15 Pup Popular Dog Friendly Parks in Santa Cruz, California

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dogs are feeling playful in a dog friendly park in santa cruz ca

With a nickname of Surf City, you already know that Santa Cruz, California, has lots of beaches. But there are a lot of great parks in and around the city as well. Most of them are dog-friendly, and some are even off-leash dog parks. Santa Cruz is also known for its easygoing vibe, technology, and tourism, as well as arts and culture. One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a famous amusement park that opened in 1907. However, dogs are not allowed.

Santa Cruz has 35 official city parks as well as 16 county parks, 9 community parks, and a dozen state parks. That does not even include all the dog-friendly beaches unofficial or private parks. Luckily, the city also has over a dozen off-leash dog parks where your pooch can play unhindered with other fur babies. Here are 15 of our top picks for dog parks in Santa Cruz. 

Mimi De Marta Dog Park

  • Address: 119 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 7am – 8pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Less than a mile from downtown Santa Cruz, you will find Mimi De Marta Dog Park alongside the San Lorenzo River by the Santa Cruz Riverwalk. The cozy pooch playground is triangular, with one side on the riverwalk trail, one along the street, and the other along a sidewalk where pups can greet anyone who goes by. Even without agility equipment and other activities, this park is fun because there is so much going on around it. Your fuzzy buddy will wear himself out greeting everyone. 

Right inside the double-gated entrance, there is a picnic table where you can sit and chat with the other pup parents. There is also a water fountain with a bowl for dogs on the bottom as well as a doggie bag dispenser. However, it is a good idea to bring your own bags and water just in case. Seating is limited to one picnic table, so bring a chair if you plan to stay a while. 

Chestnut Park

  • Address: 89 Chestnut St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 7am – 8pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: No

Approximately one mile south of downtown, Chestnut Park is located right at the entrance to Neary Lagoon Park. The two-acre recreational spot is the perfect place to enjoy a meal with your pup at one of their picnic tables. They have several barbecue pits for the public to use, too. But you will have to keep your canine companion on a leash at all times. There is also a kid’s playground with several slides, monkey bars, swings, and other fun activities. 

There is a half-court basketball, but you have to bring your own ball, and someone will have to keep an eye on your pup if you want to play. He has to stay on the leash. Be sure to bring a good supply of pet poop baggies to pick up anything your pup drops, and have some water for you both as well. They have water fountains, but they are not always working.  

Grant Street Dog Park

  • Address: 150 Grant St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 6am – 8pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Grant Street Dog Park is located in a neighborhood park just 1.3 miles northwest of Santa Cruz city center in the southeastern corner of Grant Park. They have a separate space for small and timid pups to keep anxiety issues down and plenty of seating for all the pup parents. You will also find lots of shade with all of the huge trees in the park. There are water fountains where Fido can get a drink and doggie bag dispensers so you can easily clean up after him.

If you want to enjoy the rest of Grant Park, you will have to put your dog’s leash back on and pack some doggie bags to go. They have a playground for the little humans with all sorts of fun activities, a bike pump track, ball fields, basketball, and bocce ball. There are also some picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills. 

Ocean View Dog Park

  • Address: 102 Ocean View Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
  • Open Hours: 630am – 730pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

You only have to go 1.6 miles from downtown Santa Cruz to get to Ocean View Dog Park, where your fur buddy can play with other pups without being on a leash. If you have a small dog that is afraid of big pooches, you may want to go to a different park because there are no separate sides for different sizes. But there is lots of room to romp around and play fetch or frisbee with your cuddly canine. 

The park also has several benches and picnic tables for the pet parents, lots of trees for shade, a water fountain, and waste stations with doggie poop bags for easy cleanup. The rest of the park is a lot of fun, too but you will have to put your pup’s leash back on. There are a bunch of really long slides that kids and adults enjoy, as well as a playground, picnic areas, and a basketball court. 

Tyrrell Park

  • Address: 1305 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
  • Open Hours: 8am – 8pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: No

Less than two miles from Santa Cruz, Tyrrell Park allows all pups as long as they are on a leash less than 6 feet long at all times. You also need to bring your own water and clean up baggies and be sure to pick up after your canine compadre. The giant 50-foot California gray whale sculpture is a local landmark and is larger than a house. Great for some cool selfies with your best furry buddy. 

The whale is right outside the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, which is a really cool place to visit, but you cannot bring your dog. However, there is a nice path that takes you around the whole park for you and Fido to explore. Right across the street, your pup is also welcome to join you on the sand and in the water, but he has to stay on his leash. It is a wonderful spot for a picnic. 

Mitchell’s Cove Beach Dog Park

  • Address: W Cliff Dr and David Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 10am – 4pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Looking for a beach? Mitchell’s Cove Beach is an off-leash dog heaven from 10am to 4pm. These are the primo hours for the best swimming, fishing, and hanging out on the beach, too! It is not a huge beach, and it dwindles in size when the tide comes in, but it is a beautiful spot with a lot of cool rock formations and monoliths. It is sometimes hard to find a parking spot on busy days so plan in advance and come early.  

If your pooch is not voice-controlled, you may want to keep him on a leash because this is not a good place to lose control of your best buddy. There are many dangerous rocky areas, and the tide can be rough. However, the sides are sort of protected with cliffs to keep your pooch in where he belongs mostly. Also, make sure you bring your own water and doggie bags to pick up anything your doggie drops. 

University Terrace Dog Park

  • Address: Meder St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 24 hours
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

University Terrace Dog Park is approximately 2.5 miles from the city center in the southwest corner of University Terrace City Park. You can get to it easily from the second entrance on Meder Street and Nobel Drive. This is a huge pooch park with about four acres of unleashed fun for all dogs, but there is also a special fenced area for small dogs who get overwhelmed around the big doggos. The ‘all dogs’ section has a massive hill that pups love to run up and down, helping to get rid of those zoomies for a quiet evening at home. 

The small dogs’ section is flatter and has less space but is still really large for a whole pack of little pooches. Outside the park, in the undeveloped areas, dogs are allowed to be off the leash from sunrise to 10am and from 4pm to sunset. The rest of the time, your canine companion will have to be on a leash when not in the dog park. You will need to bring your own doggie bags because they are not supplied. 

Frederick Street Park

  • Address: 168 Frederick St, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
  • Open Hours: Sunrise – sunset
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

On the northwestern end of Woods Lagoon, about two miles from Santa Cruz, Frederick Street has Park has a large dog play area in the southwestern corner. There are is a lot of open space to run around, play fetch, toss around a frisbee, or let your cuddle buddy chase other fur babies around. When it opened, it did not have a separate section for little pooches, but now there is a dedicated space for dogs under 25 pounds. 

Both sections have plenty of seating for pet parents, lots of trees for shade as well as a shade structure, poop bag dispensers, and water fountains. However, it is always a good idea to bring your own bags and water just in case. The rest of the park allows your canine companion to join you as long as they are on a leash. There is a fantastic ocean view, a skate park, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a trail. 

Branciforte Dog Park

  • Address: 170 Branciforte Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: Sunrise – sunset
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Head northeast a little over two miles to DeLaveaga Park to visit their off-leash dog park and trails. The off-leash pup play area is located in the southwest corner of the park. It is fully fenced with a double-gated entrance for extra safety, and there are a few tunnels for pooches to run through as they chase each other around. There is no separation between large and small dogs, so keep that in mind if you have a little pooch.

The ground is covered with mulch, but it can get muddy when it rains. There are several chairs you can move to wherever you want and doggie bag dispensers. However, it is good to bring your own just in case. One of the trails at the park is off-leash, too, but there is no water or poop bags there. The other trails and the rest of the park are pup popular as well, but your canine companion will need to be leashed. 

Pacheco Dog Park

  • Address: Pacheco Avenue and Prospect Heights, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • Open Hours: 6am – 6pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Less than a mile east of Branciforte Dog Park, just south of DeLaveaga Park, you will find Pacheco Dog Park. The park is not separated by size. It is one large space for both small and large pups, so if your dog is uncomfortable around those that are not his size, you may want to go somewhere else. It is covered in bark mulch and has several benches and chairs for pet parents both in and out of the sun.  

Pacheco Dog Park also has a water spigot and bowl, so you can keep your fur puppy hydrated as he plays. There is also a waste station with poop bags and a pooper scooper to make cleanup easier. If you are looking for shade, head to the southwestern section, where there are huge shade trees with seating underneath. Some pet parents say the yard gets muddy during and after rain, so you may want to check the weather if you plan on going here. 

Skypark Dog Park (Scotts Valley Dog Park)

  • Address: Skypark Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
  • Open Hours: 7am – 7pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

About 6.2 miles north of Santa Cruz at Skypark Park in Scotts Valley, Skypark Dog Park is a large 1.4-acre play area with two sections for big and small dogs. Both sides are mulched with soft bark but has dark dirt underneath, which is not great during the wet season. In fact, the northern end of the large dog area stays flooded during winter and spring. The dogs love it because they get to splash in the puddles. 

There is a shade shelter near the front gate for both sides to share, but other than that, there is no shade. The small dog section stays much drier than the other space, but in the winter, it can be wet. They both have plenty of seating choices, including chairs, benches, and picnic tables. Leash up your pup, and you can explore the rest of the park. There are playgrounds for the little humans, a trail with exercise equipment, a bike park, a skate park, and a picnic area, as well as bocce courts and soccer fields. 

Polo Grounds Dog Park

  • Address: 2255 Huntington Dr, Aptos, CA 95003
  • Open Hours: 6am – 830pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Less than 10 miles to the east at Polo Grounds County Park in Aptos, the Polo Grounds Dog Park is a fairly large pooch playground. With a wooded background and large open space in the middle, all types of canine companions have something to do to keep them busy. They can bark at the bikers at the jump track, search the woods for wildlife, and play a game of fetch or frisbee with their humans. 

If you have a petite pup, there is a special area for cuddly buddies under 25 pounds so they can play without being overwhelmed by the big dogs. The whole dog park is about one acre, but ¾ of it is for the big pups because they need a lot more room. If you want to take your canine compadre out into the rest of the park, put on his leash, and you can take a walk on the trail, have a picnic, or enjoy the art sculptures. 

Franich Dog Park

  • Address: 017 551-20, Watsonville, CA 95076
  • Open Hours: 7am – 8pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Franich Dog Park is a terrific place to take your fur baby in Watsonville, less than 20 miles north of Monterey, in the southeastern section of Franich Community Park. Located between the baseball fields and the basketball and tennis courts, the pooch play space is fully fenced and has a small dog section for pooches under 25 pounds. It is mostly sand, which the pups love to dig in, but there are dirt patches that get muddy after rain. 

Pet parents will have lots of seating to choose from in each area, as well as doggie bag dispensers, water fountains, and shade. The rest of the park has about 14 acres you and Fido can explore once you put his leash back on. There is a nice trail that you can enjoy, several playgrounds for the kiddos, picnic tables with BBQ pits, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and baseball. Just remember to bring bags with you if you plan to enjoy the park outside the fence. 

Butcher Dog Park

  • Address: 1782 Lancaster Dr, San Jose, CA 95124
  • Open Hours: 8am – 10pm
  • Price: Free
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Butcher Dog Park is a fantastic, humongous pup park about 26 miles north of Santa Cruz city center in San Jose. You will find it in the northwestern corner of Butcher Park. With a well-cared-for turf lawn and awesome landscaping, you can tell right away that the people who go here really care about it. The fencing is tall and in great condition, so you feel safe letting your pup run around and play with the other fur buddies. 

Around the perimeter, there is a path for pup parents to walk around, and there are benches, tables, and picnic areas as well. Lots of doggie bag dispensers, trash cans, and water fountains, too. There is a small and large dog section, each with furf, grass, and natural materials for climbing on. There is even a couple of water hydrants for your pup to pee on. The rest of the park is also dog-friendly, but he has to be on a leash.  

Los Gatos Creek Dog Park

  • Address: 1250 Dell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008
  • Open Hours: 8am – sunset, Tuesdays 11am – sunset
  • Price: Free but $5 parking fee
  • Off-Leash: Yes

Less than three miles northwest of Butcher Dog Park, your pooch will love Los Gatos Creek Dog Park. You can find it in the middle of Los Gatos Creek Park, just off of San Tomas Expressway by Highway 17. It is right next to the casting ponds and Los Gatos Creek Trail. This is a fantastic park with all-new gates, irrigated turf lawns, lots of natural climbing obstacles like boulders and logs, and a double-gated fence. 

The park is separated for small and large dogs, and each side has numerous benches and tables, shade structures, water fountains, and waste stations with pooper scoopers and baggies. The rest of the park is pretty awesome, too with a long trail, several fishing ponds, and a lovely path along the creek. Just remember to keep your pup on a leash when outside the dog park and pack extra water and doggie bags. 

The Final Woof

With so many different dog parks, you will have no trouble finding the perfect one for you and your cuddly canine companion. But there is more to do in Santa Cruz besides dog parks. You can take your fur baby on a kayak trip with Venture Quest, enjoy a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroad or Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad, or taste some of the local wine at Bargetto Winery. If you want to do some hiking, Pogonip Open Space has 11.5 miles of trails you and your pooch can explore. Do not forget to bring doggie bags and water wherever you go. 

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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