres) and laced with trails and fire roads traversing exposed ridges with views to forever (or at least the Bay and Solano County). Choose a high-altitude entrance to minimize climbing, and remember: you can unclip the leash on fire roads, but not on trails.
Let’s say you’re not into hiking or just don’t have time. That doesn’t mean Dixie doesn’t need her exercise. Mill Valley Dog Park, regarded as one of the country’s cleanest and most scenic dog parks, should be on every DogTrekker’s bucket list. The three-acre field next to an estuary features agility areas, grassy space, and a splash-happy dipping spot on Richardson Bay.