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Holiday Hikes with Dogs and Friends

Do you have visitors coming to town this December? Want to show them the amazing Bay Area and give your dog the gift of great exercise? Liz Williams, an East Bay dog walker, has compiled a list of amazing parks and places to take your out-of-towners and Rover too. This list is for the East Bay and San Francisco, but keep your eyes on future issues for great hikes in Marin and the South Bay. Enjoy.

East Bay

1. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline
For a beautiful view that looks west over the Bay and a whole bunch of doggy-socializing, try Point Isabel. A large off-leash shoreline dog park on the Bay with access to some small rocky beaches and a channel, Point Isabel is part of the San Francisco Bay Trail. It’s very popular on weekends, and great for dog (and people) watching. There’s a water and “washing station” (hoses) for dogs, and there is even a little dog-friendly café near one of the main parking lots. Dogs allowed off-leash under voice control.

2. Redwood Regional Park: West Ridge-Tres Sendas-French Loop
This is my favorite dog-friendly East Bay redwood hike. Park at the Skyline Staging Area and follow the West Ridge Trail to the right. There are nice views looking east. After about a mile, turn left on the Tres Sendas Trail, and follow it down into the redwoods. At the trail junction, turn left on the French Trail and follow it up back to the West Ridge Trail (there are some steep sections). Make a right on West Ridge and follow it back to the parking lot for a total loop of about 2.5 miles. There are water fountains and bathrooms at the parking lot. Dogs are permitted off-leash. Your out-of-towners will be ready to move to the Bay Area in a heartbeat.

3. Strawberry Canyon
Strawberry Canyon is tucked away behind Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. Follow Centennial Drive a short distance past the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Center to the gravel parking lot on the right. Park there and hike up the fire road that gradually climbs up quiet, wooded Strawberry Canyon. Turn around whenever you are ready and enjoy the views of the bay on your way down. There are no facilities at the trailhead. Dogs permitted off leash.

4. Wildcat Canyon
Wildcat is a beautiful regional park that is less visited than some of the others. Park at the Alvarado Staging Area in Richmond. I like to follow the Wildcat Creek Trail out and back for a hike of a few miles total. Along the trail there is nice open parkland and views into secluded Wildcat Canyon. It makes for a peaceful and quiet hike. Dogs permitted off leash.

5. Leona Canyon
A beautiful wooded canyon near Merritt College that is very popular with dogs walkers, joggers, and hikers. Park at the staging area on Campus Drive off Keller Avenue east of Interstate 580 in Oakland. Follow the Leona Canyon trail all the way out and back for about 3 miles total, or follow one of the two other side trails. Dogs permitted off leash. There are no facilities at the trailhead.

6. Mountain View Cemetery
Mountain View Cemetery is my all-time favorite on-leash place to take dogs in the city. Located at the top of Piedmont Avenue, this huge cemetery is open to the public and is a great mid-day respite from the hustle and bustle. Choose one of the many roads winding through the park, and make sure to check out the amazing views of Oakland and across the bay to San Francisco. It’s also a nice spot for a picnic.

7. Lake Merritt
A walk around Lake Merritt is a must-do for out of towners looking for a taste of what makes Oakland so special. Take your pups on leash and enjoy watching walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, picnickers, athletes, and more against the backdrop of the lake and downtown Oakland. Stop for a picnic on one of the grassy areas—just make sure to avoid the goose poop!

San Francisco
Be sure to check the GGNRA dog restrictions page before heading out. The GGNRA has plans to further restrict off-leash access despite much public outcry, but as of press time, we await the final report:

1. Crissy Field
A very popular ocean front park that features great views of the city, the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. There is a beach, a nice, long promenade for walking (and people watching) and a large grassy area perfect for picnic or watching the sunset. Dogs are permitted off leash except at the west end of Crissy Field Beach, which is a wildlife protection area.

2. Lands End
On a clear winter day, this a gorgeous trail along the coast on the northwest edge of the city, with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate bridge, and across to the Marin Headlands. Park at the Lands End Overlook and hike north along the coastal trail. Make sure to check out the Sutro Bath ruins below. The trail follows a bluff above the ocean and is about two to the Eagle’s Point Overlook for a four mile total hike. Dogs need to be on a leash, but your friends and family will be blown-away by the views.

3. Baker Beach
A beautiful city beach, just south of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Outer Richmond with easy access through the Presidio. Great views west to the Golden Gate Bridge, and a perfect sunset spot. Swim at your own risk, because the waves and currents are strong. Dogs are allowed off leash north of Lobos Creek. Note: the north end of the beach is clothing optional.

4. Fort Funston
Looking for cliffs, coast, a long strip of beach, and fun for the pups? Fort Funston is dog heaven. Located in the southwest corner of San Francisco, this is a protected area with trails through trees, windy cliffs, and tons of ice plant. On any given Saturday, you may see hang gliders, kite-surfers, and a parrot trainer enjoying this amazing park. Definitely check the GGNRA website on this one as it is on the list for potential restrictions. As of now, however, it’s a fantastic off-leash play yard for dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Here are A couple of websites to check out: lists some additional places of interest.
Dog-friendly restaurants, hotels etc. in San Francisco are highlighted at the has some hiking information:

Liz Williams is the owner of High Tail Hikes in Oakland. High Tail Hikes offers off leash group hikes, dog walking, and pet sitting in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Piedmont. Find out more at Williams is a dog*tec certified dog walker, and a Bay Area native.

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