South of San Francisco, you and your frisky pup have more velvety-green hills to wander in spring. Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve in the hills above San Carlos and Redwood City is one option that really sets tails a-waggin’. Off-leash play is allowed in a 17-acre parcel of this 366-acre San Mateo County preserve that was once the site of a tuberculosis sanitarium. All five miles of trails are dog-friendly, and on clear days you’ll get a good view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Elevation gains on Pulgas trails are modest, topping out around 300 feet, and grades are gentle enough for kids. Making a loop of the Cordilleras, Poli Geraci, Hassler and Blue Oak Trails will put three miles and change under Astro’s paws. No bikes or horses are allowed, so you won’t have to dodge ruts or trail apples.
Another great choice (doable in an hour or so) is the Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop Trail near Morgan Hill. Think of the 1-mile path, with its multiple footbridges, convenient picnic tables, and lush, rocky backdrop, as a scenic promenade with a rushing-water sound track. You’ll come first to Black Rock Falls, which impresses with a loud and zesty 30-foot drop. About a tenth of a mile past the far end of the loop are the smaller Upper Falls and Basin Falls, the latter of which is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Make it aerobic by extending your hike to 5-plus miles to take in Triple Falls, the most secluded cascade in Uvas Canyon County Park. Want to make an overnight of it? Pitch your tent in the park campground, but be sure to reserve well in advance for weekend dates.