Whether you’re new to San diego North County or just visiting with your pooch, you might be wondering where the cool places to take your best friend are. Below are some of my favorite spots to take my dog, along with some locals tips. So put that collar & leash on your pup, strap up your shoes and hit the trails!
#5 Indian Head Canyon
Dogs OK off leash, 30 -45 minute walk, moderate to difficult hike
If you’re in the mood for a moderate to difficult workout, check out this little-known gem hidden amongst the Encinitas Ranch development on the Leucadia side. Park along Quail Hollow Dr. and enter trailhead on the south side of the street. Poop bags, garbage, sometimes a water bowl, and a bulletin board greet you. The trail is mostly open, with some shade to follow later on. The main trail follows a loop. You’ll go up a hill and can decide to branch off onto a steeper higher trail or not. If you take the challenge and climb the high trail, you’ll be rewarded with great views of Encinitas and the Pacific ocean. The lower trail is still somewhat of a workout, so you have my permission to skip the gym today. The loop down the hill can be scary, as it’s pretty steep and mostly dirt & sand.
Locals tip: Go early in the morning or evening as it can get very hot, especially in summer. In warm months, beware of rattlesnakes (always in this area of the country).
#4 Del Mar Dog Beach
Dogs allowed off leash from about Labor Day – mid June, easy walk along beach, 20 minute walk from south end to Fletcher Cove, Solana Beach
Metered Parking can be found along Via de la Valle at the beach, but can be scarce in summer months and busy times (mornings & late afternoons). Pay at the pay station, pick the amount of time you want to stay and place ticket on your dashboard. Don’t exceed your time, parking police are strict! I recommend carrying your small dogs into the beach, as the sand can be quite hot in warm months.
Locals tip: Beware rip current on the south end of the beach. Even strong swimmers can be easily swept out to sea!
#3 San Elijo Park
Easy to difficult hike, depending on trail you choose, 30 minutes – a few hours, dogs must be on leash except in dog park.
This park has something for everyone… trails, playground for kids, gazebo area, ball fields and 2 dog parks (1 for small dogs under 40 lbs., 1 for big dogs). Poop bags & garbages are provided in a few locations throughout sidewalk, trails & dog parks. Water for dogs is provided in both dog parks, and water fountain in playground. There are at least 3 restrooms. Trails can be easy or steep uphill & difficult, depending on which you take. Walk past the 2 dog parks on your left. One dirt trail (easy) is on your right & just goes up to a community on Schoolhouse Way with picnic benches. Follow it and through the small parking lot past the restrooms and loop back on the trail to the right. The second trail is down the hill, on your left, before the very steep hill. Its a moderate trail that has shade, a river and sun. Or go straight up a steep hill for more of a workout.
Locals tip: Go early morning or late afternoon in warm months due to excessive heat. Bring water for your dogs. There are 3 parking lots. Upper lot on Schoolhouse Way near the gazebo, middle lot on San Elijo Rd. near the dog parks, lower lot on Elfin Forest Rd. near the community center and playground.
#2 San Elijo Lagoon
20 minutes minimum walk, easy, poop bag stations can be found along the parking lot & trail.
Dogs on leash here. Kid friendly nature center is just off the parking lot. Short loop trail with nice views of the lagoon and ocean, with another trail with small boardwalk cuts through the middle of the park.
Locals tip: As of this writing in August, 2018, there is some construction being done in the area, and the parking lot may be blocked. Certain times of the year you will see fish jumping in the lagoon.
#1 Encinitas Ranch Trails (Cantebria Gardena Trail)
Park along Paseo del las Verdes, across from Las Verdes Park. See trail on either side of the road. Many poop bag stations can be found along the trail. Dogs should be on leash, but many are off leash here. Bring water for you and your dog if going far, entire loop is quite long and can be 45 minutes or more. Moderate hike.
Locals tip: Try to get to the east end of the trail, as there are pretty views of the mountains to the east. Higher points on the trail (to the east and north ends) have nice views of the ocean.