The first time we poked around the Marin Headlands with our pup, we were playing tourist, popping out of the car here and there to snap photos of a fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. We didn’t know where the maze of roads we were exploring might take us, but when we saw people walking dogs over a bridge at Rodeo Lagoon, we leashed up for a look-see. Bodie was so excited by the smells of birds and brine that he lunged on the leash like a bucking bronco in the chute. To our surprise and joy, we topped a hill to see dogs chasing the surf and each other in total abandon. Our swift-of-foot Brittany was off and running, and our love affair with Rodeo Beach and the adjacent Coastal Trail, with its wild, windy moods and off-leash privileges, began.
While the surf here can be dangerous in winter, fog is not as much an issue as in summer, making for panoramic views. You’ll see birds galore around the lagoon (leash up if your dog’s a chaser), and your nose will be as invigorated as your pup’s by the heady aromas of sage, surf and eucalyptus out on the trail.