Best Dog Hikes Southern California  by Linda and David Mullally

Best Dog Hikes Southern California

by Linda and David Mullally (Falcon Guides)
Best Dog Hikes Southern California  by Linda and David Mullally
The song “California Dreamin’,” sang by the Beach Boys in 1989, never ceases to make people from all over the world sigh and long for a piece of the Golden State. From Fido’s point of view, there’s much to wag and bark about for dogs dreaming of California. There’s a reason the third- largest state in the union is also the most populous. The diverse climate and geography, from beach and valleys to mountains and deserts, offers year- round hiking to suit every taste and caliber of hiker and their dog. The moisture- loving giant redwood and sequoia tree habitats at the northernmost boundary of the Southern California region covered in this book are a sharp contrast to the Mojave and Sonoran desert landscape of the southernmost region. At the heart of Southern California, you can travel between the highest point (Mount Whitney, 14,494 feet) and the lowest point (Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level) in the contiguous states in one day.

© 2016 Linda and David Mullally/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Dog Hikes Southern California" Guide Book
51 Trail Guides

Yes, it’s paved and flat, but loved by young and not-so-young canines for its forest setting and multiple opportunities to set paws on the sandy beach and in the cool waters of Big Bear Lake. Dog owners happily tag along to enjoy the surrounding mountain and lake vistas. Long before Big Bear Lake was developed into the year-round “tourist central” mountain community it is now, Serrano Indians (people of the mountains) and grizzly bears roamed the lush meadows of Yahaviat (Pine Place). A small lake referred to as Lower Bear Lake sat in the valley, which nearby ranchers called Big Bear Valley. In 1884 a narrow gorge at the west end of Big Bear Valley became the site of a rock dam that created Big Bear Lake, a 5-mile- long reservoir hailed as the “largest man-made lake in the world.”
Big Bear Lake, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.2
This is a pleasant jaunt of switchbacks to the boundary of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The trail heads into the Santa Rosa Mountains and overlooks Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley with the San Jacinto Mountains to the west.
Palm Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
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This is an equal opportunity beach that screams love of four- legged locals and visitors without discriminating against the two-legged ones. The hard- packed sand beach at the mouth of Arroyo Burro Creek is divided into two stretches. East of the estuary, dogs can hike and gallivant off leash for several miles (tide-depending). West of the estuary, dogs can also hike for several miles (tide-depending), but on leash, so their frolicking doesn’t intrude on the humans who love beach hikes but may be lacking in dog-loving genes.
Santa Barbara, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
This hike is an opportunity to sample the Coast to Crest Trail that will eventually stretch 70 miles from Del Mar to the Volcan Mountains overlooking Anza-Borrego Desert. If you can go to your Zen place just long enough to get beyond the intrusive freeway noise at the start of the hike, the payoff is a jaunt past expansive cactus habitat, across a year-round creek in a palm canyon culminating with 360-degree views from the summit of Bernardo Mountain.
Escondido, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
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This is a rare opportunity to hike up the slope of a more than 20-million- year- old volcanic plug. Your dog will be all wags from the smells in the lower oak woodland, while you’ll be thrilled with the panoramic views on the exposed slope. Bishop Peak is the highest of nine morros (volcanic plugs) in this pocket of Southern California. The Bishop Peak land was donated by the Ferrini family in 1995 and became one more gem in the city of San Luis Obispo’s crown of open- space parklands. The Bishop Peak trail begins in a residential neighborhood at the top of Highland Drive. Fence lines define the corridor off the street for about 100 yards before entering the oak woodland. At 0.1 mile you come to a fork on the right.
San Luis Obispo, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
A dirt service road leads you along a lush creek before snaking up a riparian canyon with boulder slopes on the way to Ramona Dam. The hike combines a shady creek bed, exposed hillsides, and views of the surrounding chaparral-covered hills flanking the reservoir. The hike to the reservoir begins at the south end of the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve parking lot. The trail sign directs you along a lodgepole fence corridor dropping you on Green Valley Truck Trail, which is a dirt service road. The trail begins with a gentle descent into the creekside oak woodland. There are several plant identification signs along the way describing the various vegetation, including toyon and laurel sumac bushes, chaparral yucca, western sycamore, and California wild rose.
Poway, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.0
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This easy, level hike begins in a convenient Park and Ride lot just off CA 1 and ends at charming Avila Beach Community Park. Most of the trail in the Avila Valley traces the San Luis Obispo Creek, lined with eucalyptus trees, oaks, and willows. This is a paved multi- use path along an old Pacific Coast Railroad right- of- way with a dirt shoulder that treats dogs to a banquet of natural smells. This trail is named in honor of Bob Jones, considered an environmental pioneer who was committed to protecting natural habitats. Bob Jones was president of the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County from 1987 to 1989. The trail is a result of his vision and dedication to restoring and protecting the San Luis Obispo Creek. Bob Jones died in 1994 and the trail opened in 1998. Plans are to eventually extend the trail by an additional 4.4 miles to San Luis Obispo.
Pismo Beach, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.6
This is a rare occasion within the National Park Service, when dogs are more welcome on a natural dirt trail than on the paved paths. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample a national historic landmark and enjoy a hike along a rugged bluff, with tide pools and coastal views, in the company of your four-legged pal. This hike is about quality over quantity.
San Diego, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
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At the right time of year, this hike, in one of the Wildlands Conservancy preserves, delivers a unique facet of the Southern California desert landscape. Hikers and their dogs cross a ribbon of the Whitewater River before climbing to an exposed ridge along the Pacific Crest Trail for panoramic views of green slopes against snow-dusted peaks cradling the Coachella Valley. This hike is the centerpiece to the Whitewater Preserve’s almost 3,000 acres of protected habitat within the 60,000-acre Sands to Snow Preserve system. The preserve was established by the Wildlands Conservancy and is one of the fifteen preserves in the 147,000-acre nature preserve system, the “largest nonprofit nature preserve system in California.”
Palm Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.7
This lovely uphill hike on a multi-use trail with mellow switchbacks rewards hikers and dogs with fresh forest scents of pine, oak canopies, and inspiring views across boulder canyons and mountaintops. The trail’s unique trademark is that it was “designed by children and built by a community.” The trail begins off Keller Peak Road at an interpretive panel illustrating the cooperative process that created the gem you are about to enjoy with pooch at your side. The trail is narrow but well worn and maintained as it climbs up the slope through a mix of manzanita, pine, and oak woodland dotted with magnificent stacks of granite boulders. There is only one dry creek- bed crossing near the bottom of the trail and two locations where the trail crosses an old dirt road winding up through the forest.
Springville, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.0
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This isn’t a knock-your-dog’s-booties-off spectacular trail. Having said that, access to a shady canyon with a year-round creek and a chaparral meadow exploding with tail-wagging scents just doesn’t get any more convenient than this hike within the beautifully diverse Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Calabasas, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.35
The 20-mile paved zigzag road up the side of the mountain to the trailhead looks intimidating from the valley floor, but don’t let that deter you from this hike. It’s everything that makes a dog happy—shade, meadows for frolicking, seasonal streams, and lakes.
Lone Pine, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11
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One of San Diego’s most accessible cardio hikes to the highest point in the City of San Diego almost immediately rewards hikers with views of surrounding mountains and the Pacific. The south- facing trail has almost zero shade, but on a cool day if your four- legged pal likes to socialize on his workouts, this is the jaunt for him. The 1,600-foot mound protruding above the San Diego skyline is protected within Mission Trails Regional Park’s approximately 6,000 acres. The seed for Mission Trails Regional Park grew from community concern about the rapid spread of new development during the 1960s.
San Diego, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.0
This uphill canyon hike rewards pooches and their companions with a year- round creek, swimming holes, and a good dose of shade under sycamore canopies. The views of the San Rafael Mountains are just an added bonus. The drive to the trailhead from CA 154 is a picturesque treat of horse ranches and meadows against the backdrop of Santa Ynez and San Rafael stadium of mountain ridges. The Davy Brown Trail, named after Davy William Brown, a pioneer who lived in a cabin here from 1879 to 1895, is a perfect introduction to Santa Barbara County’s backcountry and the Los Padres National Forest Recreation Area. The creek runs year- round, and even after four years of drought, this creek had a healthy gurgle and several inviting swimming holes. This hike is especially picturesque in the fall, when sycamore trees are dressed in gold.
Los Olivos, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
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This hike on the pine slopes hugging the community that touts itself as the “most dog-friendly town in America” offers dazzling views of granite outcrops soaring above the valley floor. This trail takes you up to a saddle at the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and up to the threshold of the pristine Mount San Jacinto State Park Wilderness, where dog- friendliness ends.
Idyllwild, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.0
Like most hikes on the eastern side of the Sierra, the drive from the high desert valley floor gives little hint of the alpine paradise that waits at the trailhead. This classic Eastern Sierra trail, complete with glacier views, a rushing creek, waterfalls, a historic cabin, and two stunning turquoise lakes is best suited to fit dogs in their prime. Having said that, less-athletic dogs with their less-ambitious two-legged hiking companions can choose to tailor the hike to their stamina level with a shorter distance at four naturally rewarding spots along the trail described below.
Big Pine, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.0
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The bad news is that dogs are no longer allowed off leash. The good news is that dogs on leash are still welcome on this “five paw” network of trails. Most hikes with as grand a view as the vistas from the Fiscalini Ranch would require serious sustained uphill panting to earn the reward. But this hike treats hikers and their dogs to meadows, a Monterey Pine forest, bluffs, and phenomenal coastal views after just a couple hundred feet of moderate grade up to the ridge.
Cambria, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
The good news is that you’re in a postcard the moment you step on the trail, with Independence Creek on your left and a couple of cascades to dress up the granite cirque backdrop.
Independence, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
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There are three good reasons why this hike is worth the 4.5-mile jostle on an unpaved road. This is a creekside trail up a picturesque box canyon to a 20-foot waterfall that still had some water after four years of drought. From a historical point of view, you and pooch get to hike the canyon where the last grizzly bear in Southern California was tracked and killed in 1907. On a future note, Holy Jim Falls happens to be in the heart of the proposed Grizzly Bear National Monument.
Laguna Hills, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
What’s not to love about a hike that begins with a designated off-leash patch of desert sand in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument to sniff and romp, before snapping on the leash for an up-and-down-and-around-the-mountain panoramic jaunt overlooking the Coachella Valley?
Palm Desert, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
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State Log Book

Feb 2019