May 18, 2021 6 min read

There’s nothing better than hiking outside with your dog. San Diego is known for being super dog-friendly and offers something for all levels of hiking enthusiasts. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best dog-friendly hikes in San Diego. As always, review the forecast before heading out on a hike with your dog, and make sure to bring extra water. You will see notices posted at most San Diego trailheads warning of heatstroke for dogs, so if it’s a hot day please consider going to a dog-friendly beach instead.

Daley Ranch - Sage Trail & Stanley Peak Loop

Sage Trail and Stanley Peak Loop, Daley Ranch

Daley Ranch is a preserve with 25 miles of dog friendly hiking trails on 3,150 acres of historical ranch lands and undisturbed native habitats. This preserve offers dog friends hikes for all levels – from easy, flat trails, to a daunting 17.9 trail rated as difficult. A lesser-known dog-friendly hike in San Diego, the Sage Trail to Stanley Peak loop is a moderate to hard, forest trek that offers more isolation than the well-known San Diego trails. Steep at times, the panoramic view makes the adventure through the unfamiliar terrain worth the work. The selfie-worthy summit will be a good place to check-in and rehydrate with your pup.

Total Elevation Gain: 1095 ft  |  Total Distance: 6.3 miles  |  Estimated Time: 3.25 hours

Lake Hodges Trail

Lake Hodges Trail

The scenery along this San Diego dog-friendly hike is what makes the journey worth your time and effort. This trail hugs Lake Hodges the whole way and the wildflowers, cactus, and wildlife are abundant. Keep an eye out for coastal cactus wren since they nest exclusively in prickly pear cactus. Like most inland trails, you won’t find much of a reprieve from the sun but, the lake does offer a cool breeze. Check it out in the morning, and if the fog is low it makes for some cool pictures with your pup! Novice hikers, human and dog, should work their way up to the full 16 miles out and back trail.

Total Elevation Gain: 757 ft  |  Total Distance: 16.3 miles |  Estimated Time: 5 hours

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

An easy, dog-friendly trail that seems uneventful at first but once you get going the scenery will keep you motivated. First, you spot the creek and take in the greenery surrounding you. Then, as you keep making your way on this looped trail you’ll hear it, and then you see it - the waterfall and the unexpected views that make you understand the draw of this trail. You and your pup can climb down to the water and cool off before you prep for the hike back. As with most SoCal trails, keep your dog leashed and look out for snakes and ticks. Come in the early evening to avoid sun but still enjoy the stunning views

Total Elevation Gain: 157 ft  |  Total Distance: 6.8 miles  |  Estimated Time: 2.45 hours

Kwaay Paay Peak Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park

Kwaay Paay Peak Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails is a welcomed nature break from the downtown city lifestyle. Plus, the short drive from downtown San Diego makes this dog-friendly regional park a must for San Diegans and visitors alike. It boasts 65 miles of dog-friendly trails over 7,200 acres. Kwaay Paay Peak is a dog-friendly mountain trail located off the Father Junipero Serra park entrance. This hike is steep and rocky so take your time and allow your dog to jump from rock to rock as you make this climb and, eventual descent. Just when you think you can’t do the vertical climb for much longer, you’ll reach the summit and be rewarded with gorgeous views of East County San Diego. This is a great spot to rest, catch your breath and share some water with your pup. As with most inland hikes, be careful for snakes and rising temps in the summer.

Total Elevation Gain:  875 ft |  Total Distance: 2.3 miles  |  Estimated Time: 1.5 hours 

Way Up Trail, Elfin Forest

Way Up Trail, Elfin Forest

Take Way Up Trail to Harmony Grove Overlook, and Equine Incline for a fun, dog-friendly loop hike. This trail is extra dog-friendly thanks to a hose and watering trough at the top of the Way Up Trail. You’ll find it located at the Ridgetop picnic area and on weekdays dogs are permitted off-leash, but only at the top of the Way Up Trail. Be prepared to go slower than usual thanks to some rocky terrain, just be sure to stop every now and then to look up and take in the views of blooms, mountains, and ocean. Tip: This hike is not for early risers since this park doesn’t open until 8 am!

Total Elevation Gain: 1,269 ft  |  Total Distance: 5 miles  |  Estimated Time: 2.2 hours


Double Peak Trail San Marcos

Double Peak San Marcos

Dubbed the ‘Cowles of North County’ Double Peak can be seen from all North County communities. This dog-friendly hike is on a chaparral-covered peak known around SoCal’s inland valleys. Expansive views from atop Double Peak showcase many other notable peaks such as Palomar MountainMount Woodson, and Iron Mountain. On a clear day Catalina, San Clemente, and Coronado islands are visible in the distance. Added Bonus: Double Peak Brewing Co is a dog-friendly brewery just a 10-minute drive from the park. Doesn’t get much better than a hike and fresh, local beer with your best bud.

Total Elevation Gain: 1,023 ft  |  Total Distance: 4.5 miles  |  Estimated Time: 2.25 hours


Iron Mountain, Poway

Iron Mountain

This is a pretty popular dog-friendly mountain hike so you may want to check it out during the week or make it a sunrise hike. Depending on your skill level, some may find this hike challenging while others say it’s easy. But one thing everyone can agree on is to bring tons of water! Don’t let the tree-lined entrance fool you, there is no break from the sun on this one, so come prepared. Enjoy a steady climb and some bouldering as you and your dog traverse to the top for the much anticipated panoramic coastal and rolling hill views.

Total Elevation Gain: 1,102 ft  |  Total Distance: 5.2 miles  |  Estimated Time: 2.5 hours


San Dieguito River Park

Old Coach to Rapture Ridge Trail, San Dieguito River Park

Adventure up this dog-friendly trail at sunrise with your canine companion for some incredible views of the San Pasqual Valley. Just be sure to keep your dog close, as this trail does have wildlife around including snakes. This hike starts off flat, follows the San Dieguito River then ascends to the Rapture Ridge viewpoint. San Dieguito River Park has over 50 miles of scenic dog-friendly trails that span from ocean to mountain so this may be a good spot to re-visit. If you’re feeling ambitious, each year the park hosts a ‘Coast to Crest’ challenge, so for locals, this could be a great bonding journey to traverse with your dog.

Total Elevation Gain: 872 ft  |  Total Distance: 7.1 miles  |  Estimated Time: 3.5 hours

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve

Visit this scenic dog-friendly hiking spot to wander and explore seven miles of interconnecting trails that pass through lush and diverse ecological habitats. Dog-friendly trails in north county San Diego aren’t hard to find, but not many offer a view of one of the few remaining wetlands in SoCal. This is a great trail for a quick and easy reconnect with nature and your pup, so be sure to check it out when you need a mood boost. Bonus: The reserve offers the opportunity to see over 300 species of birds including osprey and the great blue heron.

Total Elevation Gain: 193 ft  |  Total Distance: .5 miles - 8 miles |  Estimated Time: 30 minutes - 2.5 hours

Coastal Trail, Point Loma Tide Pools, Cabrillo National Monument

Coastal Trail, Point Loma Tide Pools, Cabrillo National Monument

There’s only one dog-friendly trail at Cabrillo and it’s absolutely worth the drive over to Point Loma. It’s everything that comes to mind when you envision hiking a coastal trail in SoCal. Smell the salt air, take in the sound of the waves and feel the cool breeze as you stare in awe at the view in front of you. Your dog will feel your instant calm and feed off your vibes. Enjoy a stroll along the short trail. Take your time so you can soak it all in and appreciate this time with your pup. Tip: The trailhead is just past the entrance to the right.

Total Elevation Gain: 121ft  |  Total Distance: 1 mile  |  Estimated Time: 1 hour


We can get so caught up in life sometimes, so after you bookmark this be sure to add a new trail on your calendar for this weekend, even if it’s not in San Diego. Taking the time to bond with your dog and enjoy some deep breaths of fresh air will have you both feeling more at ease.