There's nothing like going on a hike with your best friend. And if your best friend happens to be a dog, no worries: The Regional Parks are the most pet-friendly in Sonoma County.
Dogs on leash are welcome at nearly all of Sonoma County's 56 regional parks, trails, and beaches. In fact, because most of the area's state parks don't allow dogs on trails, the Regional Parks are the North Bay's best destinations for hiking with your pet.
For a hike in the woods, trails at Hood Mountain and Taylor Mountain in Santa Rosa, Foothill and Riverfront near Windsor, and Helen Putnam in Petaluma are all dog-friendly and range from easy to challenging.
If you're in the mood for a seaside adventure, dogs are welcome at all regional parks along the Sonoma Coast, including Doran, Pinnacle Gulch, Stillwater Cove, The Sea Ranch Coastal Access Trails and Gualala Point.
If you're looking for a paved trail, you and your pet can walk at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley in Glen Ellen or Cloverdale River Park. These paved paths are great options when heading out with both the dog and young children.
You're always welcome to let your dog off leash within the enclosed dog parks at Ragle Ranch, Sonoma Valley and Ernie Smith parks.
The lagoon at Spring Lake turns into an off-leash swim zone and dog playground for several weekends each September. Details about these "Water Bark" events are posted on Regional Parks' activities calendar in late summer. Parks members get discounted admission.
At Doran Beach, a small section of the shore along the harbor is sometimes open to off-leash romping at low tide. Inquire at the entry kiosk.
Trail etiquette for dog owners
- We know it's tempting to let your dog run free, especially on remote trails, but please keep your dog leashed. No one likes to encounter an unfamiliar dog running toward them, and unleashed dogs can disturb or be harmed by wildlife. Being on-leash is especially important at Taylor Mountain, where cattle graze along trails.
- Keep dogs out of creeks, rivers, and oceans, especially when currents are swift or waves are powerful. Many dogs love to swim, but an off-leash dip can turn dangerous when conditions and hazards are unknown.
- This one is obvious, but it bears repeating: Please pick up after your pet. If you happen to be out of waste bags, most trailheads have dispensers with free bags.
Keep your pet's comfort in mind
- Many trails lack drinking water, so carry enough water for you and your pet - even in winter - and bring a portable bowl.
- Consider trail difficulty and weather conditions before choosing a hiking route. Trail maps are available for download on individual park pages.
- Check your dog (and yourself) for ticks afterward. Ticks are a reality in North Bay parks. Here's a helpful article about how to get a tick off a dog.
Hiking with your dog is a sure way to witness pure joy. The gait will be bouncy, the tail will be whipping, and the glances up at you will be filled with gratitude. Get your parks membership and plan your visit.
Note: Dogs are not allowed on trails at Shiloh Ranch and North Sonoma Mountain regional parks. This blog was originally published in 2017.