15 Dog-Friendly Beaches in San Francisco, CA, That Your Fur Baby Will Love

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Located in Northern California, where the sun is almost always shining, San Francisco is at the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula. Sandwiched between the North Pacific Ocean, San Pablo Bay,  and San Francisco Bay, it would be pretty difficult not to run into a beach no matter where you go in this waterfront city. The city is also known for its arts, culture, and entertainment venues, with Alcatraz Island, Treasure Island, and the Palace of Fine Arts, to name a few.

The city has 220 parks in San Francisco. The largest park in the area, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, covers over 82,000 acres and is one of the most popular parks in the US, seeing more than 13 million visitors per year. 

There are 26 major beaches in the city, and the most visited beaches include Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, and Funston Beach. Out of these 26, we found 15 that are dog-friendly to help you find your favorite. 

Crissy Field Beaches

Just to the east of the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field is a large park and is part of the 1,480-acre Presidio Park. You and your fur baby will love strolling along the promenade, playing in the sand, splashing in the surf, and tossing a ball around in the grassy field. The East Beach is the most popular with the pups and pup parents because it allows your dog to run and play off-leash. But be sure to bring your own doggie cleanup bags to pick up after him. 

Crissy Field South Beach is also fabulous, with a lot of clean golden sand and azure water to enjoy. Your dog is allowed to play on the beach and in the water, but he needs to stay on his leash. This is where you and your canine companion can walk on the promenade for a great view of the water and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. If you did not bring any food, don’t worry, you can get some at The Warming Hut, a store at the end of the promenade.   

Baker Beach

On the western side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach is also part of the Presidio. In a stunning space under the cliffs on the shoreline, this one-mile stretch of sand often has harbor porpoises playing in the water near the beach. But please do not feed them or let your pup get too close. It is a fine place to spend the day running around off-leash north of Lobos Creek, which is about  80% of the whole beach. 

Swimming out further than knee-deep is not recommended because of the rip currents, but you can also play in the sand, have a barbecue at one of the picnic areas, and take a walk on the part of the Coastal Trail up on the cliffs. If you go really far north, you may see more than you bargained for because the park is “clothing optional” up by Coyote Gulch. Be sure to take a walk up the Sand Ladder while you are there. 

Lands End Beach Off-Leash Dog Area

Although this area is not fenced, it is an off-leash dog beach where your pup is allowed to play off the leash. Just past Baker Beach and Presidio Park, you can take off his leash when you get to the Lands End Eagles Point and take him on the Lands End Trail all the way to the Sutro Baths and Point Lobos. The trail takes you on a winding trail with amazing views from the rocky cliffs above the water. 

You can also walk down to the water and splash around with your pup. One of the stairways is very steep and has 243 steps, so you may want to take another easier way to get down there. There are also some places where you may have to put the leash back on in certain areas, like the Sutro Baths, Lands End Lookout, and Camera Obscura. And be sure to bring doggie bags and extra water. 

Ocean Beach

Just past Lincoln Park and Mile Rock Beach, Ocean Beach is another dog-friendly beach where you can let him off the leash. Anywhere between Balboa Street and Lincoln Way, your pup can run and play free as a bird, so to speak. He is still allowed everywhere else on the beach but he will have to remain on a leash. Be sure to bring your own doggie poo bags to pick up after him. And make sure he does not chase the wildlife. 

This is a popular spot too, so expect crowds, especially during the weekends. You will see all sorts of water sports, like surfing and kite surfing, as well as fishing and wading in the shallows. The currents are often too rough to swim out far, so keep your pup on a leash when he is in the water. It can also be quite chilly here, even during the late spring and early summer. 

Fort Funston Beach

Head south past the San Francisco Zoo, and you will find Fort Funston Beach, which is also a leash-free beach for dogs that are voice-controlled. Similar to Ocean Beach, the bluffs here are incredible and have some excellent hiking trails. The beach is not an ideal place to swim, just like the others, because of the current and cool temperatures. However, your pup can splash around a bit as long as he stays close to the sand. 

Many of the locals come to Fort Funston Beach to fly kites or do some hang gliding because it is so windy. The beach is about a mile long, and you can find a variety of shells and interesting rocks along the sand. You will need to avoid the beach at high tide, so make sure you know the tide tables. At the southern end of the beach, there is a viewing platform that is perfect for watching the gliders. You may also see whales, dolphins, and porpoises playing in the water. 

Esplanade Beach

To the south of Fort Funston Beach and to the north of Pacifica State Beach, Esplanade Beach is an off-leash place for swimming, surfing, and hiking. However, there is no fence to keep your pup contained, so if he is not voice-controlled, you may want to keep him on a leash. Many of the locals can be found here on the weekends and in the evenings, but during the weekdays, you may just be the only ones there. 

Because of the secluded area and the two roped-off entrances, many people not familiar with the area think the beach is closed. But those entrances are roped off for safety due to erosion, and you and your dog can get in through a path from Esplanade Drive. You will have to walkways, but it is well worth the walk. Keep an eye on the tides, though, because the sand can get pretty small during high tide. 

Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar)

Also known as Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica State Beach happily welcomes dogs as long as they are on a leash. This state park is about 14 miles south of San Francisco and has more than 26 acres to explore with your canine companion. Although there are a few spots where you cannot take your pup, most of the park is dog-friendly, but you need to pick up after your pooch immediately and keep him leashed at all times. 

Take a walk along the hiking trails, get a pole and go fishing, or go ahead and get in the water. The current is not so bad here, and you will find a lot of people and their pups swimming here. It is also a popular spot for windsurfing, geocaching, and picnicking. If you did not bring your lunch, there is a concession stand as well as a Taco Bell where you can get some food. 

Rodeo Beach

Located across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, Rodeo Beach on Rodeo Cove is sandwiched between the ocean and Rodeo Lagoon. The pebble beach is protected by cliffs, so the surf is not as rough as most beaches in the area. As part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it allows dogs to visit as long as they are leashed or voice-controlled, so go ahead and grab your pup and head to Rodeo Beach.

The vibrant colors of the beach pebbles make this a unique spot, and you are likely to see many different types of rocks, from black agate to jade. These are beautiful, and it is tempting to collect some, but, unfortunately, it is against the law, so please leave them where they are so everyone can enjoy them. You can swim here but only in the ocean, not in the lagoon. Make sure you bring doggie waste bags to pick up after your pup and keep the beach clean.

Muir Beach

North of Rodeo Beach, this spot is popular with the locals for its famous views and the 450-foot bridge you cross from the parking lot to get there. It crosses over the Big Lagoon as well, which is a really neat place filled with wildlife. Your dog must be voice-controlled or leashed at all times while you are here, and you need to keep an eye on the waves. There is no lifeguard at this beach, so you should be careful and may need to put a life vest on your pup.

On the Coastal Trail and Kaashi Way, your pooch needs to be on a leash. Along these paths, you will also see a few base stations where soldiers used to watch for ships on the water. Some of the cliffs along the Rocky Point Coast are dangerous so be careful and keep Fido close. Also, cell phones are almost completely useless in the bluffs and along some trails so just be safe and let someone know where you are going. 

Stinson Beach

Just north of Muir Beach, Stinson Beach has two sections. One is owned by the county, and the other is a state park. Leashed pups are welcome on the county beach and in picnic areas but not in the state park section of the beach. This dog-friendly county beach section goes from Calle del Pinos north to Upton Beach, which is about one mile of pretty white sand and clear blue water. Stinson Beach is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is a popular place for locals and travelers. 

During the summer months, from Memorial Day until Labor Day, you can find a snack bar near the lifeguard station and restrooms in several spots along the beach. There is also a small shop called Stinson Beach Surf & Kayak where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and life vests, as well as bicycles and other needs. Looking for more food? Try Stinson Beach Breakers Cafe or Parkside Cafe, right there, just off the sand. 

Bolinas Beach

To the west of Stinson Beach, past Upton Beach, Bolinas Beach is a small public beach in Bolinas Bay. You will not find the typical crowds at this beach, nor will you find all the amenities the others offer, like restaurants and shops. What you will find here is the peace and quiet many of us seek to enjoy a day on the water with your fur buddy. Leashes are not required, so your canine companion can enjoy the sand and surf at his leisure. 

On the other side of the beach, you will find the Bolinas Lagoon with its diverse array of flora and fauna. You and your pup are welcome to explore the area but are not allowed in the water. For this part of the area, your canine companion will need to be leashed. Some of the animals you may encounter include harbor seals, egrets, and herons. Please do not disturb the wildlife or let your pup get too close. 

Albany Bulb Beach

Across San Francisco Bay, you and your fur buddy can have a fun day at the beach where your dog is allowed off his leash. There is an area designated just for leash-free fun, so make sure you put your pup back on his leash to explore other parts of the beach and park. Albany Beach is a special place with miles of trails, many of them dotted with art pieces such as sculptures and rock paintings. 

It is a nice place to get some awesome views of Angel Island, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Walk out onto the Albany Bulb to see the most art, like “Herons” and “The Cove.” It is also a fantastic waterfront spot where you can often see dolphins and other marine animals. Don’t miss “Mad Mark’s Castle” on the southwestern corner of the peninsula. But you probably just want to see it from the outside because it is dirty inside. 

Montara Beach

Montara State Beach is a popular dog-friendly destination to the south of Pacifica and just past McNee Ranch State Park. Your canine companion is welcome on the beach and in the water as long as you keep him on a leash no longer than six feet. Many of the locals visit this beach to fish or explore the tide pools. Others come here to surf, and the waves can be intense at times, so check the tides before heading to the beach if you plan to swim. 

Like McNee Ranch, you will not find a bunch of amenities here like you would at other state parks and beaches. It is an undeveloped area to allow visitors to view nature as it is, undisturbed. However, they do have chemical toilets and a few picnic tables and benches. You will need to bring some doggie bags from home to clean up anything your pup drops. 

McNee Ranch State Park

With 690 acres, you are not likely to get bored at McNee Ranch State Park. Not only does it have a stunning sandy beach on the ocean, but it also has Montara Mountain, which is part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range. It is the only undisturbed coastal mountain in the area. The park has plenty of picnic areas with dozens of picnic tables where you and your fur baby can stop for a snack. 

The park also has several trails. The Gray Whale Cove Trail is a fun two-mile trail where you and your fur baby can see some of the park’s flora and fauna. It will take you to Gray Whale Cove Trail, but dogs are not allowed at that beach, so keep that in mind. The Pedro Mountain Trail is a difficult trail for expert hikers, almost six miles in length. Another trail, the Montara Mountain North Peak Loop, is about three miles and is of moderate difficulty. You will not find restrooms, water, or other amenities, but they do have a porta-potty.

Pillar Point Harbor Beach

Just to the south of Montara State Beach, Pillar Point Harbor is an important place for commercial fishermen, sport anglers, and boaters who like to get out on the water. But it is also a great place to enjoy the sandy beach. It is protected by a sea wall, so the surf here is negligible, making it the perfect spot for kids and dogs to swim. You can find the beach across from Highway 1 by Half Moon Bay. 

Dogs are welcome on the beach and in the water as long as they are on a leash. You should also bring your own bags to clean up after him. There are quite a few restaurants, diners, and bar & grills within walking distance, too, many that have outdoor seating that allow your fur baby to join you for a burger and brew. You will also find shops that sell fishing gear, snacks, ice, and other needs for your convenience. 

The Final Woof

Want to get out on the water with your pooch? Take a ride on the water with the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruises. This one-hour tour takes you around the bay to see Alcatraz and other islands and bridges. 

For a different type of ride, take your pup on the Redwood Valley Railway, also known as the Tilden Steam Train. You will enjoy a 15-minute trip through the redwoods. If you want to take your favorite fur buddy out to dinner, try Dogue. This is a fine-dining restaurant for dogs and their pup parents. They serve French-inspired organic food for dogs and meats and seafood for you. Bring your camera. This food is as beautiful as it is delicious. 

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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