San Luis Obispo County encompasses just about everything California is known for, from mountains to ocean to wine country to laid-back vibe. Sure, you can shoot down from the Bay Area on Interstate 5 and Highway 46, but it’s much more rewarding to take the slow lane (Highway 101) all the way to Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and beyond.
Along the way, you and your fur buddy can soak up some history at two of the 21 Franciscan missions established in California between 1768 and 1853 on orders of the Spanish Crown. Missions San Miguel Arcangel and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad are serene places great for photography, contemplation and picnics. Well-behaved leashed dogs are allowed on the grounds; ask at the counter if your pet can accompany you in areas where admission is required.
Once you’ve found a place to rest your paws, take a day (at least) for exploring a few of the many dog-friendly wineries in Paso Robles Wine Country. No need to drive when you and yours can take the Wine Line, a hop-on, hop-off tour service that lets you create your own itinerary from a list of more than 60 Paso Robles wineries. Well behaved canine visitors who can sit in your lap or between your legs are welcome to ride. Wine Line vans travel in a continuous loop, picking up and dropping off passengers every 40 minutes. Another option is Breakaway Tours, which crafts private tours in which you and your four-legged friend(s) ride in comfort to three or four dog-friendly wineries.
Moving onto San Luis Obispo proper (home of California Polytechnic University), you can both stretch your legs in wide-open spaces at Laguna Lake Park, a 375-acre preserve with an off-leash (but not fenced) dog area and miles of trails leading into the surrounding hills. The trek from the parking lot up San Luis Mountain is a rewarding 5.7 miles round trip with 1,150 feet of elevation gain, and for those who prefer something shorter, there is an easy loop trail around the base of the hill. Insider tip: The Best Western Royal Oak Hotel across the street makes an ideal base for DogTrekkers.
Jaunting over to the coast, you’ll find a string of towns, from Morro Bay in the north to Arroyo Grande in the south, worthy of exploration with your tail-wagger. Wander through Pismo Beach’s eclectic downtown, checking out shops selling everything from surfer gear to souvenirs, then paw your way to Dinosaur Caves Park, an 11-acre, bluff-top oasis popular with dog-walkers, photographers and strollers for its expansive ocean views.
Just north of Pismo, Avila is a walkable seaside community whose waterfront pathways include the Bob Jones “City to the Sea” Trail, which follows a railroad right-of-way for about 2.5 miles from downtown Avila to a parking lot at Avila Hot Springs. Still farther up the coast is the Morro Bay estuary, famous for majestic Morro Rock, which looms over the north end of the bay. For views of the rock and fresh-off-the-hook seafood, seat yourself on the deck at Tognazzini's Dockside Restaurant and chow down on fresh catch with Lucy at your heels.
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Photo Credit: Bennilover (CC)