Woodchip-encrusted tennis balls. Sticks to fight over. Slobbery water bowls. Packs of socializing canines and humans. These are the marks of a great dog play area—and San Francisco has one for every square mile of city land.
In a town where dogs outnumber children, it is no wonder San Francisco Recreation and Park runs 31 official dog parks that sport a variety of features, including fenced-in play zones, separate spaces for small dogs, wide expanses for big dogs, agility courses, seating areas and more.
Plus, the city has many informal dog-and-owner neighborhood gathering spots for on-leash socializing and long strands of waterfront for even more opportunities to stretch one’s legs.
“These are our kids and we care about them deeply,” said Kelly Edwards, parent to ‘Henry’ and regular at the Alamo Square dog play area where he chats with other owners and doles out treats to other pups. “We appreciate a city that is so inclusive in so many ways, one of those being with dogs.”
Looking to expand your pup’s playgroup or itching for a change of scenery? Zoom in on our map of nearly 50 owner-approved places to play and read on to learn more about The Standard’s favorite dog parks.
The Standard Guide to San Francisco Dog Parks and Play Areas
After taking in the view of Alamo Square’s Painted Ladies, mosey over the beautifully-landscaped paths to the opposite side of the park, where there’s a grassy hill for dogs to explore off-leash. This spot has a tight-knit community of familiar faces—both human and canine—and visitors express a love for not only their own dogs but for other members of the dog-owning community as well.
Roam about on 35-plus acres of grass and hilly trails atop Bernal Hill. Let the pups rumble while you take in the panoramic city and bay views.
Located between Duboce Triangle and Lower Haight, Duboce Dog Park reserves a large grass play space for off-leash dogs and provides the perfect setting for pups to frolic and dog lovers to mingle. The dog-owning crowd perfectly represents the neighborhood, with a mix of families, hipsters, home office workers and other locals which makes for good people watching, as well.
Fully fenced, Pepi’s Park Dog Run is part of the new Francisco Park, just a block from the Hyde and Bay cable car stop. Once the city’s first reservoir, it has been transformed into a vibrant community space in Russian Hill. Just a short walk from Ghirardelli Square and the Marina, this play area offers lush green turf, benches, and water fountains where you can watch both your dog and the classic cable cars run by.
The brand new UN Plaza Dog Run is perfect for zooming back and forth in the Civic Center. Opened in April, the fully-fenced play area is nicely shaded and offers easy access to croissants from the downtown branch of the legendary Arsicault Bakery nearby.
During the day, about 60-70 dogs are found running all over the training area. Later in the evening, the crowd thins out and a smaller group of dog owners occupy the benches and picnic tables. These dogs and their respective owners are regulars, many of them coming to the park twice a day. This constant socialization has produced friendships for both dogs and owners. Mary Liljedahl, who frequently brings her dogs to the park, stresses the park is an important community for people and dogs alike, with events like “Yappy Hour” and volunteer days.
One of four official dog play areas in Golden Gate Park, the training area underwent a $2.4 million renovation in 2021 thanks to a grant from California State Natural Resources Agency. The facelift includes two fenced areas, new play surfaces, play equipment like boulders and climbing challenges along with ample seating and pet water fountains.
McLaren Park serves dogs on the southern side of the city with two off-leash dog play areas. One is a massive 60-acre natural area with trails located inside the John Shelley Drive loop. The second is a smaller patch of 1.8 acres of space in the southeast corner near the community garden and athletic fields.
An adventurous duo’s dream, Fort Funston offers variety in terrain ultimately leading to the beach with sand ready for digging and ocean ready for splashing. There are more than 35 acres of trails, dunes and open spaces that allow for a unique experience with each visit—dog walker Kelly Martinez mentions visiting five days a week! See if you can spot some of the graffitied military bunkers and other structures scattered throughout the area.
Additional contributions by Juliana Yamada.
Editors Note: The original description of the Golden Gate Dog Training Area was revised to reflect the current utilization of the dog play areas.