The Pacific Coast Highway: A Pet-Friendly Road Trip

Posted by Erin Ballinger

Explore California’s stunning coastline with Fido on one of the county’s most scenic roads. State Route 1, also known as Pacific Coast Highway or the PCH, is a major north-south state highway that runs from San Francisco to San Diego. At a total of just over 656 miles, it’s the longest state route in California. A drive with your dog along the legendary PCH offers opportunities for epic cliffside views, unforgettable sandy beaches, amazing hikes in redwood forests and unique coastal towns to visit along the way. It’s the road trip of every California-loving canine’s dreams!

San Francisco

Strike a “paws” by the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Nicole

Start your road trip off in San Francisco, a pet-friendly city where most popular tourist attractions and public transportation welcome dogs. Its most recognizable landmark, The Golden Gate Bridge, allows pups on the walkway from 5 p.m. until dusk every day. For amazing views of the bridge itself, bring Fido to Baker Beach, where canines are welcome to play off-leash on certain sandy sections. Continue your sightseeing tour at Golden Gate Park, which has four off-leash areas and is one of the city’s most popular gathering spots for canines. Commemorate the start of your trip with an epic photoshoot of your pup with Flying Furbaby Photos at the Golden Gate. Before heading south, visit Le Marcel bakery for a barker’s dozen of all-natural pastries and a coffee for the road. If you decide to spend the night in The Golden City, stay at the Historic Mission Victorian in the vibrant Mission District with your pup.

Big Sur

"This view is leaving me barkless." Photo by @trisha_l

Bordered to the east by the Santa Lucia Mountains and the west by the Pacific Ocean, the two-lane Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur is known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the often-misty coastline. Go beachcombing for sand dollars with your leashed pup at the aptly named Sand Dollar Beach or stop for a picnic at Andrew Molera State Park. If you’d prefer a hot meal, dine out on the dog-friendly patio at Big Sur Roadhouse. Sleep under the stars with a dramatic ocean view while camping in your own tent with your pup at Kirk Creek Campground, or go glamping at the luxurious Ventana Big Sur’s Redwood and Canyon Glampsites. Your dog can join you for breakfast in the morning at the resort’s The Sur House restaurant before you hit the road.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

"Picture me rollin'." Photo by @Maddogscarmel

No PCH road trip with Fido is complete without a visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This quaint seaside town owes a debt of gratitude to the late actress and animal lover, Doris Day, for leaving the area with a legacy of pet-friendliness. Dogs are permitted to join their humans at most stores (like the uber DF Carmel Plaza), restaurants and art galleries in the area, and you’ll want to visit them all. Rent a bike with a pup-friendly sidecar at Mad Dogs & Englishmen for an excursion off Highway 1 to experience Scenic Road in Carmel or the famed 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach on two wheels. Be sure to make reservations to dine next to a fire pit on the lush garden patio at The Forge. Your dog can browse the restaurant’s Canine Cuisine menu and nosh on dishes like Plain Ol’ Kibble or The Good Dog (an 8-ounce grilled steak). At the end of the day, splurge for a stay at Cypress Inn, widely hailed as the most pet-friendly hotel in the country. Your pooch will thank you.

Santa Barbara

“You had me at ‘mutt-lot.’” Photo by Jody Williams

If you can convince Fido to leave Carmel and continue down the coast, make time to check out Santa Barbara. You can't leave wine country without a tasting tour, and DeeTours of Santa Barbara has you and your pooch covered. Enjoy the ride in a Jeep as you visit four pet-friendly wineries for tastings, an organic picnic lunch and a stop in the Danish community of Solvang. Afterward, play in the Pacific with your pup at Arroyo Burro Beach Park, or stay dry and take in first-class coastal views with a shoreline walk on the Oceanfront Trail. Be sure to stop to smell the roses at Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens, a pet-friendly garden that has several trails for you and Fido to explore. Rest weary paws at the charming Hummingbird Cottage after a fun-filled day in Santa Barbara.

Malibu

“Baby, you’re a dog, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise …” Photo by @Its_mischa

Known around the world for its beautiful beaches, SoCal vibes and as an enclave for the rich and famous, Malibu boasts one of the most visited stretches of the PCH. Head to Leo Carrillo State Park & Beach to experience the surf and sand with Fido. Leashed dogs are welcome on the beach north of lifeguard tower 3, at the campground and at all day-use areas. If you haven’t had enough of those dog-friendly Malibu beaches, head to Point Mugu State Park.

Break for lunch on the patio at John’s Garden for healthy sandwiches, salads and fruit smoothies. A side of chicken, tuna or burger patty for 5 bucks would be a “pawfect” pick-me-up for your pup! Keep your eyes peeled for stars getting their health food fix at this celeb hotspot. After the meal, work off those calories with a hike at Solstice Canyon, which offers breathtaking views of the ocean. If you decide to stay overnight (and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to stay in the ‘Bu?), book this Beachfront Malibu Bungalow, where you can enjoy your morning coffee overlooking the Pacific while petting your pup.

Long Beach

Stay at the Queen Mary for a hauntingly good time! Photo by Samara Iodice

Long Beach is home to the only off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County, Rosie’s Dog Beach, which makes it a great pitstop to explore with Fido. After you’ve worked up an appetite playing in the sand and surf, head to The Attic, just 15 minutes by foot from the beach. While you chow down on Southern cuisine with a SoCal twist, treat Fido to some bacon, sausage or chicken from the restaurant’s dog menu. If you’re traveling with a small pooch, stay on The Queen Mary, a 1930s luxury cruise ship that has been docked at the port of Queensway Bay since 1967 and converted to a pet-friendly hotel. The ship is reportedly haunted, so maybe you’ll be visited by one of its ghosts. For more supernatural fun, bring your canine companion along on a Haunted Happenings Tour, a Paranormal Investigation, or a  Paranormal Ship Walk. If you’re traveling with a big dog, need more space, or don’t want to run into any ghosts, book this one-bedroom cottage near the beach instead.

Huntington Beach

Make a pit stop in the OC to play a game of fetch in the sand. Photo by @Brettfragerofficial

Located on a mile-long stretch of sand between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street, Huntington Dog Beach is a canine lover’s paradise. Orange County's only off-leash dog beach, nicknamed Surf City USA, is a fun spot for dogs who want to learn how to ride a wave with Good Kharma Surf Instruction or just romp in the sand. Huntington Beach is also one of the most pet-friendly beach towns in the U.S., so there’s a lot to do if you want to extend your stay. Grab a bite to eat at the Park Bench Cafe, located just a few miles from the beach in Huntington Beach Central Park. Its Canine Cuisine menu has offered fine treats to four-legged diners in their Doggie Dining Section since 1993. Return to Huntington Beach Best Friend Dog Park to let your furry friend run off leash for a bit so he doesn’t get a tummy ache after his meal. In the afternoon, check into the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, which offers cushy amenities for Fido including plush beds, water bowls and waste bags. Dogs are even welcome to join you at the nightly wine reception and by the fire pits while you roast complimentary s’ mores.

San Diego

Drive the squad to San Diego. Photo by @Life.as.cohen

Fido’s road trip along the PCH ends in dog-loving San Diego. Cruise into town in time for lunch at Fred’s Mexican Cafe in Old Town, where pups can feast on sliced carne asada from the dog menu. Walk off your meal with a trip through the past with your leashed perro at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and learn what life was like as San Diego transitioned from a Mexican pueblo to an American settlement in the 1820s-1870s. You can also try a kayak or SUP excursion at Aqua Adventures, which is ideally situated between The Original Dog Beach and Fiesta Island Off-Leash Dog Park. When night falls, embark on an informative and spooky walking tour with San Diego Ghosts. End your epic PCH road trip with a stay at this beachfront, pet-friendly two-bedroom condo located just steps away from The Original Dog Beach.

Have you cruised the Pacific Coast Highway with your canine? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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