When it comes to things to do with your dog in Santa Cruz County, there’s the obvious (beaches, wineries), and the not-so-obvious—like Byrne-Milliron Forest, a 400-acre Land Trust of Santa Cruz County property managed as a working forest and laced with dog-friendly trails (off-leash hiking for dogs with reliable recall is allowed). Another option for hikers is Pogonip, a 640-acre nature reserve/greenbelt with numerous dog-friendly trails. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is one of few state-run parks in California that allows dogs on some (but not all) trails.
Got kids? Roaring Camp Railroads offers dog- and family-friendly steam train excursions through the redwoods. Another gem is Felton Covered Bridge Park, where the photo opps are as good as the picnic grounds are shady.
Of course, for first-time visitors, the obvious may not be so obvious. Suggestions for a yappy day:
Explore downtown Santa Cruz. For years dogs were banned from Pacific Avenue, the town’s boutique-lined “main drag.” Now it’s a different story, with leashed pets not only allowed to walk with you as you window shop, but accompany you inside many establishments. Don’t forget clean-up bags!
Ogle the views (and the surfers). Numerous coastal access points offer bluff-top views of the surf and the wet-suited folks devotedly skimming the waves. The newly renovated East Cliff Parkway, between Pleasure Point and the Hook, overlooks a number of popular surf spots.
Go tidepooling. Your leashed dog is welcome to accompany you at Santa Maria Beach in the Live Oak area, where 19th Avenue meets the sea. Go during low tide to observe the many creatures stranded in nooks and crannies of the rock shelf along the shore.
Learn more about dog-friendly Santa Cruz County.