PAWsome Adventures: 5 Dog-Friendly Walks to Explore in San Diego

Nicolette and Bodie at Cardiff State Beach by Jussi Oksanen…

Sunshine. Beaches. World-class taco stands. We’re just going to come right out and say it: San Diego is a darn good place to be. And you don’t have to look far to see that it’s an extremely dog-friendly place to be too! From bring-your-dog breweries to shopping malls that happily welcome your pup, San Diego is a dog owner’s haven. And with everything from open beaches to challenging hiking trails, there are plenty of places to walk your dog too in “America’s finest city.” The following are some of our faves.


(Highway 101, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007)

Situated in North county San Diego, Cardiff State Beach might be a top surf destination thanks to its rocky reef, but we are even bigger fans of this easily-accessible stretch of sand because it is dog friendly. You can walk all the way to Solana Beach (dogs are allowed as far as Fletcher Cove), as long as you keep your dog on a leash. We recommend checking the tides and heading down there during low tide when there is plenty of beach to walk on and incredible tide pools to explore on the south end of the beach.

Spleash tip: Don’t forget to pay for parking if you park in the beach parking lot

The pond at Balboa Park…


(1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA, US, 92101)

If you’re notyet familiar with Balboa Park, make sure you put it on your must-see list for your next trip to San Diego. This sprawling, 1000 acre park features the famous San Diego Zoo, plenty of museums, theaters, restaurants and more. It also offers seemingly endless walking paths through its open spaces and gardens (which are pup friendly, as long as you keep him on a leash). And when your favorite canine pal just has to run free, you can head over to the two designated off-leash areas for dogs at El Prado on the south side of Cabrillo Bridge and Morley Field located northwest of the tennis courts. 

Spleash tip: Make sure to go eat at one of the dog-friendly restaurants nearby (with outdoor seating for you and your dog) such as Farmer’s Bottega Restaurant or Station Tavern and Burgers.

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve…


(8833 Harmony Grove Rd, Escondido, CA 92029)

Put your hiking boots on baby, because you’ve got some ground to cover here. With plenty of trails to embark on and mountain views at the top of the climbs, Elfin Forest in Olivenhain delivers the perfect mix of San Diego’s natural habitat. And if you head there on a weekday, you get the added bonus of letting your dog off-leash on some of the higher trails. Just get to the top of the Way Up Trail before letting them run free (and keep your Spleash handy in case you need to “spray” any over-enthusiastic dogs heading a little too aggressively in your direction!)

Spleash tip: Check the Elfin Forest website before heading out to double check the trails are open.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve…


(12020 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92129)

Your water-loving dog is going to love this walk. Tucked away near Poway, the trails here offer the chance for your pup to cool off in the flowing creek. There’s even a cascading waterfall at one point for you both to enjoy. And just watch her nose go crazy as she picks up on the scent of all the creatures that inhabit the canyon. The terrain is pretty gentle, and you can embark on anything from a three to a seven mile hike. As always, remember to take plenty of water for both you and your dog. But if you filled your Spleash before heading out, that just leaves you to worry about.

Spleash tip: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes chilling in the sun. They’ll mind their own business if you give them a wide berth!

Mount Laguna, sunset over Cuyamaca Peak…


(Mount Laguna, California 91948)

Laguna Mountain offers the uniquely San Diegan experience of starting out in a desert environment and ending up in a mountaintop forest. A mere 40 minutes from downtown San Diego (so you can hike in the morning and head to your favorite dog-friendly brewery for a lunchtime beer), you’ll find yourself walking through dense forest, meadows, lakes, and more. And the views -- of the Pacific Ocean in the west to mountains in the East -- are well worth the effort. 

Spleash tip: If it’s hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. If you notice them panting a lot, spray some water from your Spleash directly onto the back of their neck and their paws for an instant cool down, and always check temps before leaving.

By Zoe Oksanen


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