California Dog-Friendly Travel Guide

california dog-friendly travel guide - golden retriever looking out of car window driving on beachVacationing with your dog is a great bonding experience and makes exploring new territory a lot of fun. If you’re looking for sun, sand, surf, shopping, and good food with your pup, “The Golden State” is the place to go. Use this California dog-friendly travel guide to help you plan your trip:

15 Dog-Friendly Activities in California

Activities and attractions can make or break your trip. Not everywhere you stop will welcome your dog, so it’s important to make sure you have some dog-friendly activities in your trip plan. Here are some dog-friendly activities in California to consider for your trip if your travels will bring you nearby:

1. Fiesta Island

One of the largest off-leash parks around, Fiesta Island boasts ample room to run around. Covered with sandy dunes that are surrounded by a shallow bay, you can take your pup for a jog, a run, or a quick dip.

It’s located in San Diego within Mission Bay. So, if Southern California is your destination, this popular peninsula park is certainly worth the visit. Plus, your dog is welcome on or off the leash. Just make sure they are good with other dogs and other animals as the island is also friendly to horses.

2. Mount Hollywood Trail

This city-owned trail takes you on a beautiful tour through the Santa Monica Mountains. As you meander along your way, you’ll see stunning views of such attractions as the Hollywood Sign and the Los Angeles Basin.

Mount Hollywood Trail is a loop trail that is 5.3 miles long with a few moderately challenging inclines. It doesn’t summit the peak, but you’ll still see some great scenic views. Pups are allowed, but they are required to be on a leash at all times. There are also a lot of other trails nearby if you want something easier or shorter.

Also, this is a popular trail so it can get busy during the peak travel season or during nice weather. Keep an eye on the temperatures and plan your hike accordingly; this trail does not have much shade available, so you will want to keep that in mind for your dog. You’ll also want to bring along plenty of water for you and your pooch.

3. Alpine Pedal Path

Located in Big Bear Lake, Alpine Pedal Path is a beautiful hiking and biking path. Although the trail is free to use, you will need an adventure pass in your vehicle when using the Forest for recreational purposes. This scenic trail connects a variety of lakes and beaches, many of which are dog-friendly!

At 5.2 miles out and back, the Alpine Pedal Path can be a great choice for a long walk with your pup. Your dog does have to be leashed at all times, but both of you will still have a great time unwinding as you explore this breathtaking scenery.

4. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a breathtaking freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It’s huge–in fact, it’s the largest lake in the United States outside of the Great Lakes. Lake Tahoe is a destination in winter as well as in summer. Aside from water sports and skiing, there is plenty of beautiful country to explore in the greater Lake Tahoe basin.

According to the National Forest Service, leashed dogs are welcome in much of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Although they aren’t allowed on designated swimming beaches, there are still places where your dog is welcome to enjoy the water.

Just be careful as the water is cold year-round and even dogs that are used to cold water can become incapacitated. There are plenty of safety tips for hiking, camping, or swimming with your dog, and the Forest Service also offers plenty of tips on how to take care of your pup while traveling.

5. Trees of Mystery and SkyTrail

If your travels bring you near Klamath, check out the Trees of Mystery. This is a bonafide tourist stop with giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues. There is also a Native American Museum, a gift shop, and various trails through the redwoods, including the Redwood Canopy Trail, which allows you to take an elevated stroll through the redwood forest.

You can also take the SkyTrail, which includes enclosed gondolas that run from the redwoods and up to a lookout. From the top, you can enjoy the beautiful wilderness, redwood forest, and oceanic views. Plus, your dog is welcome to join you everywhere as long as they are leashed and well-behaved, and you clean up after them.

6. Spanish Village Art Center

If you’re into art and your dog doesn’t mind tagging along while you look, the Spanish Village Art Center in San Diego could be the stop for you. These studios are located in Balboa Park and you are welcome to peruse the studio and work from photographers, sculptors, designers, painters, metalsmiths, and more. Plus, your dog is welcome to join you as you peruse art, talk to artists, purchase pieces for yourself, etc. as long as they are leashed and well-behaved.

7. SUP Pups

If you’re traveling around San Diego and you’ve always wanted to take your dog paddling, book a training session with SUP pups. This outfit allows you to book 1-hour private training sessions to teach you and your dogs the basics of paddleboarding.

SUP Pups provides the equipment and a certified SUP trainer. What makes this lesson unique is that it’s meant specifically to help get owners and their dogs accustomed to paddling out on the water. Plus, you get to learn and practice in a calm, no-wake channel.

It’s a great way to introduce your dog to paddling, even if you already have experience. Plus, your trainer will take videos and photos for you to capture those precious memories! Depending on when you go, you may even be able to link up with one of their community SUP Social Events.

8. Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruises

If you and your dog love being out on the water together and your travels bring you around San Francisco, consider a boat tour with Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruises. The one-hour Bay Cruise Adventure and “Escape from the Rock” tours allow dogs on board as long as they are well-behaved and remain leashed or in an approved carrier.

9. Roaring Camp Railroads

If your dog doesn’t mind the noise and smells and your travels take around Felton, consider taking a train trip with Roaring Camp Railroads. You and your leashed, well-behaved dog can take a train trip through the redwoods and up Bear Mountain on an authentic steam train from the 19th century. Along the way, you’ll see beautiful scenery and hear historical accounts and stories from the conductor.

10. Devils Postpile National Monument

If your travels take you to Mammoth Lakes, consider spending some time at Devils Postpile National Monument. Not only is your dog welcome to join you on trails and throughout the areas as long as they are leashed, but you can also hike to Rainbow Falls after you check out the Devils Postpile formation. Your dog is allowed on the shuttle buses with you, but they have to wear a muzzle while on the bus.

11. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

If you love nature and floral scenery and you’ll be traveling through Fort Bragg, spend some time exploring the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Your leashed dog is welcome to join you as you explore fern-covered canyons, formal gardens, pine forests, and coastal bluffs. The entire loop takes about an hour and a half, so you do want to check the weather, make sure it’s not too hot for your dog, and bring plenty of water along for your both.

12. OstrichLand USA

If you’re headed to Solvang and your dog can handle themselves around big birds, take some time to explore OstrichLand USA. As long as your dog is leashed and well-behaved, you both can hang out with about 50 emus and ostriches. You can even feed them from a bowl, and then check out the gift shop before you head to your next destination.

13. Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park

The Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is located in Mendocino and is dog–friendly. Your leashed dog is welcome to join you on the half-mile coastal trail to the historic lighthouse and is even allowed to join you inside once you get there.

The lighthouse was built in 1909 and there is a museum and gift shop. There is an unimproved trail out to the lighthouse that is about ¾-mile and is still an easy walk and a ½-mile paved trail that connects to the parking lot.

14. Eco Boat Rentals

If you’ll be spending some time in San Diego and you enjoy time on the water with your dog, book some boats from Eco Boat Rentals. You can choose from hydro-cycle boats and pedal kayaks to take out in San Deigo Bay.

Your dog is welcome to join you as long as they are leashed and you clean up after them. You can bring your own doggie life vest if you have one your dog is comfortable in or you can get one from Eco Boat Rentals; they have different sizes of life vests available for dogs.

15. Old Faithful Geyser of California

The Old Faithful Geyser of California is located in Calistoga. It is one of three “faithful” geysers in the world that get that moniker because they erupt reliably. This one erupts every 15 to 30 minutes. Your leashed dog is welcome to join you on the grounds, gardens, and trails of the museum, farm, and attraction.

6 Dog-Friendly Hotels in California

It can be difficult to find a play to stay on the fly, especially with your dog; not everywhere you go will be dog-friendly and even if it is, there may not be any dog-friendly rooms available. Because of this, it’s important to research your options ahead of time and book a room early to make sure you and your dog have a place to stay:

1. Riverside Campground And Cabins

Featuring spaces for tents, RVs, and cabins, Riverside Campground and Cabins lets you stay in the great outdoors with your pup. Located in Big Sur, you can enjoy access to a nearby river, trails, and pet-friendly beaches; all with your dog by your side.

Riverside allows up to two pets of any size, and potentially more if you contact them ahead of time. As with most lodging, additional pet fees do apply. Just make sure you follow safety tips and general etiquette for camping with your dog.

2. Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort also allows up to two pets of any size. Located in beautiful Santa Barbara, staying here puts you and your pup close to many of the area’s attractions, including some great local shopping. Bookings are available on their website, and an additional pet fee applies.

3. Carmel Valley Ranch

This luxury resort and spa has tons to see and do for the whole family, including your dog! Carmel Valley Ranch has a specialized menu to order from for your pup, and even includes a plush bed of their own. Bringing a pet with you to this resort requires an additional fee, but any size is allowed.

4. Fireside Lodge

If you’ll need to stay overnight in South Lake Tahoe, consider booking a room at the Fireside Lodge. Not only is this a bed & breakfast with great views, but it is also dog-friendly. Dogs of any size are welcome to join you for your stay.

There is an additional pet fee, which is $35 per dog and per night. As long as your dog is well-behaved when you are not around and you leave a contact number at the front desk, you can leave them unattended in your room. A pet relief area with waste stations is on the property and bowls, dog towels, pet covers, and treats are provided when you check-in.

5. Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta

If you’ll need to stay overnight in Santa Barbara, the Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta is dog-friendly. Up to two dogs up to 75 pounds are welcome to join you for your stay. There is an additional pet fee, which is $150 per stay. There is a pet relief area with waste stations on the property.

6. Blue Heron Cottages

Whether you are traveling with multiple dogs or not, Blue Heron Cottages is a dog-friendly option in San Diego. There are six cottages on the grounds and all of them are dog-friendly.

Up to four dogs of any size or breed are welcome to join you for your stay for an additional pet fee of $25 per stay. For another $25 per stay, up to an additional four more dogs are welcome to join you. All of the cottages have access to a large enclosed courtyard where your dog can run free. There’s a lawn and a utility sink with towels and waste bags provided.

Although quiet and well-behaved dogs can be left unattended in your cottage, you cannot leave your dogs unattended in the courtyard. Also, Dog Beach is about a mile away if you want to take your dog to the beach.

9 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in California

When you’re traveling, eating out is usually a given. But, it can be difficult to find a restaurant on your journeys where both you and your pup can sit and relax to grab a bite to eat. If your travels bring you nearby around a mealtime, consider eating at one of these dog-friendly restaurants in California:

1. Forge In The Forest

Located in Carmel, Forge in the Forest provides a unique mix of gourmet bistro-style dishes, beautiful outdoor seating, and an overall unique dining experience. Besides being dog-friendly, they also offer a special menu just for your canine. This is a restaurant where you and your dog can truly eat together.

2. Lazy Dog Cafe

A cafe themed around canines, the Lazy Dog Cafe hosts a variety of hearty staples including pot roast and ribs. Their dog-friendly seating makes this a great place to come and relax with your pup.

They even have a menu with options specifically for your dog! And, since it is a popular franchise, especially in California, you have plenty of locations available, no matter where you are in the state.

3. Top Dog Coffee Bar

The Top Dog Coffee Bar is a great dog-friendly place located in Morro Bay. Not only are part of the proceeds donated to help dogs, but your dog is welcome to join you in or out.

They have seating inside in addition to some sidewalk tables in the front and a garden patio in the back. On top of espresso, micro-roasted coffee, and other beverages, you can also get paninis, bagels, breakfast burritos, and more.

4. Pacific Beach Fish Shop

If you’re in San Diego and a fan of seafood, consider stopping by the Pacific Beach Fish Shop for some of the “freshest seafood East of the beach”. This restaurant serves up fresh fish and seafood daily with your choice of marinade and preparation style for the fish. Plus, they have a large outdoor area where your dog is welcome to join you with a bowl of water and a treat or two.

5. Daybreak Island Grill

If you’re in San Diego for breakfast or lunch, consider taking a break and grabbing some food at the Daybreak Island Grill. With a Hawaiian–inspired menu, you can explore Luau Pancakes, Loco Moco, Banana Bread French Toasts, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, Kalua Pulled Pork, burgers, sandwiches, and more. Plus, your dog is welcome to join you at one of its outdoor tables and can even enjoy a doggy meal from the restaurant!

6. Napa General Store Restaurant

If you’ll be exploring Napa with your dog, consider grabbing a bite to eat at the Napa General Store Restaurant. Their menu features American classics like Tuscan pizza, New England clam chowder, Chinese chicken salad, fish tacos, and more.

Your leashed dog is welcome to join you at the shaded outdoor patio tables. Plus, you can check out the attached store before you go to pick up dog treats, dog toys, or other dog supplies you need.

7. The Brewhouse Santa Barbara

If you’ll be in Santa Barbara and you and your dog are hungry, stop by The Brewhouse Santa Barbara for a meal. In addition to over 20 different ales and lagers, you can choose from a menu with a lot of options.

Local favorites include things like tiger prawns, Cobb salad, grilled bratwurst, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, tri-tip sandwiches, and more. Your dog is welcome to join you in the outdoor patio seating area. Plus, you can order them a meal of their own off of the special doggy menu!

8. Las Cambritas

If you love Mexican food and will be in Cambria around a mealtime, make sure you stop by Las Cambritas for some authentic scratch-kitchen Mexican cuisine. Local favorites include tequila steamed mussels, avocado egg rolls, chili relleno, carne asada, paella, enchiladas, tacos, jambalaya, and more. And, your dog is welcome to join you in their dog-friendly outdoor patio seating.

9. Abalonetti Bar & Grill

Abalonetti Bar & Grill is a local favorite in Monterey. Their menu features some standard salads, pizzas, steaks, sandwiches, and seafood. But, what they’re known for are specialty squid dishes.

You can try almost a dozen varieties of squid dishes at this bar and grill including an Abalonetti-exclusive Buffalo Calamari. Plus, they have comfortable outdoor tables where your dog can join you. You can even order a meal for your dog off of their dog menu!

Although this California dog-friendly travel guide is a good start, it definitely doesn’t cover everything. If you find somewhere else you want to go, just make sure it’s dog-friendly, or that you have a plan in place for your dog, before it makes it onto your trip plan.

If you’re headed somewhere else, check out the other dog-friendly travel guides available. Here’s to safe travels and wagging tails no matter where your adventures take you!