Joan Merriam
Special to The Union

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September 19, 2013
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Commentary: Places to go and things to do with your dog

Summer is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to sitting around the house all weekend with your bored pooch snoring at your feet, staring at the walls or watching reruns of “My Mother, the Car.”

There are still weeks of beautiful fall weather left, and countless places to enjoy it here in Northern California. From enchanting forests to ocean beaches to magnificent wineries, it’s easier now than ever before to find pup-friendly places to visit and events to enjoy.

Keep in mind that leash laws can vary widely from place to place, so make sure you keep your leash handy. In addition, some hotels have a weight limit for dogs — so if you have a 150-pound mastiff, be sure he’ll be allowed before you arrive.

I’ve done my best here to list only places that are dog friendly, but it’s best to call ahead or check out the dog rules on the Internet for wherever you’re planning to go, especially in the case of lodging or overnight camping.

Probably one of the most famous dog-friendly places in the nation is less than a four-hour drive away: the town of Carmel. This charming one-square-mile hamlet boasts dozens of inns and hotels that aren’t just pet friendly, but actually provide luxuries like complimentary dog treats, dog beds and personalized water bowls.

Many restaurants are also dog friendly, most notably the Cypress Inn, co-owned by renowned dog lover Doris Day.

For a wonderful off-leash beach experience, there’s none better than Carmel Beach, where your dog can romp freely along the shoreline and through the surf. And if you and Fido are music aficionados, you can still catch Carmel Plaza’s Summer Live Music Series, which ends Sept. 27.

San Francisco is also a great dog-friendly city, with a myriad of spots to sightsee with your pooch. You can visit Coit Tower, shop at Fisherman’s Wharf or Ghirardelli Square, hike along the Barbary Coast Trail, or meander the beach at Lands End.

The list of dog-friendly restaurants runs from A to Z — pretty much anywhere that boasts an outdoor eating area. There are also any number of hotels in the city that allow dogs, even celebrated ones like the Fairmont, Mark Hopkins and the Ritz-Carlton.

Further north are Mendocino and Fort Bragg, where you and your dog can explore the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, the Mendocino Headlands State Park, or go on an ocean adventure aboard a charter boat. Noyo Beach in Fort Bragg is one of the few off-leash beaches in this area, but many others allow leashed dogs.

Now let’s move inland to the Napa-Sonoma region, where if you’re a wine connoisseur, you have literally dozens of dog-friendly wineries to choose from.

Beringer, Domaine Chandon, Grgich Hills, Inglenook — these and more welcome well-behaved dogs (and their owners!) for tours and tastings. One of the best sources for winery information is the Napa Valley Vintners Association at http://www.napavintners.com/wineries. Just click “Dog Friendly” under “Features.”

For a wonderful fall wilderness experience, visit the Mendocino National Forest, which stretches from just north of Clear Lake to the southern border of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and offers almost a million acres of forests, mountains, and canyons You can overnight in cabins, campsites or your RV through October, or just take a picnic lunch and enjoy a day away. For the most part, dogs are allowed everywhere in the forest.

Then there’s our own Lake Tahoe region, including Donner Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, and the towns that surround them. If you plan to stay overnight, there are many examples of dog-friendly lodgings in the area.

One of the best-known is the rustic Tahoma Meadows B&B on Lake Tahoe’s west shore. Almost all their cottages are pet-friendly, and come with an “Adventures with Your Dog at Lake Tahoe” brochure that’s great for first-time visitors.

Travel northeast and you’ll find the Shasta-Cascade region, an eight-county recreation region that includes seven national forests, a national park and two national wilderness areas, 15 state parks, three mountain ranges, and some of the most beautiful high-country lakes and rivers in the state.

Now that the heat of the summer has passed, the city of Redding (which http://Dogtrekker.com ranks as “over-the-top-dog-friendly”) is a great jumping-off point for a weekend adventure, whether you’re itching to explore the 100 miles of trails just outside the city limits or take a drive on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, which connects Lassen National Park to Crater Lake in southern Oregon. Redding is also the gateway to the Shasta and Lassen wilderness areas.

These are just a tiny sampling of the northern California adventures you and your dog can experience during the fall season. Remember that there are some excellent websites — http://DogFriendly.com, http://BringFido.com, and DogTrekker.com are just a few — that can help you pinpoint the best places to go and things to see with your dog.

You can also try a general search under “dog friendly activities Northern California.”

There’s so much to do during autumn in this beautiful part of our state, so get out there with your pup before fall is over!

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her golden retriever Casey (hence, “Casey’s Corner”). You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com. And if you’re looking for a golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.


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The Union Updated Sep 19, 2013 11:05PM Published Sep 19, 2013 10:54PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.