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Fort Funston: San Francisco off-leash dog park

San Francisco has such great dog parks. I’ve heard joyous reports about Crissy Field (leashed or voice control dog walking allowed “excluding the Wildlife Protection Area at the west end of Crissy field beach where leashes are required all year except from May 15 to July 1”); we loved the Bernal Heights dog park; and today we were struck dumb by Fort Funston.

Chloe on the dunes above the beach (seen over her right ear). She loves sand, and shortly after this picture was taken went mad with joy, racing around in butt's-on-fire circles.

The park is located on the west side of the city, about five miles south of the Golden Gate Park. It contains remnants of a fort decommissioned in the early 1960’s and, from a dog-walking point of view, consists of a long flat beach and, above it, a series of cliffs and dunes threaded by paths. As you can see, it’s gorgeous. Once you’ve parked, you’ll find a wood-chip field that was being used by some dogs but also by kite flyers (it’s a windy spot, also beloved by hang-gliders), a foot bridge to a view overlook, and the head of the walking trail (near the water fountains).

The wood chip area near the parking lot. The boardwalk in the middle distance leads to an overlook/view point.

Water fountains at the beginning of the walking trail

A misleadingly tranquil shot of the start of the walking trail (though I suspect it does look like this on more overcast days)

We opted to stay up on the cliffs/dunes, a long and varied walk with plenty of detour options, but about halfway along there’s a turn-off that leads you down to the beach. If you walk past it, the trail turns and loops back, returning you by a choice of routes to the parking lot. There’s a vast amount of ice plant, groves of eucalyptus, and views that will knock you sideways.

The beginning of the path down to the beach. Keep in mind that swimming, even for dogs, is a very bad idea because of the undertow and the strong current -- but your pup will love the long, flat strip of sand.

The view -- the details are too small for you to see, I think, but it's the full sweep from the Golden Gate Bridge to Sutro Tower

We arrived on a perfect, glorious day — and a Sunday, so every dog owner in San Francisco was circling the parking area, looking for a spot, and the trails were full of dogs. I liked that, though, because I liked seeing how the park functions at full capacity. I was impressed — despite the number and diversity of dogs (every size from Great Danes to miniature Dachshunds), and the variety of activities (ChuckIt throwing, leashed walking, unleashed walking, group play), good humor reigned. The dogs, and their people, were extraordinarily well behaved. Poop was picked up. Trash cans were available, and were used.

On this sunny February day, I was grateful for a light sweater and a jacket and a hat — when you visit, keep in mind that it will be windy. Please note that there are water fountains for people and dogs at the parking lot, and then again later along the cliff/dune trail.

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