There are thousands of places to hike with kids and dogs in California, but if you’re new to an area, it can be hard to know just where to go, especially if you have tots in a stroller. You can always go to DogTrekker.com’s new Family-Friendly section to read the latest stories. Plus, here are a few paw- and kid-tested suggestions.
Lake Tahoe for tots: If you’re in the stroller stage, you’ll appreciate paved paths like the Lam Watah Trail in South Shore. It leaves from the free parking lot at Kahle Lane and Highway 50, just north of Lakeside Inn and Casino, and ends about 2 miles later at a dog-friendly stretch of sandy Nevada Beach. Alternatively, you can pay an admission fee at Nevada Beach and start from the other end. Also stroller-friendly on the South Shore is the Taylor Creek Visitor Center area, with paved and dirt trails (dog-friendly on a leash) leading along the lakeshore and to Tallac Historic Site, once a summer playground for elite families, now an interpretive complex with historic buildings to explore and entertaining programs in summer (don’t fail to stop for ice cream). On the North Shore, stroll a segment of the Tahoe City Lakeside Trail, which runs 19 paved miles from Tahoe City to Palisades Tahoe. Just outside Truckee, the Truckee River Legacy Trail is a paved, multi-use path with adjacent dirt single-track that hugs the scenic river for 2.5 miles, starting at a regional park.
Sierra Foothills: It can be hard to find flat, stroller- and dog-friendly paths to roll in this hilly environment, but there’s one stand-out of as much historical interest to adults as it is of scenic interest to kids. The Independence Trail, just outside Nevada City in Nevada County, had its origins as a 5-foot-wide aqueduct engineered in 1859 to carry water for hydraulic mining all the way to Smartsville, 25 miles away. Today, the almost-level ditches and flumes skirting steep hillsides and bridging deep ravines have been restored, making it highly popular with moms pushing strollers and older folks looking for a nature hike. From the trailhead, the first 1.5 miles in either direction, while not paved, is wheelchair and stroller-accessible except after heavy rains. A highlight on the west side is a 520-foot switchback ramp. Dogs, kids and parents can dip noses and feet at many splash spots along the way.
San Francisco: Where to start rolling? You can’t beat Golden Gate Park, especially on weekends, when the major thoroughfares are closed to traffic. Check out an event or two if you’re looking for entertainment beyond always-entertaining people-watching and impromptu performances by musicians, jugglers and such. If there’s another adult available to hold the dog, your tots will enjoy a ride on the Golden Gate Carousel. You’ll all have your imaginations tickled while watching remote-controlled model yachts sail on Spreckles Lake. With more than 1,000 acres and many miles of paths and roadways to explore, you’ll want to consult a park map before you go. You’ll also want to arrive early, as parking is always a problem. For lunch, the Park Chalet Garden Restaurant at the far west end of the park is your dog-friendly ticket.
Another urban-hike favorite for DogTrekking families starts at seaside Crissy Field, where dogs are allowed to romp off-leash in certain areas. From there, a paved path hugs the shoreline for miles, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Dogs are no longer allowed on the bridge itself, but great views can be had from vista points on either end. The visitor center on the San Francisco side includes dog-friendly outdoor exhibits, gardens, restrooms, snack bar….and, of course, a sizeable gift shop (Rover will have to wait outside while another family member goes in). Parking is limited, so arrive early (before 8 a.m. in summer) to get a spot.