Top 9 Dog-Friendly Vacations In California

The pet-friendly Golden State comes complete with beaches, parks, and a food-galore scene that welcomes dogs for a memorable vacation with the pooch. These nine dog-friendly destinations in California will leave a lifetime worth of shared memories.

Carmel-By-The-Sea

A fashionably-dressed tall woman strolls down a sidewalk along with her dog at Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. Editorial credit: pbk-pg / Shutterstock.com

The town with a name emanating waves of tranquility is one of the friendliest to visit with your best friend. Guaranteeing a vibrant and relaxing getaway-by-the-sea, there are 39 pet-friendly hotels with various amenities to fit all budgets, such as the scenically-set Carmel Valley Ranch. The Cypress Inn is another favorite for a classic and comfortable interior behind an extravagant facade. Known as one of the state’s best beaches, Carmel Beach is equally loved by pet owners and those without. The Garland Ranch Regional Park comes with the through-running Carmel River for more dog-friendly fun in the water, hikes, and leisurely time spent in the shade with several off-leash areas.

The Carmel River State Beach is beloved for the trail leading to a viewpoint of Ribera Beach and Point Lobos, while the Mission Trail Park is known for wide paths and the historic Flanders Mansion on the way. To recharge after an active day-full together, there are 23 dog-friendly restaurants throughout town, including the Forge in the Forestwhich is saturated with Americana dog charm. Adorned by lush foliage, the seating area features a fireplace, while the dogs receive biscuits and water bowls from joining in on the experience. The city’s doggie shopping districts include Carmel Plaza, Carmel Village Shopping Areaand Crossroads Shopping Center; while for those looking for full-on pampering, there’s the Signature Paw Spa.

Big Bear Lake

The popular ski resort among the Los Angeles dwellers, Big Bear Lake, is a less trampled off-season destination. Featuring a myriad of interesting dog-friendly activities during the warmer months, it offers unforgettable adventures in solitude with a pet. With 333 pet-friendly hotels in the area, one can set base and escape into the wild from the doorstep. There’s the marvelous lake-side Big Bear Frontier resort, as well as the Bear Creek Resortpopular with skiers for being only minutes away from the village and slopes.

A real heaven for active dogs, the lake’s pet-friendly Alpine Pedal Beach is great for splashing around in the waters surrounded by scenery. Upon meandering through the many hiking trails, nine dog-friendly restaurants around the lake await with refreshments and great sunset-dinner views. Wintertime brings about skiing, ice skating on the lake, as well as some fabulous sledding with the pooch down the snowy slopes for an experience neither will ever forget.

Death Valley National Park

Woman hikes with her dog in Titus Canyon at sunset in Death Valley National Park, California
Woman hikes with her dog in Titus Canyon at sunset in Death Valley National Park, California. Editorial credit: Laurens Hoddenbagh / Shutterstock.com

Death Valley National Park is hands down the coolest vacation spot in California that welcomes dogs. Known for a myriad of resources, trails, wildlife sightings, and other natural wonders, it offers an endless choice of diversified activities. Many set camp on-site and make the fun last for days while spending the nights under the clear, starry skies. There are also pet-friendly picnic areas to have scenic meals together with your best friend.

Open to dogs from mid-October through mid-May, the best time to visit falls in early spring with warm and fresh air perfect for exploring the great outdoors. Several developed areas around the Valley include affordable pet-friendly accommodations, such as the popular one Panamint Springs Resort, bringing all the doggy and human comfort fantasies to life. The spectacular backcountry roads offer more great explorations via drives, leisurely walks, hikes, and exercise with the best bud.

Healdsburg

Set in the coveted Wine Country of the state, the dog-friendly town of Healdsburg is an especially beloved destination for pet moms and dads who appreciate the fine drink. The atmospheric streets are lined with art galleries and charming boutiques for endless strolls and perusing, while the world-class establishments make the town a real heaven for foodies. One will find many kennel clubs, pup-friendly restaurants, and patio settings to share quality local treats with the best friend.

The prestigious Mutt Lynch Winery, a winner of national and international awards for its dog-friendly accolade, comes with a motto of “Bark less, wag more.” Owned by Brenda and Chris Lynch, along with their pooch Patch, they offer gracious accommodations to chat and taste. Meanwhile, the pups get doggie treats as they get to know each other, play, and run around. The winery features special events such as “Yappy Hour” and “Dog-A-Palooza,” along with catered parties like doggy birthdays, puppy showers, and “Bark-Mitzvahs.”

Huntington Beach

Dog Surfing Competition at Huntington Beach, California
Dog Surfing Competition at Huntington Beach, California. Editorial credit: KK Stock / Shutterstock.com

Possibly the best dog beach in the state, Huntington Beach is popular for its vast sandy stretch to relax and enjoy some leisurely activities with the pet. Many know the town foremost as the surfing mecca with the epic SoCal waves, but fewer are familiar with its exclusive designation for dogs. Calling for an imminent visit, the renowned dog surfing competition takes place at the end of the summer season.

One will become part of a natural scenic beach-set spectacle, with events including a fashion show, a costume contest, and “Yappy Hours.” The beach graciously offers private dog surfing lessons from July to September that will prepare the newbie dog surfers for the next season. For other days of the year, the beach is perfect for morning strolls or runs, soaking up the sun during an afternoon intermitting with refreshing dips and scenic sunsets.

Mammoth Lakes

A girl and her dog stand above a beautiful high alpine lake on a sunny summer day in Mammoth, California
A girl and her dog stand above a beautiful high alpine lake on a sunny summer day in Mammoth, California.

One of the lesser-known areas of the Sierra Nevadas, Mammoth Lakes, sees fewer tourists even during the season and is a perfect getaway in solitude with your best friend. The water-abundant, scenically-set locale next to Yosemite National Park offers countless fun ways to spend a vacation for the active owners and their pets in the great outdoors. Best to visit during the summer months to spend days by the water; there are also many hiking areas around to cool off in the shade or enjoy a leisurely picnic with the scenery. The prime destination also comes with tons of pet-friendly cafes, patios, and restaurants, for affordable meals at a hand’s reach from the lakes.

Among the pet-friendly accommodations, there’s the popular one Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa to set base and enjoy all the trails, lakes, and restaurants in the vicinity with the pooch. There is also free transportation on public transit for the dogs during the summer, including local buses, shuttles to Reds Meadow, and even the ever-exciting gondola to the Mammoth Mountain summit. Among the countless pet-friendly trails, there’s the epically-renowned one John Muir Trailwhere dogs are allowed off-leash to explore and enjoy a supervised adventure of their own.

Mendocino

Anchor Bay Beach, Mendocino County, California
Anchor Bay Beach, Mendocino County, California.

The town in Northern California offers an incredible locale, as well as one of the most dog-friendly destinations in the state to spend a vacation with the best friend. Known for its beautiful coastline, Mendocino promises a perfect retreat with leisurely activities by the shores. Nearly half-a-century-old Stanford Inn By The Sea is run by Jeff and Joan Stanford, who warmly welcome all two- and four-legged guests. The stay comes with a plate of cookies and a welcome package with various doggy trinkets and treats.

The Little River Resort & Spa is another superb dog-friendly stay, offering a beguiling set of services, such as the popular Water Dog package. Set epically perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, it guarantees breathtaking scenery from the doorstep. In-town, the canines are allowed to follow their humans almost anywhere, with an unlimited list including local parks and great restaurants. Moreover, many businesses offer friendly accommodations and canine quirks to keep pooches busy while the owners do their thing. There are countless dog-friendly hiking trails in the vicinity and even joint kayaking and canoeing boat rides.

San Diego

Many people play with their dogs at the water's edge of Dog Beach in San Diego, California
Many people play with their dogs at the water’s edge of Dog Beach in San Diego, California. Editorial credit: Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock.com

San Diego is the top pet-friendly city in the nation, where owners and pets can stay joined at the hip throughout all of the epic explorations and adventures. The renowned, massive Balboa Park comes with plenty of outdoor space for pups to roam free, including hiking trails and cactus gardens. Set next to Little Italy Or South Park, one can easily hop around the places for various pooch-friendly pastimes and sights. San Diego is also known as a paradise among beach-loving two- and four-legged visitors.

The amazing dog-friendly vacation in southern California comes with many fun activities for the pooches along the shoreline in the sunshine. Surrounded by mesmerizing scenery, the jaw-dropping cliff line opens up views of the La Jolla and Del Mar coasts. The active rejoice in getting their fill of exercise via the meandering Cowles Mountain trail with an entire view of San Diego from 360 degrees around. For more memorable moments together, there are five spas, along with the local brunch experience at the Stratford Court Cafe.

Santa Barbara

A man walks a group of dogs onto Arroyo Burro State Beach in Santa Barbara, California
A man walks a group of dogs onto Arroyo Burro State Beach in Santa Barbara, California. Editorial credit: DBSOCAL / Shutterstock.com

Santa Barbara is full of pet owners, making the city ideal for dogs with absolutely everything to have a great vacation alongside their best friend. Among countless dog-friendly sites and attractions, there are 45 pet-friendly hotels, such as the highly rated 24-acre mansion of The Fees Parker – A Doubletree by Hilton Resort. Set overlooking the stunning coastline, it will make all Southern California dreams come true. There’s also the Ocean Mesa set centrally on the coast at El Capitan Canyon, with a myriad of outdoor adventures around.

The Douglas Family Preserve off-leash dog park is wonderful for dogs to release their energy over some fun and exercise across the 70-acre spread. The fantastic Ocean Front Trail beguiles with endless shores for dog walks, beautiful beaches, and a grassy trail. With nearly 50 dog-friendly establishments in the area, one will find great coffee shops for some morning-walk java, along with cafes and restaurants that let dogs be part of every meal. There are also many bars to have a nightcap together while mingling among other two and four-legged visitors.

The top destinations in the state not only allow but encourage the dog to be part of the experience when visiting. Catering to make all doggy fantasies come to life, these nine dog-friendly vacations in California offer endless bonding moments with the best friend.

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