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, the trails at Hood Mountain, Taylor Mountain, Foothill, and Helen Putnam are all dog-friendly and can range from easy to challenging.
If you're in the mood for a seaside adventure, dogs are welcome at all the regional parks along the Sonoma Coast, including Doran, Pinnacle Gulch, Stillwater Cove, The Sea Ranch and Gualala Point.
If you're looking for a paved trail, you and your pet can walk at Spring Lake, Sonoma Valley or Cloverdale River Park.
Trail Etiquette for Dog Owners
We know it's tempting to let your dogs run free, especially on remote trails, but please keep your dogs leashed. The leash rule keeps both dogs and hikers safe. No one likes to see an unfamiliar dog running toward them, and unleashed dogs meeting on the trail can be difficult to control. Plus, unleashed dogs might disturb or be harmed by wildlife. Being on-leash is especially important at Taylor Mountain, where cattle graze along trails.
Keep dogs out of ponds, creeks, and oceans, especially when winter currents are swift and waves are powerful. Many dogs love to swim, but an off-leash dip can turn dangerous when conditions and potential 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 don't forget to 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, so make tick-bite prevention a regular part of your hiking routine. Here's a helpful article about how to get a tick off a dog.
Take advantage of off-leash opportunities
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.
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.
(Note: Dogs are not allowed on trails at Shiloh Ranch and North Sonoma Mountain regional parks.)
Get your parks membership and plan your visit