Off-Leash Options Are Still Few on Peninsula Beaches

All San Mateo County beaches, except for one in Pacifica, either don't allow dogs at all or require dogs to be on a leash. Here's a look at where dogs are allowed — and prohibited — on local beaches.

At Pacifica’s Esplanade Beach you can legally let your dog run free.

A handful of other Peninsula beaches enforce strict leash laws, while several others won’t even let dogs press their paws in the sand.

All five Pacifica beaches allow dogs.

South of Devil’s Slide, however, five of the seven state beaches won’t allow your dog near the shores even if they’re leashed.

The pooch prohibition was instituted to protect the endangered snowy plover, Supervising California State Park Ranger Michael Grant said.

“There's more than just safety issues,” Grant said. “There's resource issues and there's wildlife issues.”

In Pacifica, leash laws are enforced on Linda Mar Beach, Rockaway Beach, Pacifica State Beach and Sharp Park Beach.

Leash laws are enforced by the Pacifica Police Department.

South of Devil’s Slide, leashed dogs are allowed on Montara State Beach and Bean Hollow State Beach.

Dogs on-leash are also allowed at beaches that are not managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, such as the dog-friendly Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay managed by the City of Half Moon Bay, and Surfer’s Beach in El Granada, which is operated by the county.

No dogs are allowed on the shores of Half Moon Bay State Beach, San Gregorio State Beach, Pescadero State Beach, Pomponio State Beach and Ana Nuevo State Park, however.

The only legal place in Half Moon Bay to let your dog run free in an off-leash area is at the Coastside Dog Park at Cameron's Restaurant and Smith Field at the western end of Wavecrest Road.

Fines for violations of leash laws and bringing dogs to restricted beaches vary by city to city within San Mateo County.

An animal control officer is authorized to issue a citation (the court sets the price which varies greatly) for violations of the leash law. According to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, the San Mateo County leash law states that "all dogs are to be on leash and under control whenever they are off the owner's property. The leash must be no more than six feet in length."

"People do get cited by rangers for violating leash laws at state beaches so it is advisable to know where it's OK to bring your dog before letting it run off leash," State Park peace officer James Nothhelfer said.

Where Can I Take My Dog on the Coast? A Directory of Beaches:








Linda Mar


Must be kept on leash


Must be kept on leash

Pacifica State Beach


Must be kept on leash

Sharp Park

Must be kept on leash




Must be kept on leash

Surfer's (a.k.a. El Granada) and Poplar Beach
Must be kept on leash

Bean Hollow


Must be kept on leash

Half Moon Bay (including Roosevelt, Dunes, Francis, and Venice Beach)


No dogs allowed

San Gregorio


No dogs allowed




No dogs allowed

Ana Nuevo


No dogs allowed


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Rocky Golub October 24, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Esplanade Beach was designated off-leash as a token sacrificial offering by the 2000-2002 Pacifica City Council. It is basically inaccessible except by helicopter. If you are fortunate enough to survive your way there, the tide and surf are way too dangerous for you and your four-legged friend to enjoy the experience. Good view from below, however, of the excavation cranes and the homes falling off the cliffs. Good luck! Sharp Park Beach is another matter entirely. It was officially voted as an off-leash beach by the same 2000-2002 Pacifica City Council. They realized that Esplanade was just plain inaccessible to the vast majority of the Pacifica community. In the transition to the 2002-2004 City Council, then Mayor Pete Dejarnatt (supported by Councilman Jim Vreeland) allowed, through a procedural loophole, for SP Dog Beach to fall off the consent calendar - the final procedural step of ratification. The SP Dog Beach remains in limbo since the original vote was never officially reversed and there never was the requisite open public process to reverse the original vote. I believe it can still be legally argued that SPB remains an off-leash dog beach. If I am ever cited at SP dog beach for an off-leash violation, I will make that argument in Court.
Jo Tog October 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Thanks for the info Rocky. We need to fight back hard against these Enviro Radical Terrorists. What is sad is that many of these radicals are teachers in our schools brainwashing out children.
Rocky Golub October 24, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Furthermore, the article incorrectly states that the Western Snowy Plover (WSP) retains the "endangered" species designation from US Fish and Wildlife Services. The actual designation is "threatened". The "threatened" designation is also improper since it is by virtue of a subspecies classification of the WSP which is not recognized anywhere outside of the environmentally extreme USA. In fact, litigation is currently in progress to eliminate the subspecies designation. Worse yet, there have been two genetic studies which have concluded the WSP is NOT a valid subspecies of the ubiquitous plover. Just so we are all clear on how ridiculous it is to use the WSP as an excuse for keeping dogs out or on-leash, currently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated over 24,500 acres (38 square miles) as critical habitat to "protect" the Pacific Coast population of "threatened" Western Snowy Plovers in Washington, Oregon and California. Thousands of additional acres of coastal beach have also been restricted to humans and their pets in order to "protect" the WSP. These are typically areas where the plovers have been spotted, irrespective of the number and the fact that they are not breeding sites (SF's Ocean Beach and Crissy Field are examples). It must be pointed out that NONE of the beaches in Pacifica and San Francisco have been designated as "critical" habitat for the WSP. (cont'd)
Mary Ahern October 24, 2012 at 06:53 PM
As a resident of Miramar for many years, I got so tired of stepping in dog excrement on the beach and having wet, sandy animals try to jump on me and my family members. There are good reasons not to allow dogs off leash on a beach, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons not to allow dogs on the beach AT ALL! I am a dog owner, by the way.
Rocky Golub October 24, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Finally, it must be clarified as to the significance of the "critical" habitat designation by USFWS. Environmental attorneys have informed me that from a legal perspective, there are only two types of habitat designations: crtical habitat and everything else. That distinction is important since it means that with respect to the Western Snowy Plover, all of the Pacifica coastal beaches are NO more significant to the survival of the WSP than is your own driveway or the parking lot at Safeway. When government officials make claims, as did the GGNRA, that their San Francisco and San Mateo County beach areas are critical to the survival of the WSP, they are simply lying (BTW, this habitat designation assertion has already been successfully tested in U.S. Federal Court in SF (see U.S. v. Kieselhorst. Barley and Sayad)).
Mary Ahern October 24, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Jo Tog, if people were more considerate of others when they are out with their pets, we wouldn't have these issues. I don't consider people who object to my "off leash" dog as "sourpusses". They have legitimate concerns.
Dee October 24, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I agree with Mary. There are too many inconsiderate and irresponsible dog owners out there who ruin it for others. I know this is hard to believe if you are a dog owner, but not everyone loves dogs or likes to have a wet happy dog jump up on you when you are walking on the beach. The other day a dog off leash came bounding over and trampled my kid's sand castle, wrestled with our buckets and scared the hell out of us with his uncontrollable energy. What made the dog's bad behavior even worse was the dog owner, completely unapologetic, who shrugged it off and said "dogs will be dogs." How would you like my wet sandy runny-nosed toddler trampling all over your picnic? Dog owners: Not everyone likes dogs. Keep them on a leash please when at the beach or in any public place. It's rude and inconsiderate to think that it's OK for your dog, no matter how friendly and adorable, to run up to joggers or people relaxing on a towel at the beach or anywhere for that matter. I know your dog is friendly because it seems every dog owner I meet has to tell me this. But please, have some consideration and keep your dog to yourself on a leash. Until there is a beach designated for dogs to run free, please follow the law on our beaches: KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH.
Kim Mansukhani October 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I am a dog owner. I love dogs! But absolutely believe everyone should have their dogs leashes. And please pick up after your dog. My son (12) was knocked down by 2 German shepards on the bluffs south of Seymour bridge just the other day. I was bit a few months back. It's unacceptable. Not to mention that walking the trails by beach is like walking through a mine field. It's disgusting. Unfortunately those of us who pick up after our dogs and keep them leashed have so few places to legally take our dogs out hiking, etc due to the people who think their dogs poo doesn't smell. Be responsible pet owners!!!
John Negley October 24, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Esplanade Beach has a newer entrance next to the Sea Cliff apartments, it is nice. They have also been plowing and keeping a clear path down from Chit Chat. Not great, but doable as long as you don't mind sand in your shoes. Also they piled up rocks and made a path between the two beach areas (Chit Chat entrance and Sea Cliff entrance). Go check it out, it is much better than it has been. I have not had any issue with the surf there, but I have a 70lb lab that grew up going to the pacifica beaches all the time. No different than SP beach.
John Negley October 24, 2012 at 09:44 PM
It is all about balance. Some areas with no dogs, some areas no leash. That way everyone has a place they can go and be happy.
John Negley October 24, 2012 at 10:06 PM
By the same token, if you are at the off leash dog beach, be respectful that you are at a beach that will have a dog running off leash. A little while ago I was at an off leash beach when two ladies showed up and started throwing a frisbee. My dog loves frisbees so she went running over. Turns out one lady was super afraid of dogs, yet she felt compelled to go to an off leash dog beach. I got my dog away very quickly, but she continued to scream at me and barrage me with insults because my dog got close to her while catching the frisbee. Didn't jump on her or anything. Just super excited with the disc flying around.
Rocky Golub October 24, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Mary, Kim and Dee: First, I don't believe you love dogs. If you truly did, you would revel at their joy when they play the basic, time-honored game of fetch, swim in the ocean water as they seek their toy and enjoy their few moments of freedom as they visit with other dogs without getting their leash yanked by their impatient owner. You people don't get it. If you do have dogs, I feel sorry for them. No one is asking for unrestricted off-leash access everywhere. In the case of the GGNRA, dog lovers are asking for approximately one half of one percent of the parkspace. That is considerably less than what was promised them at the inception of the GGNRA. As for your claim that only owners that have their dogs on leashes pick up after their dog, it is baseless and not supported by either anecdotal or empirical evidence. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. And, as everyone knows, it's against the law to not pick up after your dog. Bike riders routinely break the law. Do you support banning bike riding? Enforcement of the existing laws should satisfy your concerns, i.e., if they really are your concerns. You should seriously reconsider your selfish position on this. We can all share the fabulous recreational resources available to us in the greater Bay Area. We are only asking for a small piece of a very big pie. Your flagrant intolerance for those of us who love their pets and just want to make them happy for a few brief moments is most disturbing.
Dee October 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Rocky, As you say, "it's against the law to not pick up after your dog." Well, it's also against the law to have your dog off-leash: there is a leash law in San Mateo County. When out in public, your dog needs to be leashed and under your control unless you’re in a designated off-leash dog park. Period. Even the most animal-loving humane society on the Peninsula (PHS/SPCA) urges dog owners to abide by the law: http://belmont-ca.patch.com/articles/sheesh-get-a-leash
John Negley October 24, 2012 at 11:05 PM
The GGNRA's stance against dogs and cyclists has been rather extreme. Frank Dean (superintendant of GGNRA) has been quoted in saying "I will not have dogs running loose in my park". He has taken a personal stand against dogs in the GGNRA system. GGNRA stand for Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is a recreation area, not a park. National parks and national recreation areas have a completely different set of mandates, funding and rules. Recreation areas were developed for all people to use and enjoy the established open spaces. They were not developed as a preserve, park, or any other type of national open space. This is an important distinction as Frank Dean is implementing national park rules into a recreation area. GGNRA has the second most strict rules and limitations than any other RA in the country. Only Lake Mead is considered more strict. There are only two areas from San Francisco south that allow bikes on trails on GGNRA land for example. Above lists the great limitations for dogs and it is greater along the inland open spaces. I believe there needs to be land set aside for each demographic. There should be spaces that are no dogs allowed, but conversely there should be adequate off leash areas as well. Same goes for bike trails. We all pay taxes for the use of these spaces, but currently some groups are not allowed equal use of the space.
M Z October 25, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I am a long time large dog owner and find it very upsetting when people do not take into consideration for other peoples needs and the local laws. I take care of a child that was jumped by some "harmless, just being social" dogs. He is now petrified of dogs. He has now, after 10 yrs, able to handle dogs on a leash. He surfs, etc at Linda Mar beach (leash required) and the inconsidertion from a small group of dog owners make it very hard for the rest of the law abiding dog owners to try and gain ground on getting additional public areas to become dog friendly. If there is a leash law, please follow it. I would love to have additional places I can take a dog. In Pacifica, there are a lot of dog friendly areas, but in the rest of the county, it is very hard to come by. Thank you for supporting dog friendly areas and supporting the rules that go along with everyone being able to use the public areas we all would like to enjoy to the fullest. Sincerely, your 2 and 4 legged friends
Jo Tog October 25, 2012 at 03:58 AM
I have always been very considerate of all people when I walked my big dogs off leash on the beach. Never had one problem. Majority of the time, there is no problem. It just takes one sourpuss to ruin it for everyone. I'm tired of it.
Jo Tog October 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Oh the Horrors of your oh-so-perfect life one day a wet dog ruins it. Hey, GO TO A BEACH WHERE NO DOGS ARE ALLOWEDED. You know Linda Mar is known, ALWAYS, for off leash dogs. Go somewhere else.
Bhatman October 25, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Everyone knows that the leash law on the beaches are ignored even though we now have a dog park and an off leash beach. The dog park advocates promised the community that with more off-leash opportunities and more education the conflict between off-leash dogs and the public would lessen, it hasn't happened. The fact is the extremists like some of those who have commented here are only interested in "pushing the envelope" to grab as much privilege as they can, and they feel embolden because Pacifica's political "leadership" is totally cowed by them. Even when a pitbull killed a woman recently there was little outcry to change the community mindset about off leash dogs. I fear it will only take another tragedy for people to wake up.
Jo Tog October 25, 2012 at 02:23 PM
That dog park was and is a stupid idea. I never go there.
Jo Tog October 25, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Oh, baloney. If your child is still traumatized after that what will happen to him if he gets eaten by a SHARK! Swimming and surfing is and can be a dangerous sport. I don't believe you.
John Negley October 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM
The dog park is extremely small and is nothing but a patch of weeds. It is also inconvenient for those of us that live on the other side of town in Manor. I have been once, I do not see the need to go again. It is laughable that you bring up that incident since it happened in the woman's home with her own dog. Not off leash in a public area. Oh and they latter announced it was a Mastiff by the way. We have one off leash dog beach in Pacifica. But what about all the land in Milagra, Sweeney, Montara? Not one foot of off leash in all those thousands of acres, but there is a huge area of no dogs allowed at all. In matter of fact, technically if you are hiking with your dog, there is no legal way to to bridge any of those areas. I hike from Milagra to Sweeney all the time, that trail is no dogs allowed. There is no signs that say that, but if you go to the GGNRA website it says it is no dogs. I hike those ridges every week, if I see more than one or two other people hiking it is a rare day and they usually have a dog too. They have light traffic and are strewn with old military junk, why not allow dogs off leash in some limited areas? It is completely political and has nothing to do with safety nor the environment. We need a balance for everyone's enjoyment.
Christa Bigue (Editor) October 25, 2012 at 03:10 PM
As John says, "We need a balance for everyone's enjoyment," and after reading all of the comments here it's clear that the Coast could use more legal off-leash areas for people and their dogs. That way we are supporting dog friendly areas AND the leash law that goes with the public areas we all like to enjoy to the fullest. How can we make this happen?
Poochie from Pacifica October 25, 2012 at 07:00 PM
You humans used to have something very similar to leash law restrictions. It ended about 150 years ago. It was called "slavery". And how did that work for you? Something VERY wrong about being chained up and never allowed the freedom to make your own decisions. Well, humans don't like it (with the exception of a few of you S&M nutcases). And, allow me to break this news flash to you ignorant two-leggers out there: we dogs don't like it either. But we put up with it because our primary mission in life is to serve you humans. Everything else takes second place for us. So can't you humans find it in your hearts to somehow give us a few moments a day of unbridled freedom so we can chase our ball or sniff another four-legger's heiny or roll around in the grass or whatever - because we are free to do so? And can it be in a local, public place so our owners don't have to drive for an hour and waste gas and don't have an excuse for not taking us there on a regular basis? And can it be a legal off-leash dog park so our owners, who are very much law-abiding citizens, don't have to break the law in order to provide us with the exercise necessary for our health and mental well-being? Just askin'...
Frank V October 25, 2012 at 07:14 PM
You go, doggie!
P October 25, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Bhatman wrote: "The dog park advocates promised the community that with more off-leash opportunities and more education the conflict between off-leash dogs and the public would lessen, it hasn't happened." Please show us, Bhatman, what metrics you are using that backs up your claim that the conflict between off-leash dogs and the public hasn't actually lessened since the dog park opened. Bhatman, you really must stop throwing your anti-dog propaganda out here without any justification or sources. If you refuse to do so, then at least state that it is just your biased opinion...strike that, we already know that to be the case.
Jo Tog October 26, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Leave our beach alone. It was fun and safe until all of you ANTI people starting complaining about something that is not happening.
Christa Bigue (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Here is a message in response to this article just sent in from Scott Delucchi, VP/community relations, of the Peninsula Humane Society: "Our County’s Leash Law mandates that dogs remain on leash and under their owners’ control when in public, except when they are in designated off-leash areas. The law can be enforced by PHS/SPCA officers (though cities have excluded park/beach patrol from the services for which we are responsible and contracted to perform) and park rangers. In terms of which beaches are patrolled more aggressively than others by rangers, I suspect that is largely complaint driven. If people see an unruly dog in any area where dogs are not allowed off-leash, they can call Animal Control (us) or the Park Ranger, and odds are, the ranger is closer and can respond more quickly. Our officers are responsible for the entire county – all 20 cities, plus unincorporated areas. At peak times, we may have five officers for that huge area; at non-peak times, we are down to one or two. This is not by our choice, but is the level of service cities want to fund. Most cities, these days, want to spend less money on animal control. They are not interested in spending more money to increase animal control services. We get it – cities have many interests to balance."
Christa Bigue (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Delucchi also adds some perspective here with the last part of his message sent into Patch: "It’s difficult for us to have a clear line when it comes to dogs on beaches. We’re a humane society that advocates for dogs, yet we have a significant wildlife rehabilitation facility (one of just 3-4 humane societies in the entire US that includes wildlife rehab as part of its mission) and receive, as patients, our area’s threatened or endangered wildlife species. A less complicated position for us is with enclosed dog parks, and we did support POOCH’s earliest efforts to create a dog park in Pacifica when they called us years ago."
Dog Lover October 26, 2012 at 11:47 PM
I am not a fan of the Peninsula Humane Society. Their pet adoption protocols are inflexible and self-defeating. Many more dogs would get adopted if they just thought the process through a little bit more intelligently and didn't lose sight of what should be their primary objective, i.e., to give the animals a shot at a loving home. I actually applied to be a volunteer at PHS, i.e., walk dogs, clean cages, etc., several years ago. They were so inflexible and unaccommodating with respect to the work schedule that I was forced to withdraw my application. For some crazy reason they seemed to have lost sight of the fact that volunteers don't get paid and might actually have other commitments that take priority. PHS arrogantly acted like they were the ones doing the favor! I was also upset at the hiring of Ken White as CEO several years ago. With his exhorbitant total compensation package, you would have thought they were hiring for the CEO of Microsoft. Odd behavior from an organization that is always cash strapped and begging for money while at the same time reducing services. My final gripe: they ticketed my neighbor for a leash violation several years ago. It was on his own front lawn and he was in his bathrobe recovering from very recent back surgery. He finally did get the ticket reversed in SMC court, but that took up quite a bit of his time. Again, the animal control officer was completely inflexible and unreasonable. Bottom line: Zero stars for PHS.
Sadie Dune May 03, 2013 at 05:41 PM
We are turning into an Obamanation world.


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