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The 7 Best Dog Friendly Weekend Getaways in Northern California

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Have you been wondering about dog friendly weekend getaways in Northern California? I’ve got you covered!

Having grown up in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, I’ve had the chance to travel all around Northern California since childhood. So I’ve explored a lot of the great dog-friendly weekend getaways in Northern California.

There is much to experience, from tall redwood forests to breathtaking coastal cliffs. Emily and I also travel around the world and so we have a lot to compare to what we have here. There are so many great places to visit, but every time we come back we feel lucky to call Northern California home.

There just aren’t many places like it. Within a couple hours you can go from snow covered mountains to the towering redwood forests and the beautiful coastal cliffs. Northern California offers a treasure trove of unforgettable weekend getaways that both you and your dog will love. We usually travel with our pups, so we know how important to is to find places that welcome both you and your dog.

These are our favorite dog-friendly weekend getaways in Northern California. We hope that you are able to explore one or more. There are so many ways to enjoy the natural, beauty and make some memories, so if you’re ready let’s check it out!

Don’t have time to read more?
🤩 Carmel is our pick for Best Dog Friendly Weekend Getaway. 🤩

The Vagabond House Inn Carmel

7 Best Dog Friendly Weekend Getaways in Northern California

Dog-friendly Guerneville

1. Guerneville (Russian River): a hidden gem

Why the Russian River is a great weekend vacation with your dog:

You can immerse yourself in the enchanting Russian River area in Sonoma County, where the allure of the woods and a bohemian, artistic atmosphere create a perfect retreat for nature lovers and creative souls alike. Here, you can wander through majestic redwood forests, breathe in the fresh air, and absorb the vibrant energy of the eclectic local art scene. Quaint shops, cozy cafes, and captivating galleries line the streets, inviting you to explore and connect with the area’s unique spirit.

Where to Stay
One border terrier and one jack russell sitting on a bed at Elim Grove Cottages

Elim Grove Cottages

4 simple rustic cottages are in Cazadero about 15 minutes from Guerneville

-The owner brings bakes and delivers fresh pastries that are to die for each morning. We would make an international flight just to eat them!
Very dog-friendly policies: very low fee, multiple dogs allowed with no weight limit, some cottages have a small fenced backyard
-Located on a gravel side road in a forest next to a creek, so you are only steps away from a great walk or swim with your dog

Best For: Experiencing the magic of the redwoods, delighting in the creative ambiance, and exploring dog-friendly wineries, river activities, and charming local attractions.

Our experience: why we think this is a great place to spend a weekend

We seem to end up in the Russian River Area most years. It is close to the Bay Area, so it is an easy drive. But once you are there the city seems far, far away. With the Russian River winding through the redwoods, it can feel like a fantasy world lost in time. Especially if the early morning mist is still lingering in the trees.

The quaint town of Guerneville invites you both for an unforgettable experience. Just outside of the town is the mesmerizing Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Your dog can accompany you on the main paved roads. The roads are close enough to many of the main groves, giving both of you the chance to marvel at the majestic ancient trees.

Enjoy an action-packed day on the Russian River, partaking in activities like kayaking and canoeing, or simply unwinding by the water with your pup. Note that the main beach “Johnson’s Beach” only allows service animals, but there are parks and trails nearby.

Make sure to drop by the iconic Korbel Champagne Cellars and check out the pet-friendly wineries around the region, allowing you and your pup to experience the true essence of Northern California together.

If that is not enough, the Russian River Area also is within a 30 minute drive to the coast. Most state beaches (like Goat Rock Beach in Jenner) allow dogs on the beach on a leash. There is also Dillon Beach, which is an off leash beach but is a bit further of a drive.

San Francisco - one of the best dog friendly weekend getaways in Northern California

2. San Francisco

Why San Francisco is such a great dog friendly weekend vacation:

San Francisco is a fantastic destination for vacations that include your dog , as it offers a wide array of activities and locations suitable for both you and your pet set against the iconic views of the city and bridge that make this place so iconic.

Where to Stay
Dog run grass area with a miniature cable car at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco

Hotel Nikko

Dog-friendly high-rise hotel near Union Square in the heart of San Franciso

-This dog-loving hotel has a number of pet amenities including a small 5th-floor dog park decorated with a cable car, pet beds, treats, play dates with the owner’s dogs, and room service for dogs. that are included in the pricier pet fee (waived in some packages).

Here are just a few things that make this a great getaway. Crissy Field is a scenic park and beach area located along the bay, is perfect for leisurely strolls or some energetic playtime with your dog. To the north of the city, Marin County features breathtaking landscapes with numerous trails catering to various fitness levels, making it an ideal spot for adventurous pet owners and their dogs. If you or your dog don’t really want to spend time in the car, then the Golden Gate Park spans over 1,000 acres, providing numerous dog-friendly spaces, such as off-leash areas and designated dog play zones. With countless options for outdoor exploration and recreation, San Francisco stands out as an excellent destination for an enjoyable and unforgettable vacation with your dog.

There are some really interesting dog friendly places to stay in San Francisco, if you’re looking to make the trip, check these out!

Best For: a variety of on an off-leash experiences for your dog, urban, beaches, dog parks, art, food, and music

Our experience: why we think this is a fantastic day trip or weekend getaway

As frequent visitors to San Francisco with our dogs, we have had many memorable experiences in this vibrant city. One of our favorite spots to explore is Lands End, where we enjoy the off-leash areas, allowing our dogs to run and play freely amidst the stunning coastal scenery.

We are never short of food options in San Francisco, as the city boasts endless choices, from dog-friendly cafes to gourmet restaurants.

During our visits, we always make time to take in the iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We love the art and architecture that defines San Francisco’s unique urban landscape. This short summary doesn’t do it justice. If you want to explore more we have a full dog-friendly guide to San Francisco.

It’s important to note that over the last few years, petty crime has been on the rise in the city. However, despite this, San Francisco remains a beautiful and rewarding destination for both us and our pups. We always look forward to our next adventure in this captivating city.

Carmel Beach with Denver - one of the best day trips or weekend trips with a dog

3. Carmel-by-the-sea

Why Carmel-by-the-sea is such a great dog friendly getaway:

Carmel-by-the-Sea is just one of those places you have to see with your dog. At Carmel Beach you can take your dogs off-leash, kick off the shoes and enjoy a fantastic place to play with a beautiful view.

Where to Stay
Norwich terrier standing in front of Vagabond House Inn in Carmel

Vagabond House Inn

Charming white-washed boutique inn less than a 5-minute walk from main street

-Pet-friendly policies allow for up to 3 dogs and suggestions for dog-sitters
Reviews for 10 other dog-friendly hotels in Carmel

Strolling through the charming downtown area, visitors will find many establishments that are happy to accommodate both humans and their pets, including inviting cafes and eateries. Of course you will have to stop in at the Carmel Dog Shop, and try on the latest canine trends and fashions. It is also very close to Monterey, so there won’t be any end of things to do.

Best For: one of the most dog-friendly sea-side places we’ve seen, off leash beach, cute downtown, Refuge spa (no dogs, but so worth it)

Our experience: one of our favorite places to spend a weekend

Carmel is just one of those feel good places for us. There are a lot of dog friendly accommodations, it is perfect for a weekend visit. You get to put your toes in the sand for a few hours, maybe take a hike, come back for the evening and enjoy great wine with the sunset. It’s hard to go wrong. If you are looking for a place to stay, we have a curated list with our top dog-friendly places to stay in Carmel.

Also, don’t tell your pup because they aren’t allowed, but if you can sneak away for a couple hours, there is an incredible spa named Refuge. They have it all: hot and cold pools, sauna, steam room. Refuge is one of our favorite things to do when we are there

Dog and wine

4. Wine Country (Napa, Calistoga)

Why Napa is great for a weekend or day trip from the bay area:

The Napa Valley wine country, with its lush vineyards and rolling hills, is an excellent destination for a few days of relaxation with your beloved pup. A variety of pet-friendly establishments and activities make it an ideal choice for dog owners.

Where to Stay
A man and a woman submerged in mud at the Calistoga mud baths

Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort and Mineral Springs

Contemporary and welcoming spa resort hotel in Calistoga

-Pet-friendly policies allow for up to 3 dogs in the room and can join you for patio dining at their on-site restaurant
-Dogs are allowed to stay in the room while you go to the spa

Calistoga, a picturesque town renowned for its spas, welcomes you and your dog to indulge in a rejuvenating experience at the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa.

Wine lovers will have no end of choices for dog friendly wineries like Hall Wines and St. Claire Brown Winery. You can enjoy exquisite wine tastings while your dog takes in the views.

Additionally, Kennedy Park offers a serene space for leisurely walks, allowing both you and your pet to enjoy the breathtaking Wine Country scenery.

Best For: wine tasting, feeling classy, the Calistoga spa experience

Our experience: great for a dog friendly day trip in Northern California

We have visited Napa a few times over the years and enjoyed the scenic drive through wine country. The last time we were up there we went to an event with the Norwich Terrier Club. It was pretty amusing to see all these little terriers trotting through the vineyards.

And whenever there’s a chance to taste some wine and relax, count me in! It does tend to be a more upscale, with the wineries, accommodations and dining priced accordingly.

Swimming in Gold Country (Yuba River)

5. Gold Country: a hidden gem

Why the Gold Country is a dog friendly place to spend a weekend:

The Gold Country region is a blend of history and nature. Journey through the captivating gold mining towns. Visit Auburn, Grass Valley, and Nevada City, where you can step back into the era of the California Gold Rush with their Victorian architecture and quaint shops. The boulders and hidden pools of the Yuba River South Fork are great for taking your dog for a hike or enjoying a swim during warmer weather.

The entire Nevada County area is also home to numerous dog-friendly camping and fishing locations, allowing you and your pet to fully embrace the beauty of the outdoors

Best For: people that like something off the beaten path, historical sites, swimming and laying out on warm rocks, outdoor experiences, hiking, fishing, etc

Where to Stay
Poodle laying at the feet of a man sitting at a restaurant at the National Hotel in Nevada City

National Hotel

Historic hotel right on broad street in downtown Nevada City.

-Pet-friendly policies mean no extra fee for pets!
-Lots of dogs join their owners in the bar downstairs for local music nights and other festivities

Our experience: there’s no place like home

If our dogs could choose one place to go, it would be Grass Valley. They get so excited when they start smelling the pines and manzanitas on highway 49. I grew up in Nevada City and Grass Valley, which of course makes me a very biased. Both Emily and I have family up there still, so we are in Gold Country often.

However, it is a really special place. It is on the way to Tahoe, so you definitely can spend a few hours here on the way up. If you only had a day: 1) Have breakfast at the Pine Street Cafe. 2) Go down to the Bridgeport Crossing on the Yuba River and spend a couple hours at the river. 3) Wrap up your day hearing stories from Mark at Montoliva Winery.

Mendocino Headlands Park

6. Mendocino

Why stay in Mendocino for a vacation with your dog:

Mendocino is a great dog-friendly weekend getaway in Northern California. This charming coastal town offers a variety of attractions for both you both to enjoy.

Don’t miss the iconic Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, where you can take in the stunning ocean views and explore the surrounding trails with your dog on-leash. Mendocino also serves as a gateway to the majestic redwoods. There are numerous dog-friendly hiking trails that wind through the towering ancient trees.

Wrap up your days relaxing at with a drink. This is home to some great long-standing microbreweries like Anderson Valley Brewing, where you can sample a selection of locally crafted beers while your dog relaxes in their welcoming outdoor seating area.

Best For: hiking, breweries, wineries, the wild northern coast

Where to Stay
The front entrance to The Andiron Seaside Inn

The Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins

Adorable vintage farm stay

-Pet-friendly policies allow for up to 2 dogs in the room for a low fee on the first visit and no fee for repeat pup guests
-The inn provides a dog kit on check-in with sheets and towels so you can snuggle with your pets
-Enjoy the goats, happy hour fire tent, and historical charm

Our experience: we love the rugged coast

Since it is a bit further north, we can’t get up there as often. But we really enjoy it when we do. Even more than a weekend getaway, we like to take our dogs up there for a few days or more. The drive along the coast is amazing because you are weaving between redwood groves and ocean cliffs.

The breweries here are some of the older craft breweries in California, so it is always great to visit and settle down for a pint. Similar to the Guerneville area, the Mendocino coast has a magical and mystical feel to it.

Tahoe Sunset

7. Lake Tahoe

Why stay in Tahoe for a dog friendly weekend getaway

Lake Tahoe is one of the best ways to experience the Sierra Nevada mountains.

There are hikes that range from a casual walk around the lake to scaling some of highest peaks around. The most iconic is the Tahoe Rim Trail, which provides breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

In the summer, you can kayak on the crystal-clear waters, with several rental companies offering pet-friendly equipment for a day of fun on the water.

After an action-packed day outdoors, treat yourself and your dog to anyone of many great restaurants in the area. If you are lucky, you can catch a lake view at places like Idle Hour, a popular lakeside spot with a pet-friendly patio.

Best For: hiking, camping, scenic drives, and epic mountain views in the Sierra Nevada

Our experience: the best place to hike with your dog in California

Since it is just a few hours away, we end up spending one of our holidays in Tahoe every couple years. There are so many outdoor activities in Tahoe it is hard to know where to start! In winter it is skiing and snowboarding (sorry dogs, you have to stay in the cabin).

In the summers it is hiking, boating, fishing, disc golfing, picnics, and scenic drives around the lake.

You can’t go wrong with the Tahoe Rim Trail. It is a great way to experience the lake. It can be enjoyed by everyone because it is well-paved and does not change much in elevation.

Where to Stay

Zephyr Cove Cabin

10 person cabin on a private beach in Zephyr Cove with a fenced yard

-While you can find tons of incredible and luxurious places to stay, I chose to highlight this rental because while it isn’t fancy, it’s affordable for families. This neighborhood is also in one of the best locations in the world
Beach access is only available for those staying in the neighborhood, so you might have the entire shore to yourself like we did
-Dogs stay free

Looking for more pet friendly destinations? Here are the top dog friendly cities in the United States

Best Dog-friendly cities on the East Coast

Best Dog-friendly cities on the West Coast

  • San Diego, California
  • The Greater San Francisco Bay Area including Oakland
  • Portland, Oregon
  • The Greater Seattle Area including Bellevue

Best Dog-friendly cities in the Southwest

  • Austin, Texas
  • The Greater Pheonix area including Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Santa Fe including Taos, New Mexico
  • Denver, Colorado

If you have more than a weekend but less than a week, visiting a dog-friendly destination in Southern California might be perfect

FAQs about traveling with a dog in Northern California

Can I take my dog to beaches and state parks in Northern California?

Most beaches allow dogs on leash. The other state parks tend to be more strict with dogs often restricted to roads, camping areas and picnic areas. Check the individual park policy.

Is the Northern California Coast dog-friendly?

Yes! Most beaches allow dogs on leash and there are a number of beaches that allow dogs off leash.

Can I bring my dog to Emerald Bay?

Dogs are not allowed on any trails or roads into Emerald Bay, nor on the beach. Dog regulations are enforced year-round.

Final Thoughts: Dog Friendly Weekend Getaways in Northern California

You won’t be short of options! Northern California is a treasure trove of diverse landscapes, picturesque towns, and exciting activities, making it an ideal destination for those looking to embark on an unforgettable adventure with their dog.

From the peaks of the Sierra in Tahoe, to the bustling streets of San Francisco and on down to the enchanting charm of Carmel-by-the-Sea there is something for everyone. We hope you get a chance to immerse yourself in sights!

Enjoy the local scenes and grab some epic shots for Instagram with you and your constant companion.

Resource Guide for Travel with a Dog

🧳 What’s the best carrier for my dog when traveling?

You need different carriers for different types of travel

This is my favorite carrier for a small dog – Sleepypod Air

This is my favorite car harness for medium-large dogs – Sleepypod Clickit

This is the best for a large dog on a plane – Skymate Kennel

This is my favorite backpack for a small-medium sized dog – Mr. Penuts Tahoe

You can read more about my review of types of dog carriers for travel here.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap pet-friendly hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend Expedia

Vacation Rentals are often the best option for people with pets VRBO

Stay for free or have someone watch your pet with Trusted Housesitters!

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