Perfect outdoor spots entirely conducive to your canine

By Juliette Spirson

Like small children, bonsai trees and just about any surfer, dogs are simply happier if they get proper outside time. It’s a simple equation really, though one that can ultimately require a bit of know-now for navigating dog-friendly locations around the region.

Luckily for Peninsula residents, the area contains some spectacular spots for man’s — and less face it already, woman’s — best friend. From beaches to hillsides to hidden little lakes, these five destinations are must-hikes to explore with your favorite four-legged friend.

Pulgas Ridge

366 acres. Six miles of hiking trails. One huge off-leash dog area. Pulgas Ridge has all the right numbers.

In the hills of Redwood City, it’s a hilly but gentle walk, with just 300 feet of elevation. It still has incredible views though, shifting between tree-lined canyon paths and a ridged overview of its surroundings.

The off-leash area is over seventeen acres, and requires that you carry a leash and have voice control over your dog (like most dog parks that allow off-leash play). It’s a great place to rest up after a hike while letting your dog socialize. If they weren’t tuckered out from the walk, they’ll be totally pooped after playtime.

Redondo Beach

This vast but hidden gem in Half Moon Bay is one of the few beaches in the area that’s totally dog friendly.

It offers a two-in-one terrain, with lovely cliffside strolls as well as a soft-sanded gorgeous beach that’s equally beautiful on grey and sunny days. It’s the perfect place to walk with your dog, your friends, your family — or alone! You may want to avoid bringing Grandma, though, as it’s difficult to climb down the cliffs. An easier access point is located slightly south of Redondo at the Miramontes Point beach by the Ritz-Carlton.

With miles of dog-friendly walking, Redondo Beach is a great place to spend the day. It even has tide pools (when the tide is low), so little ones will love exploring. Look out for barnacles, sea anemones, shore crabs, and beautiful sea stars! Like most beaches, trash cans are few and far between, so be prepared to walk your poop bags back off the beach.

Fremont Older Open Space

Keep your dog on the leash at the Fremont Open Preserve — not only are those the rules, but with 739 acres, the Preserve is far too large to start chasing down doggies. Named for historic San Francisco news editor Fremont Older, the property includes Older’s home — Woodhills — which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It truly is a walk through history, with the natural landscape close to how it has always been, untouched but for the biking and hiking trails.

Fourteen miles of trails include Maisie’s Peak, the highest peak in the preserve, and Hunter’s Point. With trails and long stretches of flat space, you’ll get a cardio workout without any unnecessary strain. The view of the South Peninsula is expansive, and each new twist and turn offers a new opportunity to scan the horizon.

Water Dog Lake Park

Water Dog Lake Park is the ultimate hot day doggy pitstop.

An easy hike into a small canyon leads you out into an idyllic little area, complete with a small, cool lake to swim around in. There’s nothing cuter than a gaggle of pups all splashing and playing together in the water on a hot Bay day. Bring a blanket and a picnic and you’re bound to hike into a beautiful day!

Definitely keep a beach towel (or something you don’t mind getting a little dirty) in the car so you can scrub down the pup before heading home. The full trail is just two-and-a-quarter miles, so it’s easy in and easy out at the end of a fun-filled day. Yet beware of accidentally circling the lake instead of heading back to the exits: it’s best to retrace your steps to avoid this easily made mistake.

Sweeney Ridge

Sweeney Ridge is a unique kind of hike. The majority of its uphill climb is paved, all the way up to the top of the San Bruno hills, where it branches into trails. This makes it a combination of easy terrain and punishing climb.

From the parking lot at the foot of the hills, its uphill swing is slow and steady; not particularly difficult but long enough to build into your muscles over the long trek to the top. Keep your pup on-leash and get ready to climb!

The view from the top is incredible, but that’s not the highlight. There are two separate points of interest worth hiking toward atop Sweeney Ridge. One is the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, the estimated location from which Portola’s missionary expedition first laid eyes on the San Francisco Bay. For young kids learning California history, it’s a great stop to bring history to life.

For those more interested in modern history, there’s also a run-down, brightly-graffitied SF-51C Nike missile control facility. It’s an equally fascinating piece of Bay Area history, that makes Sweeney Ridge into a unique kind of museum on a hill.

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THE SIX FIFTY staff

Sometimes our work is a collaborative effort, hence the "staff" byline. The best of what to eat, see and do on the SF Peninsula.

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