12 Dog-Friendly Hikes in San Diego:Tips for Hitting The Trails

Dog Friendly Hiking Trails in San Diego:

  1. Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
  2. Twin Peaks Trail
  3. Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
  4. Iron Mountain
  5. Cowles Mountain
  6. Piedras Pintadas
  7. Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve
  8. Batiquitos Lagoon 
  9. Van Dam Peak
  10. Double Peak
  11. Tecolote Canyon Natural Park  – Central San Diego 
  12. San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy – Annie’s Canyon Trail

Dog-friendly hikes are a great way to spend time with your furry friend while getting some exercise. Hiking is a great cardio workout that can improve fitness, build strength, and lower stress hormones. San Diego has some beautiful trails that are perfect for exploring with your dog.

Dog-Friendly Hikes San Diego
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. Photo from (IG) @hereswaffles

In this blog, we will explain everything you need to know about hiking with your dog in San Diego. We will provide tips on the best trails to hike, what to bring, and how to keep your dog safe while hiking. By following our advice, you and your pup will have a great time exploring the outdoors together.

San Diego is a beautiful city in the USA, California that has many dog-friendly places. These places have stunning views of the coast of the Pacific Ocean, clean blue water bodies, and lovely birds chirping. Taking your pup on a dog-friendly hike in San Diego is a great way to spend the day and make memories!

Discover the Best Dog Trails in San Diego – Guide:

San Diego is a great place to take your dog hiking. There are many trails that are perfect for exploring with your furry friend. Plan an outing soon and enjoy the camera-worthy scenery together.

Here are some of the best dog-friendly hiking trails in San Diego that you can explore with your furry friend:

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

  • Trailhead: 12020 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego county, CA 92129
  • Est Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: Approximately 7.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 528 feet
  • Difficulty: Adventurous, Moderate  
  • Fees: $3
  • Parking: Lot
Best Dog Trails in San Diego
Trailhead: 12020 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego county, CA 92129

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a beautiful location that features multiple waterfalls, unique plant and animal life, and stunning natural views. It is situated between the Rancho Peñasquitos, Torrey Hills, and Mira Mesa neighborhoods and makes for a great off-leash dog hike.

The terrain is well-maintained and features little rugged terrain, rocky tracks, and wild bushes. The views from the hike are truly spectacular. Mission Trails Regional Park (1) is the perfect place to enjoy this hike, and the ideal time to do so is during winter, spring, or autumn.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve District TRAIL MAP

City of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Twin Peaks Trail

Dog-Friendly Hikes
Twin Peaks Trail Dog-Friendly Hikes.

The Twin Peaks Trail is a popular hiking destination for its stunning views of the city of San Diego and its beautiful sunsets. The trail is also known for its lovely Eklutna Lake and gorge, as well as the cottonwood and spruce trees that surround it. 

Autumn is the best time to visit the Twin Peaks Trail, when you can spend a few hours enjoying the views from the top. The trail is also dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along for the hike.

Directions:

Twin Peaks Trail Dog-Friendly Hikes
Twin Peaks Trail Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @sandiegopoodle

If you’re coming from I-15, take the exit for CA 56/Ted Williams Parkway and head east. After about 2.5 miles on Ted Williams Parkway, turn right onto Twin Peaks Road. In another .4 miles, turn left onto Silverset Street. Follow Silverset Street for approximately .2 miles until it makes a 90 degree turn to the left. At this point, you will see Silverset Park on the left where you can park. The trailhead is located on the left just past the park’s driveway.

Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

  • Distance: Approximately 4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 832 feet
  • Difficulty: Decent incline, Moderate
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @skyes_the_limtt

The Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is a beautiful, dog-friendly hiking trail in San Diego. This trial features some of the best of San Diego’s greenery, surrounded by dense forest that provides ample opportunities to spot different kinds of birds and small animals. 

If you’re lucky, you may even see some beautiful butterflies or birds while on this path. To make this hike even more memorable, you can climb along Ramona Lake or around Lake Poway. The ideal time to do this trek is before the sun gets too high in the sky.

Directions:

Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is located on Espola Road, 3.2 miles from I-15. To get there, take the Rancho Bernardo Road exit from I-15 and head east on Rancho Bernardo Road. Continue straight as Rancho Bernardo Road turns into Espola Road. The entrance to Blue Sky Ecological Reserve will be on the left once Espola Road begins to curve south.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

View route or download GPX from CalTopo

Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain Trailhead Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @kaztheaussie
  • Trailhead: At the intersection of Hwy 67 and Poway Rd. You may search for “Iron Mountain Trailhead” on Apple or Google Maps.
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Est time: 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 2601 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Dirt lot
  • Fees: None

Iron Mountain is a popular dog-friendly hike in San Diego for experienced hikers. This trail offers an enticing view of oak tree chaparral brown grassland and foggy mountain tops. The terrain is dusty, rocky and rough, but the tranquility at the top is worth the difficult journey. After you’ve completed this dog-friendly San Diego excursion, you may see Cuyamacas and Mount Woodson. This route is lengthy and challenging.

When hiking this trail with your furry friend, make sure to take proper precautions such as outfitting them with dog boots and a carrier backpack. This will help ensure that your dog enjoys the hike and doesn’t get too tired.

Directions:

If you’re coming from I-15, take the Scripps Poway Pkwy exit and head east. After about 8.5 miles, you’ll come to Highway 67. Take a left turn onto Highway 67 (going north), and the parking area will be on your right after another 1.7 miles. Right before the intersection with Poway Road. map

View route on google maps

Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain Dog-Friendly Hikes
Cowles Mountain Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @lifeisgoldenwithsammy
  • Trailhead: Barker Way Trailhead, Barker Way, San Diego county, CA 92119
  • Distance: Approximately 3 miles
  • Est Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 950 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: in the neighborhood
  • Fees: None 

The beautiful views of the mountain from Cowles Mountain are one of the most popular dog-friendly hikes in San Diego. The magnificent views of mountains, as well as being the highest point in San Diego and 1,592 feet above sea level, make this trek memorable.

For a relaxing experience, bring water for both you and your dog. You can also bring some snacks to keep your energy up. The best time of year to do this hike is in the winter when the weather is cooler.

Directions:

To get to the trailhead, take the Navajo Road exit from Highway 125. Drive west on Navajo Road for around .8 miles, then turn right at Boulder Lake Ave. Follow Boulder Lake Ave for .5 mile and turn right again at Barker Way. The trailhead will be visible on the left side of the road; park along the street and be mindful of the residents nearby. Here is a map for reference.

Piedras Pintadas

Piedras Pintadas Lake Hodges Dog-Friendly Hikes
Piedras Pintadas Lake Hodges Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @d.beaux831
  • Distance: Approximately 3.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Piedras Pintadas is a beautiful location south of Lake Hodges. It is known for its mesmerizing scenic beauty and makes it the perfect adventure destination for dog-friendly hikes in San Diego. The scenic hiking trails take hikers through wonderful boulders, great overlooks, small Rocky Mountains, the clean lake, Bernardo Mountain, oaks trees, and colorful birds chirping.

Before hiking, it is always important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed. At such a high altitude, the presence of a lake is very refreshing. The best time to do this hike is during the winter season.

Directions:

If you are coming from I-15, take the West Bernardo Drive/Pomerado Road exit and head west on West Bernardo Drive. Follow West Bernardo Drive for about 3 miles and you will see the parking lot on your right.

Trail Brochure and Map

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @fur_ever_cute
  • Trailhead: 8833 Harmony Grove Road, Escondido, CA 92029
  • Distance: Approximately 7 miles
  • Est Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 492 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: There isn’t much of a parking lot at the start. It fills up in around 15 minutes. Off the main road, there is an parking lot.
  • Fees: None

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is a beautiful location in San Diego that offers many different activities for people to enjoy. There are equestrian trails and popular dog-friendly hikes available for visitors to explore. Those who love to see magical flora and natural beauty will love visiting Elfin Forest.

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes 2
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @introducing_hati

The ideal time to visit this region is during the winter season. Please Note: Before you go hiking, make sure your dog has been vaccinated for rabies. You’ll be 2,000 steps closer to reaching the peak!

Batiquitos Lagoon 

  • Distance: Approximately 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 23 feet
  • Difficulty: Very Easy
Batiquitos Lagoon Dog-Friendly Hikes
Batiquitos Lagoon Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @mikothemerle

Batiquitos Lagoon in San Diego is a great place for leashed dogs all year round. The pathway through the coastal wetland and estuary is scenic, and your dog will love romping through the pools and lush vegetation. Sit on a bench and enjoy the view with your pet dog by your side.

Directions:

To find the trailhead, take exit 45 from I-5 onto Poinsettia Lane heading east. Turn right at the first opportunity onto Batiquitos Drive, and then turn right again onto Gabbiano Lane. Follow Gabbiano to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road, where the trail begins. Here is a map for reference.

Batiquitos Lagoon Dog-Friendly Hikes
Batiquitos Lagoon Dog-Friendly Hikes. Photo from (IG) @lulu_birdiegirl

Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation

View route on Google Maps

Van Dam Peak

  • Distance: Approximately 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 828 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Van Dam Peak is a great place to take your dog for a walk. The flowers are beautiful and the views of Poway and Rancho Penasquitos are amazing. If you are looking for a less traveled by hiking trail, then Van Dam Peak is the perfect place for dog-friendly walks in San Diego.

Double Peak

  • Trailhead: Lakeview Park- 650 Foxhall Dr, San Marcos, CA 92078
  • Distance: Approximately 4 miles
  • Est Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1417 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
  • Parking: Is a small property. It gets packed up quickly. In the neighborhood, there is overflow parking.
  • Fee: Free 

Double Peak is a beautiful place to hike with your furry friend. With its beautiful views of the sea, mountains, and park, this enchanted location has numerous picture-perfect vistas. It’s open to hikers all year round. The spectacular panorama and a small local park are enough to make you happy. Leashed dogs allowed.

Directions:

To get to Lakeview Park from I-15, take the 78 West exit and then take the Twin Oaks Valley Road exit. Turn left onto N Twin Oaks Valley Road and continue for approximately 8 miles. Turn right onto Craven Road and continue for approximately 6 miles. Turn left onto Foxhall Dr and continue for approximately 2 miles. The entrance to Lakeview Park will be on your right as the road makes a sharp 90 degree bend to the left. You can find a map of the area here.

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park  – Central San Diego 

  • Distance: 4 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate 

Tecolote Canyon is one of the city’s bigger urban canyons. There are approximately 6.5 miles of pathways at Tecolote Canyon, but several major thoroughfares and a golf course cut through it, making a continuous trek nearly impossible. 

If you want to go for a long walk with your dog in San Diego, look no further than Tecolote Canyon Natural Park. The terrain is mostly easy, though there are some moderate sections because of the inclines that lead up to the 200-foot peak elevation.

 Your journey through the canyon will be full of wildflowers, birds and small animals. There are also plenty of wooded areas that offer shade on hotter days.

Directions:

Take the Sea World Drive/Tecolote Road Exit off I-5. Travel east on Tecolote Road until it ends (about 1/2 mile). The Tecolote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center are located at the end of this road.

Map of Tecolote Canyon trails

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center

View route or download GPX from CalTopo

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy – Annie’s Canyon Trail

  • Total Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total Ascent: 540 feet
  • Dog Friendly: Leashed dogs are allowed
  • Bike Friendly: Mountain bikers not allowed
  • Facilities: None
  • Fees/Permits: None

“The Mushrooms Caves” in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve were off-limits for many years, but thanks to a generous donation and the hard work of volunteers, the area has been cleaned up and a new hiking trail has been established. 

The new Annie’s Canyon Trail is becoming popular with hikers in the area, and it is hoped that by making the area more accessible to the public, it will no longer be seen as a desirable location for illegal activities. 

The trail is located between the N. Rios Avenue trailhead and the Solana Hills Drive trailhead in the southwest region of the Reserve. Although official maps have not yet been updated, the new trail is relatively easy to find.

Directions:

Take the Lomas Santa Fe exit and go west on Lomas Santa Fe. Turn right onto Solana Hills Drive and follow it to the end, where you will find the trailhead. Park your car along the roadway. Map

Virtual Tour of Annie’s Canyon

View route or download GPX in CalTopo

You can’t take your dog hiking on these trails

The rules for dogs at California State Parks, Beaches, and Reserves vary depending on the location. For example, at Torrey Pines State Reserve, dogs are not allowed in the Reserve or anywhere on the beach. This is because they can frighten wildlife and their waste can cause nesting animals to abandon their young. 

Other places, like Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, allow dogs in campgrounds, picnic areas, and on paved roads. However, there is only one dog-friendly hike at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. hikers can take their dogs on the Fire Road to Cuyamaca Peak. 

Before Going on Dog-Friendly Hikes in San Diego, Here Are a Few More Tips

  • Check the dog’s footpad before embarking on a trip.
  • Ticks can get trapped in a dog’s hair or on his neck, so clean him before and after.
  • Don’t get near poisonous oak or you’ll be sorry.
  • Be on your guard against snakes, as well as other creatures.

When you’re looking for a great beach to take your dog, but don’t know which ones allow them? Look no further than this list:

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Half Moon Bay, CA

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Massachusetts

Dog-Friendly Beaches Rhode Island

Dog-Friendly Beaches In South Carolina

Dog-Friendly Beaches In Alabama

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Georgia

Dog Beaches in Chicago, Illinois

Dog Friendly Destin, FL. All Tips And Guide

Conclusion

San Diego’s hiking scene has no shortage of dog-friendly paths, including picturesque areas like the Daley Ranch, Sunset Cliff Park, Rattlesnake Canyon, Sycamore Canyon, Cowles Mountain, Beach Trail, Highland Valley Trail, Fiesta Island trail and Mount Woodson. These hiking trails are frequented by people.

There are plenty of great places to take your dog hiking in San Diego, and this list should help you find the perfect hiking trail for you and your pup. Remember to check for ticks, clean up after your dog, and be on the lookout for snakes and other wildlife. With a little planning and preparation, you and your dog can enjoy a fun and safe hike together.

Watch this space for more information about when your furry friend can enjoy the beach again:

Dog-Friendly Beaches Long Island

Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Tampa Bay

Davis Island Dog Beach

Best Pensacola Dog Beach

7 Dog-Friendly Beaches in Monterey, CA

14 Dog-Friendly Beaches in Maine

8 Dog-Friendly Beaches Santa Barbara

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