Dogs playing on Carmel Beach. Photo - Janet Fullwood
There’s nothing like the sight and sound of the sea to soothe the soul, vanquish boredom and revive the spirit. If your pup has been seeing far too much of the back yard lately, maybe it’s time for both of you to sniff out new horizons along the highly scenic, 122-mile stretch of Highway 1 between Pacifica and Carmel.
Start your drive with a visit to the region’s newest attraction, the Devil’s Slide Trail. This 1.3-mile paved path, built atop a formerly formidable segment of Highway 1 between Pacifica and Montara in San Mateo County, opened in late March and is definitely a “must see” for DogTrekkers.
Now part of the county park system, the bluff-top trail is a prime place from which to enjoy the views that captivated so many drivers before the twin-bore Devil’s Slide Tunnel was completed last year. The new trail has parking lots, restrooms, drinking fountains, bike racks, pet waste stations, three overlooks, a dozen benches and lots of interpretive signs to help visitors appreciate the views, the wildlife and the precarious forces of nature that gave this slide-prone segment of coastline its name.
Continuing south, Highway 1 hits the coast again in Santa Cruz, where the classic place to lunch with your leashed dog is the outdoor deck at Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant, situated right in the middle of Twin Lakes State Beach and overlooking a harbor bobbing with boats. To the west of the harbor jetty is the strand known as Seabright Beach, where leashed dogs are welcome and fire rings are available for bring-your-own-fuel bonfires.
Bamboo at Seabright Beach: Photo - Lostintheredwoods (CC)
If you and your dog want to window-shop or otherwise explore the many interesting shops in downtown Santa Cruz, you can: the city has loosened restrictions that once banned dogs from busy Pacific Avenue. To play by the rules (see Page 4 of the city ordinance), make sure your dog is licensed, tagged and kept close by your side. Also, be aware that there’s an after-dark canine curfew.
South of Santa Cruz, both Aptos and Capitola are a pair of captivating and very dog-welcoming ocean side communities with a casual, wind-in-the-hair ambiance. Rio del Mar and Seacliff state beaches are the outdoor magnets here, while dog-friendly restaurants including Betty Burgers and Margaritaville in Capitola, and Palapas in Aptos abound. This is also a great area to snag a dog-friendly vacation rental for the weekend.
Once you hit Monterey County, your seaside options expand even more. On the north side of the Monterey Peninsula, several beaches run together to form Monterey State Beach. Make sure your canine companion is leashed when walking here, and don’t stray out of the area between Wharf No. 2 and the Seaside portion of the strand, the only place on the beach that allows dogs.
Moving around the peninsula to the scenic village of Pacific Grove, Asilomar State Beach encompasses a long swath of shoreline pocked with rocky coves and strips of sand. Leashed dogs are welcome here as well as on the seaside path following the coastline and on the boardwalk leading through Asilomar Natural Dune Preserve to Asilomar State Conference Grounds, a century-old complex of buildings on a 100-acre campus. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the structures, but they are welcome to accompany their humans on the grounds and view the graceful, arts-and-crafts buildings designed by Julia Morgan, famous for designing Hearst Castle and the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California.
Continuing on to Carmel-by-the-Sea you’ll find Carmel River State Beach, a three-mile, white-sand crescent notable for its bird life and accessible via a trail from Highway 1. Beautiful and uncrowded as it may be, the real attraction for DogTrekkers is just down the way at Carmel Beach, one of few legally off-leash stretches of sand in this part of the state. Dogs under voice control are welcome to run free on this mile-long slice of doggie heaven.
Just a few short blocks uphill, the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea qualifies as one of the most dog-friendly destinations on the planet. It’s so dog friendly, in fact, that it’s a rare restaurant indeed that doesn’t allow canine guests at its outdoor tables. In addition, more than 20 hotels and inns accept pets.
If you’re a wine lover, Monterey County’s River Road Wine Trail could keep you occupied for weeks. But if time is tight and you’d still like to sample the bounty of the county, know that more than a dozen tasting rooms, many of them dog-friendly and all within walking distance of each other, have recently opened in Carmel, A $65 Wine Walk Passport buys what otherwise would be a $10 flight at each venue. It’s transferable and doesn’t expire, so you can visit four tasting rooms now, four on your next trip and two on your next if you so desire.