There’s something about a carefully cultivated garden that brings on wonder, inspiration and wagging tails. Not all of California’s botanical gardens are dog-friendly, but these five extend a warm welcome to canine guests.
– U.C. Davis Arboretum: You'll encounter lots of other dog walkers as you stroll for 3.5 miles (round trip) through 100 serene acres of curated greenery along the banks of Putah Creek, which flows through the university campus. Eighteen themed planting areas feature labeled species from throughout the world, and there are also curiosity gardens such as one showcasing white flowers said to glow luminously under a full moon. Restrooms, picnic tables and benches for contemplating the scenery are scattered along the route, and admission is free.
– Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: This dog-friendly beauty spot comes with a thundering ocean sound track and a moody maritime climate that fosters signature displays of rare rhododendrons, camellias, dahlias, heaths, heathers and a perennial garden that stays bright with color from spring to fall. The combination of salty smells and botanical aromas will have your dog’s nose working overtime as you wander the manicured pathways. Stop and stare out over the ocean between January and April, and you’re likely to spot migrating whales swimming northbound.
– McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens: If the Shasta Cascade city of Redding is in your sights this spring, don’t miss the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay Exploration Park on the Sacramento River. The soaring (and dog-friendly) Sundial Bridge is the star attraction here, but the 20 acres of Mediterranean-climate display gardens on the far side also are worth an amble. They’re the newest addition to a 200-acre, trail-laced arboretum that includes a pair of unusual water features sure to fascinate your pet. Fido may not appreciate the colorful displays of plants from Chile or Australia, but she’ll be happy to accompany you on the 1.2-mile Arboretum Loop Trail that winds through the preserve’s oak savannah, riparian forest and wetlands.
– San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden: When completed within the next decade, the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden will comprise 150 acres devoted to ecosystems and plants of the world's five Mediterranean climate zones, along with an extensive trail system, an amphitheater and more. For now, a two-acre, dog-friendly Preview Garden (free admission) gives a taste of things to come. The garden is in El Chorro Regional Park, a hilly, 700-acre preserve with amenities including a campground and a fenced, off-leash dog park.
– Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Seventy-eight hilly acres of aromatic beauty and five miles of dog-friendly paths make this Mission Canyon jewel a top Santa Barbara attraction. The focus is on California native plants in natural settings, and more than 1,000 species are on display. Docent-led tours, some developed specifically for families, are available, along with self-guided tour brochures. A great place to slow down, feed your senses and enjoy some quality time with your four-legged friend.