San Francisco on Foot and Paw
by Scott Broecker
Appropriately named after the patron saint of animals, San Francisco is a city where dogs (are said to) outnumber human kids. Fortunately, amidst all the concrete, the city is also filled with great parks, hiking trails, beaches, and stunning views, making it a great place for you and your dog to explore by foot and paw. The city is also home to endless culinary delights, many of which can be experienced in pet-friendly outdoor dining areas. With so much to see and do, here are some suggestions:
1. Golden Gate Park – With over a thousand acres of greenery, this is the largest man-made park in the world. Dogs are welcome just about everywhere in the park but are required to be on leash in most places. Some fun things to do here are:
• Giant Fern Forest – Take a short stroll through Tree Fern Dell and over to Hidden Lily Pond located at the east end of the park across from the Conservatory of Flowers.
• Stow Lake – Rent a rowboat and take a pet-friendly paddle around this circular lake under the bridges, past the waterfall, islands, and Chinese Pavilion. Cross one of the two stone bridges and hike to Strawberry Hill island summit to enjoy the view (Golden Gate Bridge). Rowboats are $19 per hour.
• Hike through the park on a Sunday when cars are not allowed. At the ocean end of the park enjoy lunch outdoors at the Park Chalet Garden Restaurant. Close by visit the Dutch windmill that once helped power the irrigation system of the park.
2. The Presidio – Get away from the crowds and hike some of the forested trails here. Try the Environmental Loop Trail 1.8 miles to Inspiration Point, accessed from the Arguello Street entrance gate. Visit the Presidio Pet Cemetery and view the many mostly handmade tributes to a wide variety of beloved pets, dating back to the 1920s.
3. Stern Grove – Unfortunately, dogs can no longer attend the regular Sunday concerts they have here, but if you hike a short distance away, there is a very large open meadow area for off-leash play and a lake for Fido to dip his paws in. Parking lot is on Vale Avenue off Crestlake Drive.
4. Mount Davidson – Whether you are seeking spiritual wisdom or just a tranquil trek with your four-legged friend, this hike takes you up to the highest natural point in San Francisco. Enter the park on Dalewood Street. A gentle half-mile hike takes you to the top of the hill and the base of the 103-foot high concrete cross.
5. Baker Beach – Dogs must be leashed in the parking lot but can run free on the golden sands on the north side (bridge side) of the beach. Take in the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Beware: the north end of the beach is clothing optional, so your dog can choose whether or not to bring a sweater. Dogs must be on leash south of Lobos Creek.
6. Fort Funston – This rugged coastal beach is considered by some to be one the best off- leash dog areas in the city. While humans fly above you in their fancy kites, break out a Frisbee and have your dog do some high flyin’ of his own. Enjoy a drink from the newly installed person/pet drinking fountain purchased and installed by the hang gliding club. It’s likely to be windy.
7. Crissy Field – Hike the bay trail starting from the East Beach parking lot accessed from Mason Street, an easy four mile round trip to the base of the bridge and historic Fort Point. The trail follows a sometimes-narrow beach where dogs are free to romp off leash on the east and central areas of the beach. Dogs must be on leash in parking and picnic areas. Stop at the Warming Hut along the way for hot or cold drinks or a sandwich.
8. Blue and Gold Fleet Cruises – Let the breeze blow back your hair and your dog’s ears while you take in great views of Alcatraz, Angel Island and both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Leashed dogs are allowed on the ferry for the Sausalito and Tiburon routes only. Cruises leave daily from Pier 39. Call (415) 705-8200 for trip schedules.
9. Coit Tower – Climb the stairway up and around Telegraph Hill past the wild parrots and cottage gardens. Reward your dog with some quality treats and fresh water when you arrive at the top and don’t forget some snacks for yourself. You both will be rewarded with outstanding panoramic views of the City and the bay. Explore Pioneer Park and this magnificent art deco tower built as a monument to San Francisco’s heroic fire fighters. Access stairway at Filbert and Sansome Streets. (Close to 400 steps.)
10. Buena Vista to Corona Heights Park – Enter Buena Vista Park on upper Haight Street. Dogs are allowed off leash on the woodsy west side of this park. The oldest park in the city, it also has some of the best views. Continue hiking down the stairway and eventually to a path leading up to the view of the adjoining Corona Heights Park, which can also be accessed from Haight and Lyon Streets.
Note: To get from one place to the next, make use of one of San Francisco’s pet-friendly transports—National Cab Company, Cable Cars and even Muni, San Francisco’s bus system. (Muni requires your dog wear a muzzle.)
Argonaut Hotel ($$$$) – The historic Argonaut is a small boutique hotel near Fisherman's Wharf featuring views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Hotel Monaco ($$$) – A four-star luxury hotel near Union Square and Moscone Center.
Ocean Park Motel ($$) – A 1930s Streamline Moderne motel at Ocean Beach, honored by the Art Deco Society in 1987.
Laurel Motor Inn ($$) – Great views, comfortable rooms near the Presidio. www.jdvhotels.com
Travel Lodge By the Bay ($$) – Located just five blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf and two blocks from the cable cars. www.travelodgebythebay.com
Zazie – French Bistro on Cole Street near Golden Gate Park. www.zaziesf.com
Park Chow – High-quality comfort food at affordable prices. Located in the Sunset District near Golden Gate Park. www.chowfoodbar.com
Park Chalet – California cuisine in an open-air dining room. Located in Golden Gate Park near the Dutch Tulip Garden. wwwparkchalet.com
Rose’s Café – Affordable, organic Italian fare. Located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood. www.rosescafesf.com
Betlenut – Asian food made with fresh local ingredients and regional spices. Located on Union Street. www.betelnutrestaurant.com
Check out www.bringfido.com for more pet-friendly dining and lodging in San Francisco.