If there’s a more dog-friendly big city than San Francisco, we at DogTrekker.com certainly don’t know about it. An abundance of open space available to the canine set is one of the City by the Bay’s main attractions for dog lovers. Well behaved pooches are allowed to exercise and socialize off-leash in two dozen places within city limits, including several—Bernal Heights, Crissy Field, Fort Funston—with views to drool over.
For on-leash dogs, the possibilities are almost limitless. We have a special affinity for the Lands End Trail hugging the city’s rugged northwest coastline. If you’re visiting with your dog, put it high on your list of priorities. In any season, a hike on this path is a stroll through one million-dollar view after another, all set to the sound of a crashing sea.
There are many points of entry and exit to the Land's End Trail. A good starting and ending point is the parking lot and visitor center at Point Lobos Avenue and El Camino Del Mar. Walk north from there to the Land's End Overlook for a postcard-framed view of the Golden Gate Bridge, then follow the broad, well-groomed path along a bluff overlooking treacherous waters that have swallowed many a ship over the years. From here you have several options, all of which are rewarding and none of which will get you lost.
Take a steep staircase down to a pocket beach or climb another staircase up to a eucalyptus grove that opens onto Lincoln Park Golf Course, one of the most unexpected sights in San Francisco. Eagle's Point makes a natural turnaround point; you can loop back from there along the California Coastal Trail or follow El Camino del Mar past the Palace of the Legion of Honor and back to the parking lot.
Fresh-air fiends will also want to put the Presidio on their San Francisco hiking bucket list. This serene corner of the city served as a military post for 140 years. Transferred from the U.S. Army to the National Park Service in 1994, the 1,500-acre district offers forests, creeks, trails, views, architecture, art and history. It’s also a favorite retreat for Bay Area dog people. While many pups and their owners stick to the lower flatlands, those in the know head to the upper reaches of the Presidio and the 24 miles of trails winding along coastal bluffs, through shady forests and past historic sites and neighborhoods that seem a world removed from the bustling city below.
The easy, 1.4-mile Ecology Trail departs from the parking lot adjacent to the dog-friendly Inn at the Presidio, connecting to the Inspiration Point Overlook and the Main Post, site of a Spanish garrison established in 1776 and long an important Army installation. The broad parade ground today hosts many festivals and other gatherings, most of which are dog-friendly. The Presidio’s largest redwood grove is the trail’s shady highlight, and there are connections off the main path to the Mountain Lake and Bay Area Ridge trails, each of which traverses some seriously inspiring scenery.
On the new, 2.5-mile Presidio section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, take in the striking Andy Goldsworthy sculpture “Spire” and the rolling San Francisco National Cemetery, with its somber rows of white headstones framed by Golden Gate Bridge views. To examine Goldsworthy’s newest installation, “Wood Line,” a haunting “river of logs” winding through a eucalyptus grove, take all or part of the 2.5-mile Mountain Lake Trail.