In June 2016, Mike and I (Steph) packed up our tiny New York City apartment and put almost everything we owned into storage. We flew to the Pacific Northwest with two suitcases and our long-haired dachshund, Django. Over the next 10 months, Mike and I worked remotely, lived in both Oregon and Southern California, and spent almost all of our free time adventuring, hiking, and camping with Django. One of our all-time favorite dog-friendly adventures was a road trip down California's Pacific Coast Highway.
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is an epic and at times stunningly beautiful stretch of California State Route 1 that extends 656 miles from Mendocino County (150 miles north of San Francisco) to San Juan Capistrano (just north of San Diego). While some of the most stunning scenery is easily found in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, there are many incredible dog-friendly places to visit along the rest of the route.
In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we cover the best dog-friendly places to visit along the Pacific Coast Highway. Although the PCH technically ends just north of San Diego, we include our favorite pet-friendly beaches, parks, camping grounds, and vineyards to visit on your next road trip from San Francisco to San Diego. We also include an interactive Google Map highlighting each dog-friendly attraction along the route.
If there is a dog-friendly attraction, beach, or state park we did not include, or if you simply want to share a PCH road tripping experience with us and our dog loving audience, please leave a comment below!
Golden Gate Park is a beautiful and sprawling urban park in San Francisco covering 1,017 acres. Twenty percent larger than New York City’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park stretches from San Francisco's Panhandle to Ocean Beach’s edge. It is the third most-visited city park in the U.S. and has four separate off-leash areas for dogs:
A former U.S. Army airfield, Crissy Field is the perfect spot for a walk with your dog. The 100-acre park provides iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, and Alcatraz Island. It has a 20-acre tidal marsh and 16-acre dune habitat. Because of thermal winds and storm fronts, Crissy Field is a world-class sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing site. Dogs are allowed off-leash, under voice control.
Fort Funston (also known as Doggie Disneyland) is the southernmost beach on San Francisco’s Pacific Coast. It has 200-foot high sandy bluffs and patches of black magnetic sand. It is also a popular place for hang gliding and flying remote-controlled airplanes. Dogs are allowed off-leash as long as they promptly respond to voice commands. Poop bags and dog water fountains are available.
Carmel Beach is located below the ninth hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It is within walking distance from the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It has sugary sand, turquoise waters, and cotton candy sunsets. With gnarly Monterey cypresses and giant waves, Carmel Beach is also a popular wedding venue. Dogs are allowed off-leash if they know the recall command. Poop bags are also available at the Ocean Avenue entrance.
Del Monte Beach is a beautiful and less frequented stretch of sand in Monterey. The beach is clean, the views are great, and leashed dogs are welcome.
Big Sur’s wild and windswept Pfeiffer Beach was featured in From Here to Eternity and The Sandpiper. It is known for its purple sand and Keyhole Arch, which is one of the most photographed spots in Los Padres National Forest. Pfeiffer Beach lies at the end of a 2-mile dirt road called Sycamore Canyon. It is between the Big Sur Ranger Station and the post office. Leashed dogs are welcome on the beach 7 days a week from 9 a.m to 8 p.m. It is not a California State Park and charges a $10 entrance fee.
Part of Los Padres National Forest, Sand Dollar Beach is the biggest unbroken stretch of beach in Big Sur. A steep, wooden staircase leads down to tidepools and sandstone rock formations. Sand Dollar Beach is perfect for picnicking, beachcombing, rock hunting, whale and dolphin watching, fishing, and surfing. Leashed dogs are allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is a $10 cash-only parking fee.
Arroyo Burro Beach Park is a great destination for dogs and dog owners. Located off of Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara, the public beach offers lapping waves, scenic views of the bluffs, and even a self service dog wash station. Dogs must remain on leash within Arroyo Burro Beach Park, although some disregard the rules and let their dogs run free. If you want to stick to the rules, you can let your dog run off leash in the adjacent Douglas Family Preserve.
Located between Goldenwest and Seapoint Street, Huntington Dog Beach is every salty dog's paradise. Dogs come from all over the world to sling sand and splash in the shallow surf. Huntington Dog Beach has poop bags, public restrooms, picnic tables, and water fountains for humans and dogs. It is open 7 days per week from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If all dogs go to heaven, they’re probably going to Rosie’s Dog Beach. Founded in memory of a much-adored Bulldog named Rosie, it is the only off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles. Part of Belmont Shore Beach, it is located at the waterfront between Roycroft and Argonne Avenues. This 3-acre park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only one dog per adult is allowed.
Main Beach Park is located in the middle of Laguna Beach, where Broadway and Ocean Avenues intersect Coast Highway. It has two half basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, public art installations, a boardwalk, a lighthouse-shaped playground, large grassy areas, picnic tables, benches, showers, and restrooms. From June 15th to September 10th, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Throughout the rest of the year, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach at any time of day. Main Beach Park is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Right in between Los Angeles and San Diego and due east of Laguna Beach is dog-friendly Temecula. The beautiful, rural area has a Mediterranean climate and is known for hundreds of award-winning wines from local wineries. The best part? Dogs are welcome in many of the beautiful wineries' tasting rooms. Others have beautiful outdoor seating and grounds where dogs can relax by your side as you enjoy a glass of wine or two.
One of Southern California’s premier artisan wineries, Miramonte Winery specializes in Rhone-based wines. It is famous for its gorgeous garden verandas, contemporary-chic tasting room, and weekend live music events. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are allowed in the tasting room and on the patio.
Another one of our favorites is Thornton Winery. They're known for their incredible selection of champagne and award-winning, Café Champagne Restaurant. Our personal favorite beverage was Thornton Winery's sparkling red NV Cuvée Rouge.
Located between Wine Country and Old Town, Temecula’s Redhawk Dog Park is a part of the larger Redhawk Community Park, which includes baseball fields, BBQ pits, and picnic tables. It has three fenced-in areas for different-sized dogs: under 26 lbs, 26 to 45 lbs, and 45 lbs and up. There are dog water fountains and complimentary poop bags in each section. Puppies under 4 months old and female dogs in heat are not allowed.
Del Mar’s North Beach is located north of 29th Street and stretches nearly a half-mile to Solana Beach. Also known as Dog Beach, it has shallow sandbars and unpredictable currents, but it is protected from blustery winds and pounding waves. During the summer, dogs are required to be on-leash. They are allowed to be off-leash from the day after Labor Day through June 15.
For 5 months, Mike and I lived in a quaint beachside rental two blocks from Windansea Beach. It is located below Neptune Place in La Jolla, at the west end of Westbourne, Nautilus, and Bonair Streets. It is popular with surfers for its two-to-ten-foot waves and photographers for its breathtaking sandstone bluffs. The sunsets at Windansea are also absolutely gorgeous. Due to its popularity in the summertime, leashed dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. from November 1 to March 31. (Changes to 6 p.m. from April 1 through October 31.). Insider tip? Although dogs are supposed to be leashed at all times, neighborhood residents never abide by this rule and usually let their dogs run off leash in the off season.
Just 8 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Mission Trail Regional Park is the largest urban open-space park west of the Mississippi. Encompassing over 7,200 acres, it features 58 hiking trails, two lakes, a day-use campground, Old Mission Dam, and Cowles Mountain. Standing at 1,593 feet, Cowles Mountain is the highest point in San Diego. Dogs must be kept on a leash that is less than 8 feet long.
Most of San Diego’s Fiesta Island Dog Park is a leash-free zone, so your dog is free to romp through sand dunes or plunge into the calm bay water. A one-way loop road winds around the island, so you can pull over anywhere and let your dog off-leash. There is also a 60-acre fenced-in play area on the backside of the island beside SeaWorld. Fiesta Island Dog Park is open 24 hours a day but closes to vehicles from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Bring water, poop bags, and a beach umbrella for your dog.
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