San Francisco is known, apocryphally, as the city where dogs outnumber children. And just as kids benefit from going to the playground to get some fresh air, exercise, and socialization, so does your dog. There are a lot of places to take your dog for some outdoor fun in San Francisco — these are our absolute favorites, but we're sure you have some other picks that you'll share with us in the comments. Wherever you go, however, please make sure to honor the legacy of Harvey Milk, and scoop up your dog's poop.

Bernal Heights Park
Bernal's large, lovely hill is an equally wonderful dog walking or dog watching outpost, with trails, a main road, and stellar views. The sightseeing is good all the way to the top, which has even more trails and from where you can take in the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges in one panorama. The park is a favorite destination for Bernal locals and San Franciscans farther afield, but it can sometimes get chilly at the top. But that's not that bad because it increases your likelihood of seeing phenomenal dog sweaters. —Caleb Pershan

Crissy Field
This is how I do Crissy Field: I park at the parking lot closest to the Marina Gate, and let the dogs out to run off-leash on the beach. When they seem a little less nutso, everyone gets leashed and we walk along the runway (it's a former airfield) all the way down to the Warming Hut. The humans get a cup of coffee and a treat and hang out at the picnic tables for a bit. Then we walk back up the runway, eventually making our way back to the car. All the while, there's the water to one side, the Presidio to the other, plenty of places to run and play, and a lot of scantily clad, athletic people to admire. —Eve Batey


Duboce Park
Dog owners across the city drool over the park-adjacent residences surrounding the always dog-filled Duboce Park. The off-leash area is expansive, sloping a full city block all the way down to Steiner Street, and though this is not the perfect place to take dogs who are fond of running off in the direction of cars — the Duboce and Steiner Street sides of the park are not fenced off in any way — it is the perfect place for all well behaved pooches who enjoy playing fetch and bounding about with other dogs. And there will pretty much always be others there doing the same, at all hours. Of special note: Duboce is home to the annual DogFest, which happens in April. —Jay Barmann

Photo: Darwin Bell

Fort Funston
Definitely the best dog beach in town is in the southwest corner of the city, almost in Daly City, in Fort Funston National Park. You have to do some climbing down a fairly steep path and then back up it when you're done, but this is an ideal spot to exhaust the most energetic of pups — especially those who aren't afraid of water. Of course you'll want to be careful on days with rough surf if your dog is too fearless, but this long, dog-filled expanse, bordered on one side by dunes, cliffs, and ice plants, is basically dog heaven. —Jay Barmann

My little tripod Magnolia (see the back left missing foot?) always has a great time at the Golden Gate Park dog run near MLK Jr. and Middle Drive. Photo: Eve Batey

Golden Gate Park
While your on-leash dog's welcome in many areas (except places like the bison paddock and Big Rec, that huge field at Lincoln and 7th Avenue) of Golden Gate Park, there are only four areas where it's not against the rules to take them off leash: a dog run bordered by Lincoln Way, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and 5th and 7th Avenues in the southeast, Stanyan between Hayes and Fulton on the northeast, MLK Jr and Middle Drives between 34th and 38th Avenues in the southwest, and a small dog training area at 38th Avenue and Fulton. All three of these spots are just the right mix of untamed nature (Wild bushes! Squirrels!) and nicely maintained park (Sprinklers! Trashcans!). Stay away from the coyotes, and you'll all have a great time. — Eve Batey

Photo: Shutterstock

Huntington Park
In the Disney movie of SF dogdom, Nob Hill's Huntington Park would be where all the snooty poodles and can't-be-bothered lhasa apsos would strut about looking down their noses at the rambunctious beagle hero of the film. This half brick-surfaced, half grassy park with a famous fountain in the center of it sits in the shadow of Grace Cathedral, the Huntington Hotel, and the Mark Hopkins, and is the daily destination of many well heeled toy breeds from nearby luxury apartments, as well as some other riff-raff from downhill in the TenderNob and Russian Hill. It's technically an on-leash park, and there is a playground right next to it, so for off-leash play this is strictly limited to the really well behaved, and tends to mostly be for small dogs. —Jay Barmann

Rusty enjoys Lafayette Park. Photo: Friends of Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park
The Friends of Lafayette Park neighborhood group proudly describes this park as "a haven for dogs and people who love them at almost any time of day or night." What they don't mention is how this is also a great place to scope out some of the fanciest real estate in town: Larry Ellison, director Chris Columbus, and a lot of people you mainly see in the society pages live or lived in homes that border this Pac Haights park. Speaking of fancy, a lot of the dogs and their guardians that hang out here are, too, so be prepared for the occasional celeb (and their dog) sighting. Be cool! — Eve Batey

McLaren Park
The sprawling, serene southern San Francisco park is canine heaven with plenty of space and even a doggie pond. Bordering neighborhoods like the Excelsior, Visitacion Valley, and the Outer Mission. There's a large off-leash area, plenty of rolling hills, open fields and trails. What more could your dog's heart desire? —Caleb Pershan

Mountain Lake Park
This Inner-Richmond 14-acre getaway at the edge of the Presidio is great for stretching your, and your dogs, legs. There's a wood-chip carpeted dog specific area, which is where local dog walkers usually bring their herds on weekday afternoons. You'll also find plenty of trails surrounding the eponymous lake and mountain, a big grassy hill (with a concrete slide) and a duck filled lake. —Caleb Pershan

Even my late, great dog Franny, who hated many things, loved Ocean Beach. Photo: Eve Batey

Ocean Beach
Of course you know that Ocean Beach is gorgeous! And of course you know that it's a haven for dogs, because there are a zillion things to smell, birds to chase, water to play in, and other dogs to interact with. All I have to do is start driving on Lincoln towards OB and my dog will go bonkers at the prospect of a beach walk, it's such a fan fave. The rules are that dogs must be on-leash between from Sloat Blvd. and Stairwell 21 (which is, roughly, about mid-Beach Chalet) except from May 15 to July 1. (Do people always follow this rule? Nope! But we're not here to get you in trouble.) North of Stairwell 21, it's an off-leash free-for-all, with pooches running wild as can be. — Eve Batey

The entrance to Pine Lake Park. Photo: Kat L./Yelp

Pine Lake Park
Commonly known as "Stern Grove Dog Park," Pine Lake Park's to the Grove's immediate west, with an entrance hidden just off Crestlake Drive. Past the parking lot, there's a huge off-leash play area constantly populated by pups and their guardians, as well as benches to sit and chat while everyone's dogs play. Or you can get your dog back on leash (per the rules) and walk the perimeter of lovely Pine Lake. The best part, though, is that this park's in a valley, so if your dog tries to escape chances are that you (with your longer legs) can catch him or her on the steep uphill. — Eve Batey

Honorable mentions:

  • Corona Heights: Worth it for the view, alone.
  • Allyne Park: Fenced in, which is great for the squirrellier pooch
  • Lake Merced: Nice crowd of regulars willing to lend a bag or grab a leash if you find yourself in need
Photo: Paul Krohn