The California Coastal Trail (CCT) is all about connection. When completed, the incredible pathway will span over 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico, linking coastal towns and existing trails to create one continuous route along the West Coast. So far, the CCT is around 70% complete, and includes primary, secondary, beach and bike-only sections. Whether you’re looking for an easy afternoon stroll or a challenging thru-hike, prepare your outbound hound for an amazing adventure along the Pacific Coast on the pet-friendly sections of the CCT. You and your pooch can even pair stretches of the coastal trail with sections of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Posted by Billy Francis
Head to the Trailhead
Plot your course on the pet-friendly patio at Chetco Brewing Company, just north of the starting point on the border of Oregon and California. When you cross into California to begin your adventure, get your first taste of the CCT along stretches of sandy shoreline like the windswept Clifford Kamph Memorial Park and the epic dunes at Tolowa Dunes State Park.
Bigger is Better
The greatest wonders in the world have a tendency to be giant. Featured in the 2021 edition of our Ruff Guide to the United States, take a detour off the trail to Trees of Mystery and SkyTrail. Here you’ll find two massive Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues standing guard outside the Trees of Mystery, one of Northern California’s most unique dog-friendly destinations in the heart of Redwood National Park. Measuring up to 20 feet in diameter, the ancient trees are impressive to behold. Walk among 2,000-year-old behemoths with majestic monikers like The Brotherhood, Cathedral, and Elephant. When you’re finished staring up at giants, soar above the towering forest canopy on a 10-minute ride on the SkyTrail Gondola.
Continue taking in the scenic views on a 25-mile drive north along the Redwood Highway to the Anchor Beach Inn in Crescent City. The hotel offers double-queen ocean-view rooms for guests traveling with fur kids.
Hammond Coastal Trail is a stretch of the CCT that links Arcata and Clam Beach. Start off with a leashed walk along Mad River Beach, then enjoy off-leash fun at Clam Beach Off-Leash Area from October through February. This trail is rated as easy and welcomes most levels of hiker. Nearby Humboats Kayak Adventures gives you and your pooch a chance to get out on the water in Humboldt County.
Around 60 miles south of Eureka, you and your pooch will discover the Lost Coast Trail in King Range National Conservation Area. Leashed dogs can join their owners on this 25-mile rugged coastal path, reserved for more experienced explorers. Stop for a picture next to Punta Gorda Lighthouse and bask in gorgeous wildflowers as far as the eye can see during spring.
You don’t need to stray far from the trail for a good night’s sleep. Inn of the Lost Coast is located one mile from a dog beach and offers treats for tired pups at check-in.
The area surrounding San Francisco is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable section of the California Coastal Trail. Lands End Trail is a moderate coastal pathway that begins at Sutro Baths, the remains of an extravagant public bath house that opened in 1896, and leads to one of the most famous landmarks in the world, The Golden Gate Bridge. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you on every inch of the bridge. Don’t forget to pause for off-leash fun at Baker Beach, one of the best dog beaches on the West Coast. After a day of play, make your way to Park Chalet Garden Restaurant for delicious food on the expansive lawn. Before you leave the area, share a sunset walk on Fort Funston Doggie Beach with the close-knit coastal canine community.
Stop Halfway at Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail was once the Ocean Shore Railroad, but has been repurposed to allow dogs and their owners a chance to enjoy the shoreline. The wide pathway leads to Poplar Beach and offers glimpses of a world-famous surf destination known as Mavericks. Surf dogs should look out for adrenaline junkies trying to catch waves up to 80 feet high during the winter months. If you’re feeling peckish after all that hiking, get a taste of England and a picture of Fido next to a London double decker bus at Cameron's Restaurant in Half Moon Bay.
Harbor View Inn welcomes dogs to enjoy Pacific views and a comfortable stay in Half Moon Bay.
Cruise Around Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is blessed with a bounty of beautiful beaches to explore with your pooch along the California Coastal Trail. Start your tour of these sandy spots at Its Beach, where pups can roam off-leash before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Then, make your way to Lighthouse Field State Beach and take photos of your pooch next to the famous lighthouse. Finish your tour of Santa Cruz beaches at Twin Lakes State Beach and shower off in the outdoor showers provided. End your day with the catch of the day at Aldo's in Santa Cruz Harbor.
Drift away to ocean sounds at Casablanca On The Beach. Here’s looking at you, Fido.
Keep Calm and Carmel On
Pay a visit to Carmel, one of the best pet-friendly beach towns in America. Let Fido loose at Carmel Beach, where swimsuits are mandatory but leashes aren’t. After playing on the golden sand and meeting other sight-sniffers, embark on some retail therapy together at Carmel Plaza and snap a memorable photo at the shopping center’s Fountain of Woof. In the evening, enjoy a romantic meal for you and your furry boo at The Forge. The canine menu at this popular pet-friendly restaurant includes “The Hot Diggity Dog” and “The Quarter Hounder.”
When it’s time to call it a night, settle in at Cypress Inn, Doris Day’s pet-friendly paradise in Carmel.
Explore the American Riviera
Beyond a stretch of coast that is not yet a part of the CCT lies Santa Barbara. Take a walk along the Oceanfront Trail and imagine the Spanish settlers from 1782 arriving by boat. Afterwards, check out the town’s most popular spot for four-legged visitors, Arroyo Burro Beach (Hendry's Beach), a clean and quiet stretch of sand where dogs can play off-leash in the surf. A little wander along the coast will lead you to Douglas Family Preserve, a 70-acre off-leash area full of winding hiking trails and hidden beaches. If you want to get off your feet for a while, Golden Limo Santa Barbara offers private dog-friendly winery tours, so you can taste the region’s world-renowned wines with your pooch by your side.
Guests can enjoy beautiful views of Santa Barbara from the pet-friendly rooms at Blue Sands Inn.
Make It Big in L.A.
There’s more to Los Angeles than glitz and glamor. It’s also a super pet-friendly stop along the California Coastal Trail. Rosie's Dog Beach is located along Ocean Blvd and welcomes dogs to play off-leash. After meeting the famous furry residents, enjoy a Gondola Getaway together through the canals of Naples. Further down the coast in Huntington Beach, you’ll find Huntington Dog Beach, a beloved destination for four-legged beach bums. More active water dogs might want to try their paw at surfing with a class from Good Kharma Surf Instruction. Refuel afterwards with a burger at Woody's Diner.
Keep the beach vibes going with a reservation at Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort.
You Made It!
San Diego is the last stop before the California Coastal Trail comes to an end just north of the Mexican border. Keep the coastal fun going at The Original Dog Beach, arguably the most famous canine hangout in the state. Providing off-leash fun along a huge stretch of sand, this beach is a must-visit. Follow it up with a trip to nearby Fiesta Island Park for a romp along the coastal trails together. Next to the bay, you can see the iconic sculpture of the Unconditional Surrender at Tuna Harbor Park. Reenact the famous image with Fido jumping into your arms and follow it up with a toast to an awesome trip at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station.
Enjoy breakfast on the balcony as you bid farewell to the CCT at this gorgeous beach house near the ocean.