Where the wild dogs are

An opinionated guide to local parks where your canine can run free


San Francisco has more dogs than children, which might be a comment on the price of housing — even the largest canine companion doesn't need a bedroom. But with all of those furry beasts seeking exercise in a dense urban area, the city's made a point of finding places for dogs to run, romp, and play — with some success, and some ... well, not such great success.

We've taken on the task of finding some of the best dog parks, and offer this opinionated guide. Remember, not all dog parks are created equal. Some are great if you just want open space to toss a ball; others are better for the dog that likes to wander around and explore. Some are perfect for the social animal that loves lots of canine company; some serve the more solitary types.

Our ratings reflect the level of cleanliness (will I be constantly stepping over, or in, poo?), friendliness (are the park-goers, human and canine, nice to be around and welcoming, or is there a cliquishness or conflicts between different types of users?) and dog-fun terrain (Just dirt? Lots of trees and bushes? Gophers to chase? Water to drink — and play in?)

Results below.


Legal status: City park, off-leash allowed

Cleanliness: 2 paws

Friendliness: 4 paws

Terrain: 3 paws

Lots of room on this often-windy hilltop. Hiking trails offer spectacular city views; paved roads are nice for jogging. Amazing rock formations surround a couple of open flat areas for romping and ball-chasing. Dog and human water fountains. Very friendly; everyone who uses the place is used to off-leash dogs. Sadly, some take the vegetation and rocky hillsides as an excuse not to clean up; if you're off trail, watch where you step. Entrances at the top of Bernal Heights Boulevard and at Folsom and Ripley.


Legal status: City park, on-leash rules are not tightly enforced

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 4 paws

You can walk a few hundred yards into Glen Canyon and feel miles away from the city. The canyon floor, with a creek (mud! exciting!) running through it, is cool and shady with trees, thickets, and blackberries. The hillsides are grassy, steep, and sometimes attract rock climbers. Most days, there are off-leash dogs walking and playing — but there are also picnic areas, ball fields, and a (fenced) kids' playground where it's best not to allow dogs to roam freely, and sensitive habitat restoration areas where off-leash dogs can wreak havoc. Sometimes users complain about off-leash dogs; if you keep poochie on leash, it's still a great hiking area. Absolutely do not let your dog wander off in the deeper parts of the canyon, where coyotes have made a home; it's best for all parties if they are undisturbed.

The south side of the park is undergoing renovations right now, but you can enter at Diamond Heights and Sussex (watch the traffic, there's no crosswalk) or at the end of Bosworth.


Legal status: City park, off-leash areas

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 3 paws

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