The Best Dog-Friendly Spots in San Francisco
Let your dog finally have its day with the best pooch-friendly spots in San Francisco.
Dogs are everywhere in SF. You see them brunching at fancy restaurants, riding in backpacks on bicycles, frolicking in the surf of our many beaches, peeking out of expensive handbags, posing for photos atop vistas, and generally living their best lives. In fact, if you feel like you see way more dogs than kids, you’re right—you do. That’s ‘cause there are legitimately more dogs than children in San Francisco. As of a few years ago, that number was around 118,000 minors compared to anywhere between 120,000 and 500,000 dogs (and let’s be real, as of 2020, there are definitely fewer kiddos and way more doggos). So it’s no surprise that SF has lots of great places for pooches of all shapes and sizes (along with their human counterparts) to truly thrive. Here are some of our favorite parks, beaches, bars, restaurants, and boats on which to take our four-legged, three-legged, and sometimes even two-legged fur babies.
If you live in SF and have a canine companion, then Fort Funston is already on your radar but considering this beach with 200-foot high sandy bluffs and all kinds of hiking trails (which range from easy to legit strenuous—especially if you go all the way down to the water) is probably one of the best dog parks in the entire country, it obviously needs to be included on this list. Even if you don’t feel like breaking a sweat, it’s worth it just to hang on the bluffs and watch the hang gliders soar in the sky. Dogs are allowed off-leash but must be under voice control (and keep in mind you may bump into horses).
Crissy Field has pretty much everything a dog (or human) could want: a waterfront path with views of pretty much everything that makes SF iconic, grassy areas, beaches with waters that are calm enough for swimming, and picnic areas with charcoal grills. For the most part, dogs are allowed off-leash, as long as they’re under voice control, but just keep an eye out for signs since there are some protected wildlife areas throughout.
El Rio should be on everyone’s list of places to hang out just because it’s got a great vibe, invests in social change, local arts, and music, and underserved communities, and allows pets in both the indoor bar and the spacious outdoor garden. Keep in mind, pets shouldn’t attend larger parties where there will be loud music, big crowds, and general chaos, but most dog owners wouldn’t want to put their furry best friend through that kind of mayhem anyway.
Ocean Beach isn’t San Francisco’s most scenic beach (although it does have expansive stretches of sand, crashing waves, and pretty stellar sunsets—it just happens to face extremely stiff competition ‘cause of bluffs and bridges and all of that stuff a lot of other beaches have), but you know what your dog doesn’t care about? Views. You know what your dog does care about? Those expansive stretches of sand and water, which are perfect for frolicking, digging, lounging, and general dog-meets-beach merriment. OB also tends to be the least crowded beach (not just because of the lack of “views” but also because it’s 3.5-miles long), and your pup is free to roam almost all of it off-leash (save for Stairwell 21 to Sloat Blvd) year-round.
The bartenders at this famous beer bar are notoriously surly (know you order, have your cash ready, etc.), but how surly can anyone in a bar that allows dogs really be? (We don’t recommend you try to find out, but you get the gist.) If you love beer, you’ll love Toronado because it has over 40 beers on tap, including many that are popular but elusive. There’s also a good jukebox, outdoor seating, and not only can you bring your dog (indoors and out), you can also bring hot dogs (as in sausages) from Berliner Berliner right next door—or whatever food strikes your fancy! Toronado can get really crowded on weekend nights, so if you’re planning on heading there on a Friday or Saturday and want to be inside, you’re better off leaving any furry friends at home.
Golden Gate Park/Ocean Beach
When the sun is shining, Park Chalet’s back lawn is the perfect place to kick back, drink a beer, and eat some fish tacos. It’s also a popular place to bring dogs since the lawn area is spacious and has a super laid-back vibe. (Good to know: It is also a very popular place to bring children, so if your dog is not down with toddlers, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them.) There are tables on the lawn, but if one isn’t available, you’re also welcome to put down a picnic blanket or just find a spot on the grass. Go on the weekend in the summer, and there’s a good chance you’ll also be able to enjoy some live music.
A soccer field, tennis courts, a basketball court, expansive green lawns, a children’s playground, amazing people watching, and not one but two off-leash dog play areas… Needless to say, there’s a reason Dolores Park is one of SF’s most popular green spaces, especially on a sunny Saturday or Sunday. The off-leash play areas are on the slope of the south side and the flatter (usually less crowded) part of the north side by the soccer field. Keep in mind, none of it is fenced in, and Dolores Park is surrounded by pretty traffic-heavy streets, so you’ll want to either keep your dog close or make sure that your voice control commands are dialed in.
You can always bring your well-behaved dog to sit outside with you at this popular French-inspired bistro that draws long lines for brunch, but if you bring Fifi or Fido to dinner on the back patio on Monday night, you’ll also score $10 off a bottle of wine for you and endless treats for them.
Okay, if your dog is really into views (or you’re really into photos of your dog with great views in the background), then head to Lands End, which allows dogs to be off-leash year-round. The winding trail along the rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean is a little narrow in parts and extremely steep in others, so you’ll want to make sure your pup is friendly or super good with voice control, but it’s one of the most beautiful urban hikes you’ll find in town with lots of cool stops along the way, including turn-of-the-century gun emplacements, views of shipwrecks, and the ruins of Sutro Baths. There’s also a “hidden” beach (Mile Rock) where you can both sink your feet/paws into the sand and Pacific Ocean, assuming you’re both okay with a bit of a steep hike.
What dog isn’t going to love roaming over 1,000 acres of pastoral meadows, winding paths, and wooded groves? Golden Gate Park is a total no-brainer when it comes to human and dog enjoyment as there are seemingly endless areas to explore. Technically, your dog needs to be on-leash except when in designated off-leash areas, but if you’re chilling out on a picnic blanket, the chances that you get called out for letting your pup do a little sniffing of nearby spots is pretty much zilch. If you prefer to follow the rules, the four off-leash areas in the park are an all-sand dog training area in the northwest corner of the park, and play areas in the northeast corner of the park off Stanyan Street, the southeast corner near Kezar Stadium, and the southwest quadrant.
The San Francisco Bay
Okay, you know how whenever you’re on a boat, you suddenly feel like you’re living your best life, or at least a pretty good life? Don’t you think your dog deserves to know what it’s like to feel his ears flap and/or tail wag in the wind while soaring across the Bay? Good news: The Blue & Gold Fleet, which runs sightseeing cruises and a ferry service to Sausalito, agrees. You just need to keep your dog on a leash at all times.
Spend a lazy day drinking hazy IPAs at this brewery and taproom known for its innovative beers and use of local ingredients. The SF location is also known for a pretty sweet game selection, including Killer Queen, shuffleboard, ping pong, table soccer, pinball, and more. Oh, and kids and dogs are allowed, although the rules for kids seem to be a little stricter. Check the schedule to see what food truck is popping up in the parking lot that day.