Summer can be tricky for Orange County’s four-legged hikers and their humans. Dogs are not allowed in O.C.’s two major state parks, Crystal Cove and Chino Hills and many major wilderness and regional parks, including Laguna Coast, Aliso & Wood Canyons and Caspers are off limits as well while others, such as O’Neill, only allow them in the campgrounds or on paved trails. While Killer may be welcome in the Cleveland National Forest, that area gets hot during the summer, so unless you’re off to an early start or it’s an unusually cool day, you run the risk of your best friend becoming another statistic. Of course, there’s the high country of the Angeles National Forest, Big Bear Lake and the coastlines of Malibu and San Diego, but what if you don’t want to make that drive? Fortunately, several of Orange County’s regional parks ARE dog friendly. From the wetlands in the northern corner of the county to the foothills, here are some fun, dog-friendly spots to enjoy some nature while staying cool.
Harriet Wieder Regional Park is one of the newest units in the county system. Located in Huntington Beach, it offers a dog-friendly alternative to nearby Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, showcasing similar scenery, notably wetlands and waterfowl viewing opportunities.
Irvine Regional Park is not only the oldest park in O.C. but one of the most varied, offering a zoo, a railroad ride and miles of trails. The Horseshoe Loop is an easy hike that takes in much of the park’s scenery, including mountain views, geology and more.
Just south of Irvine Regional Park is another dog-friendly open space, Peters Canyon Regional Park. Notable both for its reservoir and the East Ridge Trail, providing panoramic views of the area, the conveniently located park is understandably popular among hikers with two and four legs.
A tired dog is a good dog and Sparky will likely be pretty wiped out after climbing the short but steep Windes and Pacifica Loops in Santiago Oaks Regional Park, which not only offers a quick workout but also some terrific views. The park also features several level, shaded trails that are perfect for hot days.
Costa Mesa’s Talbert Nature Preserve, located at the headwaters of the Santa Ana River, is the largest dog-friendly park near the coastline at almost 200 acres. While it’s popular for quick and easy strolls, it is possible to piece together a route of more than five miles by following various trails, including some at neighboring Fairview Park. Much of the area is exposed but temperatures this close to the ocean are usually pretty moderate so there’s no reason why you and your copilot to be able to enjoy at least a short hike here.
As outdoor author Ann Marie Brown says, “It seems that fundamentally we aren’t all that different from our canine companions, whom we call man’s (and woman’s) best friend. We seem to be happiest when we get to go for a good walk.”