Bring your tent or RV and make a weekend of it, or just come for the day. Any way you slice it, Mount Madonna County Park
, 10 miles west of Gilroy
in Santa Clara County
, contains all the elements, from ocean views to redwood forests, that epitomize Northern California. Spring is perhaps the best time to visit this 3,688-acre preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains
, but in late winter you'll have the place virtually to yourself. Hiking options range from easy strolls along graded fire roads to serious huffer-puffers climbing to ridge-top vantage points with views of Monterey Bay. Fido will have to stay leashed, but he's welcome to help you explore all 14 miles of designated trails. Expect frequent encounters with deer, and time your visit for late March or early April to catch the wildflower show. If your schedule permits, buzz down the hill to Kirigin Cellars
, where your well-behaved companion can cut loose on 11 acres while you sample a glass of Malvasia Bianca or another featured blend from this 95-year-old winery.