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Dog-Friendly Hikes Along California’s Central Coast

Dog-Friendly Hikes Along California’s Central Coast

Looking for a great way to experience California’s Central Coast with your pooch? Here are the best dog-friendly hikes.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

June 12, 2022

If you’re looking for a great way to experience California’s Central Coast with your pooch, consider doing so by hiking the area’s awesome trails. The region boasts some of the state’s most scenic vistas, with breathtaking and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The region also possesses acres of picturesque landscapes, which can easily have you staring for hours straight. With 80-miles of rugged coastline, untouched rolling hills, and cool weather, the Central Coast is an open call for outdoor excursions.

Most of the top hikes here are well known to locals, but can easily be missed if you’re a first-time visitor, with no knowledge of the area’s ins and outs. If you’re ready to experience the best of the Central Coast, add these dog-friendly hikes to your itinerary and work on checking each one of them off your bucket list.

These Are the Best Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails Along the Central Coast

The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail is one of the most scenic trails in the Central Coast, and offers the best Pacific Ocean views.

1. Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail

  • Location: Lovers Point Park, Pacific Grove.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Distance: 13.2 miles.
  • Time: 5 hours.
  • Route: Out and back.
  • Dogs allowed: On a leash.


Extending over 13 miles, the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail takes you on a picturesque trip along the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The trail, which links Castroville to Pacific Grove, offers you striking views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the gorgeous parks surrounding it. You can also see two of the area’s top attractions, Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, as you make your way to the end of this hike on the Central Coast. Do not be alarmed by the length of the trail, as it is a pretty easy one to tackle. What makes this hike one of the most incredible things to do in Monterey, is that your dog can accompany you as well.

2. Arroyo Burro Beach Loop

  • Location: Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Distance: 1.3 miles.
  • Time: 30 minutes.
  • Route: Loop.
  • Dogs allowed: Yes.


If you're looking for an easy, dog-friendly hike on the Central Coast, look no further than the Arroyo Burro Beach Loop. The hike, which hardly feels like a hike, is situated within the 70-acre Douglas Family Reserve. Surrounded by the most spectacular views of the area, you’ll soon realize you’re putting more effort into taking photos than into hiking. As you make your way around the 1.3-mile loop, you’ll get to enjoy striking sea cliffs, cypress giants, and wildflower beds. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll even get to see a whale or two, as the Central Coast has some of the most incredible places for whale watching.

Searching for the Big Falls in the Santa Lucia Wilderness is an experience you get to experience with your favorite pet.

3. Big Falls Trail

  • Location: Santa Lucia Wilderness, Arroyo Grande.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Distance: 4.4 miles.
  • Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Route: Out and back.
  • Dogs allowed: On a leash.


Big Falls is the centerpiece of the Santa Lucia Wilderness portion of Los Padres National Forest. The breathtaking waterfall flows year-round and plunges 80 feet into a pool, which is swimmable during the hotter months of the year. Besides the waterfall, 40-foot cascades are active year-round and make for marvelous vistas.  To take in all the wonders Mother Nature has blessed this area with, hike the Big Falls Trail, and don’t stop until you’ve seen it all. Your dog can accompany you on the hike, but remember to keep it on a leash at all times.

4. Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail

  • Location: Avila Beach.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Distance: 5.1 miles.
  • Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
  • Route: Out and back.
  • Dogs allowed: On a leash.


Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail is one of the best hikes on the Central Coast, and definitely one of the most popular among locals and tourists alike. This well-paved and heavily-shaded trail starts at Ontario Street and ends in Downtown Avila Beach. Wander next to the breathtaking San Luis Obispo Creek, and pass the fields, which come into full bloom during spring. Not only is this trail perfect for an easy family hike, but it’s also suitable for bikers, skateboarders, and nature photographers. Don’t forget to bring your pup with you on this easy Central Coast hike — it’ll make at least a dozen new friends.

Watch all of San Luis Obispo unfold in front of you from the very top of Bishop Peak.

5. Bishop Peak Trail From Patricia Drive

  • Location: Bishop Peak Natural Area, San Luis Obispo.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Distance: 3.4 miles.
  • Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes.
  • Route: Out and back.
  • Dogs allowed: On a leash.

One of the most fun things to do in San Luis Obispo is hiking toward its favorite peak, Bishop Peak. The tallest of the nine sisters, Bishop Peak stands at 1,546 feet and has a crest that resembles a bishop’s miter. This dog-friendly Central Coast hike takes you through dirt roads, shaded forest, and oak woodlands, giving you a full taste of the area. Do you happen to enjoy a unique sunrise hike? Take the Patricia Drive Trail at dusk and enjoy uncensored, orange-hued views of S.L.O. County.

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6. Johnson Trail Loop Trail

  • Location: Johnson Ranch Open Space, San Luis Obispo.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Distance: 2.2 miles.
  • Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • Route: Loop.
  • Dogs allowed: Yes.


Hiking on Central Coast, California is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. While a few of the trails here aren’t for the faint-hearted, many are extremely suitable for first-timers, especially children. One of those trails is San Luis Obispo’s Johnson Trail Loop Trail, at Johnson Ranch Open Space. The short path exposes visitors of all ages to beautiful rolling grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian zones, and coastal scrubs, unique to the region. Bring your family along for a memorable San Luis Obispo hike, and don’t forget to include your four-legged babies in your trip.

Bring your four-legged friend along as you explore the pools and cascades of Cold Springs Trail Loop.

7. Cold Spring Trail Loop 

  • Location: Gould Park, Montecito.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Distance: 2.7 miles.
  • Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • Route: Loop.
  • Dogs allowed: On a leash.


Considered one of the best Central Coast hikes, Cold Springs Trail Loop is one of those trails that every outdoorsy person should experience, sooner rather than later. The gorgeous trail starts as a regular walk along the creek but evolves into something dreamy real quick. Picturesque pools, beautiful cascades, and rare wildflowers await you as you make your way around the loop. The best part about this Santa Barbara hike is that your pooch can join you on a leash as well.

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