San Diego epitomizes the laid-back SoCal lifestyle—and it just happens to be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country, to boot. Part of what makes it so is a network of 18 open space preserves, all within the city limits, where four-legged visitors are as welcome as the people on the other end of the leash.
A top destination is Mission Trails Regional Park, where 60 miles of canine-friendly trails wind through the 6,800 acres comprising one of the oldest urban parks in the country (staff at the visitor center will be happy to point you to interesting destinations such as Oak Canyon, the Father Junipero Serra Trail or Old Mission Dam, a national registered historic landmark). Tri-Canyon Parks, comprised of Marian Bear Memorial Park, Rose Canyon Open Space Park and Tecolote Canyon Natural Park & Nature Center, cover 1,500 acres and include trails for hiking and biking in natural habitats. (Rose Canyon, by the way, is a great place to see raptors.)
Two other popular preserves within the city limits, Black Mountain Open Space and Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve offer still more options. At the top of Black Mountain, reached after a stiff, 2.5-mile hike up a dirt road, you’ll have 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Los Penasquitos, covering more than 4,000 acres of open space, is home to many rare and endangered plant and bird species. Visitors using the 37 miles of trails can pass through 14 different habitats and view a waterfall that gushes after winter and spring rains.
Of course no trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to the beach, and San Diego has one of the state’s premier waterfront playgrounds for dogs. On the north end of Ocean Beach, also known as Dog Beach, canines can hang out leash-less and tear around on the sand and in the surf, bringing joy to all who watch them.