Dog-lovers from around the world know leash-free Carmel Beach as a primo place to visit with dogs. But that’s hardly the only place in Monterey County where your untethered dog can have as much fun and freedom as you do. A number of county parks, as well as several within the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, allow dogs to accompany you off-leash away from developed areas so long as they stay within sight, respond immediately to voice commands and don’t get in the way of horses, cyclists or other hikers.
Ready to ditch the sweatshirt you needed on the beach and get in some aerobic activity? Head inland to Garland Ranch Regional Park, whose 4,462 acres are home to a variety of landscapes, from the willow-covered banks of the gurgling Carmel River to shady redwood forests and the open oak savannas at the crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains. This is Carmel Valley’s go-to spot for hiking, and some trails are shared with equestrians and mountain bikers. Well-behaved dogs can accompany you off-leash so long as they don’t interfere with other park users.
If you’re not up for a strenuous hike but still long to take in some scenery, the Skyline Nature Trail at Jacks Peak County Park is a good bet (in fact, it’s rated No. 1 on a list of Top 10 Day Hikes published by the Monterey Convention & Visitors Bureau). On a loop covering less than a mile, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Carmel Valley, Point Lobos and the blue Pacific stretching to infinity. Add the Iris Trail to your itinerary for another 1.8 miles of scenic hiking. Here, too, your well-behaved dog can accompany you without a tether.
Outside the regional park district are many other tracts where you can hike with your dog. Toro County Park, six miles from Salinas, is a big 4,756 acres in size and has more than 20 miles of dog-friendly trails shared by equestrians. (Be sure to leash up or grab your dog by the collar when horses approach.)
For an easy stroll with your four-legged friend, check out the new South Bank Trail, a paved, 1.5-mile pedestrian and bike path opened by the Big Sur Land Trust on the south side of the Carmel River between dog-friendly Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley and Palo Corona Regional Park (sorry, dogs aren’t allowed in the park). Dogs must be leashed to accompany you on this scenic stroll featuring interpretive signs, rest-stop benches and mutt-mitt dispensers along the way.
Photo by Jaime Perez (CC)