San Francisco is a city full of parks, big and small. It is also—no coincidence—a city full of dogs, big and small. While finding a San Francisco apartment that allows pets isn’t so easy, finding a place to exercise your pooch is a snap.
If you’ve got the time for a serious romp, you can’t do any better than Fort Funston. Found down by Lake Merced, this stretch of beach and cliff top is a favorite of both hang gliders and dog walkers. Stroll the forested paths along the top or make your way down the steep, sandy stairs to the beach. It can get windy, but if your dog likes to run, this is the place. The current Golden Gate National Recreation Area law designates Fort Funston an “on leash or voice control” dog walking area.
Bernal Heights Park
Up atop the Bernal Heights neighborhood, you’ll find almost 40 acres of hillside offering spectacular views downtown. You can also leave your leash in the car, as this park has gone to the dogs. The center of the park is fenced off for telecommunications towers, but the rest is fair game. While Bernal Heights Park is great for wandering free, it’s a little steep for playing fetch. Throw too hard and that ball is gone!
Buena Vista Park
If you live anywhere near the Haight, you’ve probably found Buena Vista Park. This 35-acre stretch of trees and hillsides is an off-leash area. Paths crisscross the park, leading you up to the top of Buena Vista—which is Spanish for “good view.” If the weather is good, the name holds; you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the park’s heights. This is actually San Francisco’s oldest park, and it dates back to 1867!
They say if you love someone, set him free—but those people may not have met your dog. If you prefer to keep your pooch close by, Duboce Park is a lovely, dog-friendly spot for you to keep a leash on things. This neighborhood park is in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood, between the Lower Haight and the Castro. You’ll have to share the green with families and Frisbees, but the more the merrier.
Alta Plaza Dog Park
For those folks living in the northern section of the city, Alta Plaza Park is an excellent place to let your pet wear him or herself out. There’s an off-leash dog area on the east side of the gentle hilltop here. While this park tends more towards Pomeranians and Pekinese than Doberman Pinschers, all are welcome. Alta Plaza also has a playground and other facilities if you want to spend more than one walk’s worth of time outside.