Every good bird deserves watching at Bodega Bay, and the 1.2-mile Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail is a great venue for walking your dog while sharpening your identification skills. The trail 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.
At the far north end of Sonoma County, near Sea Ranch and 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 coast. 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.
Heading inland, Hood Mountain Regional Park near Santa Rosa (and adjacent to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park) is a rugged, 1,750-acre beauty spot that offers many opportunities to work up a pant with Rover. One that will give you both a workout is the 3.5-mile round-trip trek from the Los Alamos Road trailhead, reached via a narrow, winding road, to the headwaters of Santa Rosa Creek.
Near Petaluma, dog–friendly Tolay Lake Regional Park can be enjoyed through a day–use permit program or on frequently scheduled guided hikes. The 1,769–acre property, formerly the Cardoza Ranch, consists of ridges, grasslands, wetlands and a historic homestead that many Bay Area residents know as the site of an annual pumpkin festival that draws as many as 30,000 parents and kids. Hike to a high point for views of Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo and other regional landmarks.
Photo by Harminder Dhesi. (CC)