17 Pup Popular Beaches in California

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California is a well-known western US state on the Pacific Ocean. It boasts almost 40 million residents and is the most populated state in the United States. Not only is California known for its beaches, but it is also popular because of its warm weather all year long. Another thing that makes it so well-known is that it is the home of Hollywood, where the largest and oldest film industry happens to be. And with Hollywood comes fame, so it is home to many of the rich and famous. 

The state is also where many important inventions were made, including skateboards, diners, the internet, and personal computers. Even the fortune cookie was invented in California! But what is most important to many is the beaches. With over 400 beaches along 840 miles of coast, residents and visitors can take advantage of the wonderful weather. But sometimes, finding the best dog-friendly beaches can be difficult. We listed 17 of our favorite dog beaches in California here for you to try. 

Tolowan Dunes State Park Beach

In the far northwestern corner of California, Tolowan Dunes State Park has a wonderful dog-friendly beach between Pacific Shores and Crescent City. This 4,000-acre recreational space features dunes, forests, rivers, and freshwater lakes, as well as the Pacific Ocean. The park was named after the Indian tribe that lived in the area until the 1850s. As long as you keep your pup on a leash, he can join you on the beach. 

Besides the stunning sandy oceanside, you can also find some great waterfront play areas for your dog around Lake Earl, the Smith River, and the Yontocket Slough as well as many other ponds and creeks throughout the park. Although your pooch is not allowed on many of the trails, there are a few that he can enjoy. If you like to fish, bring your gear and your California fishing license and try your luck at the salmon and steelhead trout in Smith River and Lake Earl.   

Samoa Dunes Recreation Area and Off-Leash Beach

About two hours south but still in northern California, Samoa Dunes Recreation Area is another sandy pet paradise that pup parents love to play in too. This place is surrounded by water with the ocean to the west, South Bay to the south, Humbolt Bay to the east, and Arcata Bay to the north. After the 4,000 acres of the Tolowan Dunes State Park, this 300-acre park may seem small. But who cares? Dogs can be off-leash here!

The main beach area, Samoa Beach, is right in the middle of the jetty, with the Pacific on one side and the bay on the other. Be sure to bring along some beach toys, a ball for fetch, and a frisbee to toss around. Without being tethered to a leash, you can do anything! Pack a lunch and some drinks, along with plenty of puppy poo bags to pick up after your pup and get to the beach!

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Beach

Just over 100 miles to the south on the coast, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is part of the southern section of the Lost Coast, which is a rugged and wild area between the King Range National Conservation Area and Highway 1 in Rockport. This 10-mile stretch of sand includes over 7,200 acres of forests and 60 miles of trails. And as long as you keep your pup on a leash at all times, he can join you anywhere except on some of the more rugged trails. 

Although there are many beaches along the coast, it never really gets hot enough for humans to swim but your pooch will love getting his paws wet and splashing in the ocean. Being such a wild area, you will see many different wild creatures, including elk, sea lions, seals, deer, and maybe even bears. Keep your distance and keep your pup on a short leash. Also, watch for whales off the coast during the winter months. 

Cooks Beach

Also known as Glennen Beach or Bourns Landing, Cooks Beach is a beautiful sandy beach about 150 miles south of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, located just past Anchor Bay. It has its own little unnamed cove that protects it from most of the wind, but the waves can be pretty rough sometimes, so keep your pooch on a leash and in the shallows. Like the other beaches in northern California, it hardly ever gets over 75 degrees F, so your fur baby will probably be the only one getting in the water. 

In the back of the beach where the Glennen Gulch Creek flows, you will find lots of tide pools filled with fascinating marine creatures like crabs, snails, anemones, and starfish. You can even find a small cave in one corner of the sand. However, there are no restrooms, water, or other amenities, so pack your own water and plenty of doggie bags. 

Russian Gulch State Beach 

On the Sonoma Coastline, about an hour down the sand, Russian Gulch State Beach is just north of Bodega Bay at the end of the Sonoma Coast State Beach. The dog-friendly beach is made up of millions of gorgeous pebbles of all colors and shapes – the perfect spot for rockhounds! One popular feature here is the cave called the Devil’s Punchbowl at the back of the beach. It is about 60 feet deep and very dangerous, which is why it has such a foreboding name. 

It also has a stunning waterfall to visit if you feel like walking. Just take the four-mile Russian Gulch Waterfall Loop Trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water and puppy poo bags. You will often see gray whales from the upper section of the park from November through April. If you plan to get into the water with your pup, be prepared. Not only is it cold, but it is also rather dangerous with riptides and high waves. 

Sutter’s Landing Regional Park

The most important thing to know about Sutter’s Landing Regional Park is the huge dog park where your fur buddy can play off the leash. Also, it is not on the ocean. Instead, you will be traveling inland to the east about 130 miles to visit this great place that memorializes Captain John Sutter, who settled here in 1839. The main park has 167 acres with several gardens, basketball, and bocce ball courts, a skate park, hiking, and restrooms for public use. 

The large dog park has several acres with a separate section for small and shy dogs, an agility course with ramps, jumps, and tunnels to run through, and a water play area where your fur puppy can swim with the other dogs with no leash holding him back. Bring water toys and your pup’s favorite ball for extra fun, and pack your own poop bags because they do not supply them here. 

Goat Rock State Beach

Head back to the coast about 120 miles to get to Goat Rock State Beach in the Sonoma Coast State Park, where you will find 17+ miles of clean golden sand along the ocean with some incredible rock formations. The park itself boasts more than 5,600 acres with several parks, beaches, and trails to explore with your fur buddy. All beaches allow pups except for Pomo Canyon and Willow Creek. However, he has to be on a leash in most areas. 

In the northwestern end of the beach, the Russian River joins the Pacific Ocean. This area is popular with families because of the shallow water in the riverbed here. It is also perfect for curious pups that love splashing around in the water. But the main attraction here is the Goat Rock, which some say looks like a goat. It is about 2,200 feet high, and although you cannot climb it, you can get some great selfies here.

Dillon Beach

On the southern end of Bodega Bay, about 30 miles south of Goat Rock Beach, Dillon Beach is proud to allow pups to play off the leash as long as they are friendly and voice-controlled. Although it is part of Dillon Beach Resort, the beach is open to the public as long as you pay a $10 parking fee. There is a private section that is only open to guests of the resort, but the rest of the beach is open to off-leash pups and pup parents. 

Most tourists do not come to this beach because of its location (they think it is private), so it is often empty aside from local surfers and dog lovers. One of the best parts of this beach is Lawson’s Landing store, gift shop, and cafe. You can grab some necessities, souvenirs, and lunch all in one spot that is dog-friendly. Just be sure to ask permission before bringing your canine companion inside.

Kehoe Beach

Right across the Tomales Bay, Kehoe Beach is not far from Dillon Beach on the Point Reyes National Seashore. In fact, anywhere north of the Kehoe Beach Trail, your canine companion is welcome to run around and splash on the ocean side as well as the Tomales Bay side. Although there are some spots your pup is not allowed, these beaches here are not on that list! And he can be off the leash in some of these places. 

Also, on the southern end of Point Reyes National Shoreline, Santa Maria and Limantour Beaches have pup popular beaches along Drakes Bay, and Point Reyes Beach has a long stretch of dog-friendly beach on the ocean. Just make sure he is on a leash at all times, and watch out for rogue waves. Always bring puppy poo bags to pick up after him and keep him away from the wildlife, especially in the marked snowy plover areas.

McLaughlin Eastshore State Seashore

Time to head to San Francisco, where the weather is a little bit warmer, and beaches are more popular to humans as well as dogs. The McLaughlin Eastshore State Seashore includes almost nine miles of shoreline in the San Francisco Bay from Marina Bay to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park across from Treasure Island, which is also dog-friendly. That is 1,855 acres of uplands, tidelands, shorelines, and parks. The first one, Marina Bay Park, is a small 11-acre space with picnic areas, a beach, and restrooms. 

Then, there is the Point Isabel Dog Park, with 23 acres of space for your pup to run off the leash. Albany Beach and the Albany Bulb are also popular with the pups. The Cesar E. Chavez Park is a 90-acre space where all friendly voice-controlled canines are allowed to be off their leashes. It is one of the largest off-leash dog areas in the state, so don’t skip this one!

Carmel City Beach

About two hours to the south, just past Monterey Bay, Carmel City Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea gives pet parents the opportunity to let their fur baby off the leash for a while. You can let your canine companion run around on the sand, play in the surf, and even toss around a ball or frisbee. Swimming and playing without a leash is so much more fun for you and your pooch! At the bottom of Ocean Avenue, this white sand beach is known as one of the top beaches in California. 

Letting your dog play off the leash does not mean he can run amok. He has to be voice controlled for his safety as well as others on the beach. And if he is not a good swimmer, it is best to keep him leashed when in the water. A doggie life vest cannot hurt, either. They have Mutt Mitt dispensers, but bringing your own is recommended anyway. You will want to get there early too, because this is a popular spot with the locals and visitors.

Morro Bay State Park

Keep going south, and you will find Morro Bay State Park in southern California, where the weather is almost always 80 degrees F and sunny. Right between Cambria and Pismo Beach, this popular park has all the activities and amenities you can ever want. From camping to sailing, you can do it all here, and your pup can join you as long as he is on a leash at all times. If you want to stay longer, book a campsite. But book early because they only have 120 sites, and it is a popular place. 

There is even food service if you get hungry and showers so you and your pooch can get rid of all the sand and saltwater before getting back in the car. Oh yeah! Do not miss the leash-free dog park right next door. Morro Bay Dog Beach, also known as Toro Creek Dog Beach, is awesome, and your dog will love being let off the leash to swim and play for a while.

Shoreline Park Beach

Another 100 miles to the south in Santa Barbara, Shoreline Park is a fantastic place to play the day away with your fur puppy because it has a huge sandy space where your dog can swim without being hooked to a leash. The long beach is just down the steps from the cliffside Shoreline Park where you can also play and have a picnic. But up in the park, your pup needs a leash. On the beach, he is free to roam!

Like other parks, if your canine companion is not voice controlled, you should keep his leash on anyway for his safety as well as others. You do not want him running out to sea or bothering the other beachgoers. And keep him in the shallows because the surf gets pretty rough sometimes. Bring a lunch and pack plenty of doggie cleanup baggies to pick up after your pup so you can stay all day. 

Leadbetter Beach

Stick around because right next to Shoreline Park, Leadbetter Beach is not one to pass up. With almost 18 acres of soft white sand, you and your furry friend can stretch out and enjoy a day on the beach without feeling crowded, no matter how many people are there. And, you do not have to worry about packing food because the park has a cafe where you and your fur puppy can have a meal at one of the beachfront tables with a stunning view of the water. 

During the busy season, there is a lifeguard on duty, but all other times you will be swimming at your own risk, so be sure to check the water conditions before diving in. Other fun activities here include surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing. Just keep your buddy on a leash and bring puppy poo bags to pick up anything he drops while you are there. 

Rosie’s Dog Beach

Two hours to the south, just past Long Beach, Rosie’s Dog Beach on Ocean Boulevard loves dogs. No need for a leash here unless your pup is not voice controlled. Although there is no official “dog beach” signs, locals and law enforcement knows that this area is for off-leash dogs from 6 AM until 8 PM every day of the week. You will not find any fences here, though, so use caution while you are there because it gets crowded. 

The 3-acre dog beach does have a decent-sized parking lot with metered parking, so be prepared for that because they only take debit or credit cards. Also, they have Mutt Mitt dispensers, but it cannot hurt to bring your own, just in case. There is a pooper scooper you can use as well, which makes picking up after your pup much easier. Bring a ball, a frisbee, and some lunch so you can stay all day!

Huntington Dog Beach

One of the most popular dog beaches in southern California is Huntington Dog Beach. In fact, the local pup parents claim it as Doggie Heaven. You will find it between Huntington City Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach, and it has over a mile of beachfront space to enjoy, leash-free. Besides all the clean and soft sand, blue waters, and sunshine, you and your pup can enjoy playing a game of fetch here since he is not held back by a leash. Bring some balls and toys along with your doggie bags. 

There are restrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables for use on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want to have a meal, get there early. Parking is metered and only takes plastic, like Rosie’s Dog Beach. And if you forgot to bring food, Dwight’s Concessions is just a few feet from Huntington Beach Pier. It is the oldest business in town and is famous for its cheese strips. They also rent beach gear and bikes. 

Coronado Dog Beach

About 100 miles to the south in San Diego, another fun place for your canine companion is Coronado Dog Beach. Right on San Diego Bay, there is a long stretch of sand perfect for you and your pup to sunbathe and swim no leashes needed. The park here is also known as Mathewson or Pomona Park, so you may see it referred to as one of those. But make no mistake, this beautiful beach by North Island Naval Station is a pup’s paradise. 

Romping and running in the waves and on the sand all day can make your pup hungry, so bring a lunch or snacks. If you forgot, there are several eating establishments on the southern end of the beach, including Sun Deck, Beach & Taco Shack, and ENO Market & Pizzeria. Before heading back to the car, you and your canine compadre can take a shower to wash off the sand before putting his leash back on.

The Final Woof

If your pooch needs a more thorough cleaning, take him to Wag‘N Tails, where they will give you all you need to get your pup clean, including shampoo, conditioner, towels, brushes, and even a blow dryer. For a more exciting adventure, water-loving dogs will enjoy a day on the river at Truckee River Rafting in Tahoe City. Take a self-guided rafting tour on five miles of the Truckee River. They allow dogs up to 50 pounds. Or you can take your fur puppy on a bigger boat to see some whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures. Monterey Bay Whale Watch has 20 years of experience, so they know where to go and allow pups on a leash!

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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