10 Fun Dog-Friendly Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco is a popular destination in the United States. We’ve previously covered the dog-friendly places in San Francisco, from parks to restaurants, but what about tourist attractions? What dog-friendly sites are there to visit in San Francisco if you’re visiting with your dog?

Luckily, I recently visited the city along with my dog, and ticked off as many of the sights as possible. So, here are my top recommendations of dog-friendly things to do in San Francisco!

Dog-Friendly Things to Do in San Francisco USA

#1 Visit the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

This wasn’t even on my list of things to do at first, but I was luckily alerted to these steps by a local, and they were one of my favourite places in San Francisco. A series of steps leading up to Grandview Park in Inner Sunset have been tiled in beautiful designs.

The steps are outdoors so of course your dog is welcome to join you. I recommend visiting earlier in the day, as they become progressively busier as the day goes on. I loved taking photos of my dog in front of the different sections, while we had the steps entirely to ourselves.

Also nearby are the equally colourful Hidden Garden Steps, in between Kirkham Street and 16th Avenue.

Dog on 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco
Schnitzel at the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

#2 Stroll Through Haight-Ashbury

San Francisco is synonymous with the Hippie Era of the 60s and 70s, and that vibe can best still be captured in the Haight-Ashbury District.

This district is located around the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street. It’s home to an eclectic range of shops and cafes, plus there’s plenty of street art to check out. Go for a stroll through the area with your dog and see what you discover!

A side street with murals in Haight-Ashbury
A colourful side street in Haight-Ashbury

#3 View the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

What’s a visit to San Francisco without taking in some of the best viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge? While some of the best places to snap a photo are on the northern side of the bridge, back on the city side head to Baker Beach for a different view.

Dog on Baker Beach in San Francisco
Ready to charge off on Baker Beach

The great thing about going to Baker Beach is that it’s one of San Francisco’s dog-friendly beaches, with dogs allowed off leash along most of it, except for the small section south of Lobos Creek. It’s great for a run on the sand, particularly during good weather, and maybe a play with other friendly dogs.

As well as views of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s also a good spot to watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean, at the end of a fun day sightseeing in San Francisco with your dog.

Sunset hour on Baker Beach
Sunset hour on Baker Beach

#4 Hike at Lands End

Explore more of the coastline around San Francisco on the Lands End Trail. This 3.4 mile long dog-friendly hiking trail is located in part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, southwest along the coast from Baker Beach.

Starting at the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center, where there is a free parking lot, along the way you’ll take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge, explore the historic Sutro Baths, see the USS San Francisco Memorial and visit the dog-friendly beach Mile Rock Beach, only accessible on foot.

One of the best things about this trail is that dogs are allowed off-leash along much of the route! Just follow the signs and make sure your dog is still under your voice and sight control. This includes Mile Rock Beach, where dogs are also allowed off-leash.

#5 Explore Golden Gate Park

An even larger expanse of greenery is found not far south from Lands End – the 1017 acres of Golden Gate Park, stretching for three miles between Haight-Ashbury and Ocean Beach.

There’s plenty to explore at Golden Gate Park, from gardens to monuments to the Bison meadow (yes, with real live bison). Just note that dogs are not allowed in some parts of the park, including the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Golden Gate Park is also home to four dog play areas where your dog is allowed off-leash – great for burning some energy in between sightseeing!

The largest dog park (and the largest in the whole city) is located in the northwestern section of the park, near the intersection of 39th Avenue and Fulton Street. Its fully fenced and even has its own carpark.

The three other off-leash areas are located in the northeastern corner of the park (near Stanyan Street), in the southeastern corner of the park (near Kezar Stadium) and in the southwestern corner of the park. Check out the full list of 31 dog play areas around San Francisco.

#6 Ride on the Cable Cars

One of my big disappointments from our time in San Francisco is that the cable cars weren’t running, due to the bushfire haze engulfing the city. The trams are a traditional (albeit expensive) way to take in the city, including riding from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Luckily dogs are allowed to join you on public transport in San Fransisco, including the cable cars, outside of peak hours (5-9am and 3-7pm, from Monday to Friday).

Note that only one pet is allowed per vehicle and they will be charged a fare the same as your own. Dogs must be leashed and muzzled and either ride on your lap or under your seat.

Dog on a sea lion sculpture at Fisherman's Wharf
Posing on a sea lion sculpture at Fisherman’s Wharf

#7 See the Sea Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf

Even if you don’t catch a cable car, head to Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the resident sea lions at Pier 39. We skipped on the overpriced restaurants in the area, but it was fabulous to see such a huge group of sea lions close by on the docks!

If visiting with your dog, I advise you to use caution and common sense. We kept our dog firmly on his lead, and if any sea lions had been closer than about 10m across the water away, we would have kept our distance. As it is, I don’t think our dog was even that interested in the honking noise!

Dog checking out the sea lions at Pier 39
Schnitzel checking out the sea lions at Pier 39

#8 Check Out the Murals in the Mission District

San Francisco is home to some great street art. During my visit, my favourite area in San Francisco for checking out the street art with my dog by my side was the Mission District.

Make a beeline to Balmy Alley for a laneway lined with a diverse range of murals. Many of the murals reflect the historic Latino links of the area. Plus there’s some great works that have 3D touches.

The artworks are constantly changing, so it’s worthwhile revisiting even if you’ve visited this laneway before.

Colourful murals in the Mission District on Balmy Alley
Colourful murals in the Mission District on Balmy Alley

#9 Visit the Painted Ladies

Another famous spot in San Francisco are the “Painted Ladies”. However, these aren’t real women, but rather a series of beautiful houses opposite Alamo Square Park. If you ever watched the TV show Full House, you would have seen shots of these in the intro.

While the Ladies themselves are only worth a few quick photos, with or without your dog, the next block is entirely taken up with the Alamo Square Park. The entire western half of the park (the opposite side from the Painted Ladies) is an off-leash area, and it’s a popular spot for locals to visit with their dogs for some exercise and socialising.

Dog in front of the Painted Ladies
Who’s the prettiest?

#10 Take a Day Trip to the Napa Valley

Just 50 miles northeast of San Francisco is the Napa Valley wine region, making it a great destination for a day trip from San Francisco, including if you have a dog.

Plenty of wineries in the Napa Valley welcome dogs to join you at tastings, whether inside the cellar door or in their outdoor area. Naturally dogs need to be well-behaved and stay on a leash. Check out this guide to the best dog-friendly wineries in Napa for recommendations on wineries to visit.

It’s best to check in advance whether reservations are required, and be aware that wine tasting fees can be expensive – typically between $30 and $100, although sometimes redeemable against purchases on the day.

Are Dogs Allowed on Public Transport in San Francisco?

If you’re navigating San Francisco using public transport, you’ll be relieved to know that dogs are allowed to accompany you on public transport in San Fransisco, with some restrictions.

The biggest restriction is that dogs are not allowed on any form of public transport operated by Muni during peak hours: 5am to 9am and 3pm to 7pm from Monday to Friday. You’ll need to stick to the weekends or during the middle of the day from 9am to 3pm.

Only one pet is permitted per Muni vehicle, plus you’ll need to buy a ticket for your pet – the same price as your own ticket. Dogs need to be kept leashed and muzzled, while other pets (or small dogs) should be in a small closed container. They’ll need to ride on your lap or under your seat.

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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