Four Great Dog-Friendly Trails in Sonoma and Marin

Reporter Samantha Carter and her dog Toby explore favorite local hikes
Toby Carter, a French bulldog-corgi mix, takes his person Samantha for a walk at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa, Calif. on Oct. 21, 2023.
Toby Carter, a French bulldog-corgi mix, takes his person Samantha for a walk at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa, Calif. on Oct. 21, 2023.
Chelsea Kurnick

Hikes can be a perfect way to get outside and enjoy the beautiful North Bay Area scenery while staying active. Whether challenging myself physically or finding peace in nature, hiking is one of my favorite activities, however I have a difficult time hiking alone when I know my dog, Toby, wants to join me. So here are four local trails I take my dog to because I know he enjoys them as much as I do.

1. Spring Lake Loop Hiking Trail

Chelsea Kurnick

A very popular and well-trafficked area for hiking is Spring Lake Park, particularly the Spring Lake Loop Trail. Located in Eastern Santa Rosa, this trail makes for great group hiking since it is a 2.1-mile loop encircling the Lake. Much of the path is cement, so it is friendly for people of all fitness levels. 

The trails throughout the park are peaceful and shaded, with views of greenery and cattails bordering the lake. This trail has the perfect amount of shade, and I never felt too exposed to the sun while walking it. My early-evening walk offered a fantastic view of the sunset. As this is a popular, dog-friendly hike, I wasn’t the only hiker accompanied by a furry companion while out there.

 

2. King Mountain Loop Trail 

King Mountain Loop Trail is a 3.3-mile moderate hike located in Larkspur. From King Mountain you can hike to Mount Tamalpais, but my favorite route takes about two hours to complete. The fairly steep trail, with an elevation gain of 718 feet, offers a challenging-but-doable level of difficulty for someone who doesn’t hike every day. 

This hike also offers beautiful views of Marin landscapes, like the Mount Tam redwoods and the San Francisco Bay itself. This trail allows for many different routes; while it is dog-friendly, it is best-suited for a younger dog who can keep up. Walking this trail definitely makes me feel like I got my steps in for the day.

 

3. Bon Tempe Lake Loop 

Bon Tempe Lake Loop is a lovely and easy place to take a hike. This trail is located in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed tucked away 3 miles from Fairfax. The 4.1-mile hike loops around Bon Tempe Lake, which is quite beautiful and provides pretty amazing scenery. This trail should be easy for most people to complete because it is mostly flat, with some ups and downs.

One-half of the trail is open while the other is lined with gorgeous redwoods. The open side of the trail tends to be sunny, so to avoid the heat, I recommend going early in the morning or at sunset. Dogs are allowed but need to stay leashed. I like to be somewhat cautious on dirt trails, as I think it’s more common to see a snake on a dirt path. When the weather turns colder, I typically see a lot more wildlife while hiking this trail. 

 

4. Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve

Next time you think about taking a scenic hike, consider Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve in Santa Rosa. This 3.9-mile trail takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete. The route I decided to take was the western route, which meets with the eastern route midway through the hike. The eastern route can be pretty steep, while the western route is much flatter. It’s a moderately challenging loop trail with an elevation gain of 1,322 feet.

Most of the trail is open, exposing hikers to the sun and allowing rain to turn the path muddy during the wetter months. Because this trail is popular for mountain bikers, it’s important to keep your dog close to you. That being said, every mountain biker I encountered was friendly and easily pedaled around me and my dog. This trail provides great views of Santa Rosa, especially from the peak of the mountain.

Chelsea Kurnick