7 Best Dog-Friendly Trails in Orange County

Orange County is known for its beautiful beaches and pristine neighborhoods. Its parks and beaches are extremely well kept due to the county’s strict regulations which sometimes excludes your fluffy pal. They are definitely there to preserve nature, but responsible dog owners often have a tough time finding outdoor places for their beloved pets to smell fresh grass, play in the sand, or mark their ‘territories’. However, there are still some hidden spots in Orange County to bring your best friend to roam everywhere and smell everything!

  1. Huntington Dog Beach


    Trail:
    3.5 miles stretch of the beach and ocean. Dogs are able to swim in the water or run around in the sand.
    Off-leash option: Yes! They can run free and play with other dogs as they choose. However, potentially dangerous unleashed dogs have been cited or removed.
    Location: Between Seapoint Street and 21st Street
    Hours: 5am – 10pm daily
    Parking: Public street parking across the street or metered lots $1.75/hour (accepts credit/debit cards or cash). Can get crowded in the summertime, but people are constantly coming and going.
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★★★
    Comments: Amenities include doggie waste bags, public restrooms, nicely paved walkways

  2. Canyon Park, Costa Mesa


    Trail:
     Canyon Park can be accessed on Arbor Street or through Talbert Regional Park. Canyon Park is a small 1.45 acre well-kept park with lovely hiking and biking trails. Plenty of flowers and trees for shade and a taste of nature in a busy city.
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
    Location: 970 Arbor Street, cross streets are 19th and Monrovia Street
    Hours: 7am – sunset daily
    Parking: Free street parking or free small parking lot off Arbor Street (open during park hours only)
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★★☆
    Comments: Amenities include playgrounds, picnic tables, plenty of green open space. Crowds are few and far between.

  3. Peters Canyon, Tustin


    Trail:
     Named the ‘Sea to Mountains Trail’, the full 6.2 mile loop starts from sea level and trails get fairly steep for moderate to expert hikers, runners, joggers, bikers, and pups. There are also plenty of detours for beginners who just want to go on a nice stroll. From ‘Mountain to Sea’, the trail extends into the neighborhoods up and down Jamboree Rd.
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
    Location: Trailhead begins half a mile off Peters Canyon Road off Pioneer Road, major cross streets are Tustin Ranch and Jamboree Road. Conveniently located across the street from Irvine Lake.
    Hours: 7am – sunset daily, may be closed for up to 3 days after rain
    Parking: Free street parking
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★★★
    Comments: Amenities include doggie waste bags and public portable restrooms at trailhead, benches at viewpoints, and plenty of open space. Can get crowded on weekends and shade is limited so bring a hat, plenty of water, and sunglasses on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for a cardio workout to get your dog’s energy out, this is the place.

  4. Huntington Beach Wetlands, Huntington Beach


    Trail:
     Located behind the beautiful neighborhoods of Huntington Beach, this ecological wildlife preserve extends down the Santa Ana River. There is a trail that stretches along the river, hike up and back as you please.
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
    Location: Between Brookhurst and Magnolia Streets in Huntington Beach
    Hours: 7am – sunset daily
    Parking: Street parking on neighboring streets along the Santa Ana River
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★☆☆
    Comments: A large area dedicated to bird and wildlife sanctuaries, the Wetlands are a great spot for naturalists. Can smell during low tide.

  5. Salt Creek Trail, Laguna Beach


    Trail:
    You can begin the 7.6-mile hike at both ends of the trail – Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point or Laguna Niguel Regional Park on Alicia Parkway. The trail climbs up the canyon and dives under Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) along the way.
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
    Location: 31535-31543 Street of the Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel
    Hours: Sunrise – sunset daily
    Parking: Free parking for the Salt Creek Trail is available at Chapparosa Community Park. Fees are charged at Laguna Niguel Regional Park and Salt Creek Beach Park.
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★★☆
    Comments: Most of the hike is a leisurely stroll by the beach but very dog friendly. Restrooms are located at the trailheads and trail is shared by bikers and runners.

  6. Black Star Canyon, Irvine


    Trail:
     A moderate to difficult 7.2 mile hike to a waterfall and back. The best time to see the waterfall is after a few rainy days, but be careful as you will have to climb boulders which can get wet.
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. There are rocks and obstacles to climb so only bring dogs with high agility.
    Location: 970 Arbor Street, cross streets are 19th and Monrovia Street.
    Hours: 7am – sunset daily
    Parking: Street parking lot at beginning of trailhead (donations accepted). Can get full quickly as it is a popular hike.
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★☆☆
    Comments: Most of the time this waterfall does not run water so the best time to go is after the rain. Be careful of poison oak, mainly at the beginning of the trail. A fun hike but can crowded and difficult with a dog.

  7. Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, Newport Beach


    Trail:
     Many easy trails including the Bluff and Bay Trail loop are approximately 3 miles long. This park stretches across 135 acres of nature, wildlife, and dirt pathways for hikers, bikers, joggers, and their dogs!
    Off-leash option: No, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
    Location: 2301 University Drive
    Hours: 7am – sunset daily
    Parking: Street parking and parking in the adjacent parking lot is free.
    Cost: Free
    Rating: ★★★★☆
    Comments: Plan accordingly as there are no public restrooms or water fountains and shade is limited. Look out for all the different types of birds that stop by.

Be environmentally conscious and be sure to clean up after your dog at all times! If your pup is anything like my pup Maya, they’ll love these outdoor trails! Hiking is a great way to exercise your dog (& yourself!) and provides a much needed escape to nature after a long work week.

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