Where the wild dogs are - Page 2

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


The second-largest park in the city is often overlooked, but it's got some nice wooded trails — and the only pond in the city where dogs are actually allowed to go swimming. It's not a nasty, slimy-covered puddle, either; the water's clear and there's a (concrete) doggie beach where your canine can ease into a dip. It's shallow enough near shore for those with short legs and deep enough and long enough for the big dogs to have a nice refreshing swim or practice their water-retrieval skills. There's some misinformation on the web about how to find the dog-swim area. You don't want McNabb Lake, on the east side of the park; that's a playground and picnic area with a nice duck pond where dogs are not terribly welcome. The parking lot for the dog area is off the westernmost part of the John F. Shelley loop, near the big blue water tower. You can see the pond from the road, and it's a very short walk down. Bring a towel and be prepared to get wet; humans can't swim there, but the beach is small and wet doggies love to shake.

John F. Shelley Drive.


Legal status: City park, off-leash area

cleanliness: 2 paws

Friendliness: 2 paws

Terrain: 2 paws

This popular spot used to be called "dog shit park." It's the place where Harvey Milk famously announced his legislation mandating that people pick up their canine companions' stinky piles. It's a lot better now — in fact, this is a rare place where the interaction between dogs and children is well-managed and everyone seems happy. The kids are fenced off in the upper area, the dogs run free in the lower area, and people just out for some sun sit in between. Still: watch where you walk. The ghost of Harvey's soiled shoe remains.

The dogs here tend to be a bit rambunctious, perhaps because of the limited space, so don't be surprised if a few more aggressive ones bound up to you as you enter, which can intimidate the more skittish of both species. The (human) regulars tend to know each other. McKinley School's Dog Fest turns the place into a grand celebration of the canine spirit every spring.

Duboce Avenue and Noe.


Legal status: National park, off-leash areas (for now)

Cleanliness: 3 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 4 paws

The walkable trails — surrounded by lush trees, non-native plants, and flora — that lead down to sandy dunes, cliffs, and Ocean Beach itself make up Fort Funston, a former military base, and current highly traveled dog park. In fact, it's one of the Bay Area's most popular mixed-use canine-friendly sites, usually sweeping the Bay Woof's Beast of the Bay awards, this year winning "Best Hiking Trail" and a runner-up for best overall dog park. There are multiple pathways to explore, great views, and a few doggie amenities along the way. On the rare warm weekend (always with a breeze), there might be dozens of pups lapping up the cooling dribble of water from one of the small water fountains. It gets crowded (some dog owners say it's too crowded) on the weekends, but is less congested during the week. The off-leash factor is also currently up for review, so those in charge caution owners to pick up after and keep a close eye on their pets. It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is operated under the authority of the National Park Service.

Park in the lot off Skyline Boulevard.


Legal status: City park, west half is off-leash.

Cleanliness: 4 paws

Friendliness: 3 paws

Terrain: 2 paws

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