The people of Santa Barbara love their dogs, and fortunately there are many incredible parks and beaches where dogs and humans alike can hike, run, and play. The Douglas Family Preserve is one of these—a 70-acre nature preserve perched on the bluffs above Hendry’s Beach. Sometimes referred to by locals simply as the mesa, the preserve is located a few minutes southwest of the downtown area.
Originally, the mesa was slotted for development, but in a fortune turn of events the property was left undeveloped and transferred to the city for recreational use. The park has since become an incredibly popular destination for hikers, joggers, bikers, and even (experienced) hang gliders.
There are plenty of trees for shade and a few dispersed benches for rest, but since the majority of the land is completely undeveloped, there are no restrooms, running water fountains, or other facilities to speak of. You will have to pack everything in, including poop bags so that you can pack your dog’s business out.
The Douglas Family Preserve is managed by the city for public use, and it is one of Santa Barbara’s two off-leash dog play areas. Upon arrival, you are required to keep your dog on leash until you encounter off-leash signs. Furthermore, due to the park’s high elevation and steep cliffs in some places, some owners opt to keep their leashes close at hand.
The bluffs lead down to the beach in some places, which are also off-leash, but some of the trails are not for the inexperienced. Plenty of people frequent this area, so you are sure to be in good company if you are looking for other dog owners and dogs to socialize with.
Few cities are as dog-friendly as Santa Barbara, but then again, few cities have the sheer open space and natural beauty. If you find yourself visiting with a canine companion, check out the Douglas Family Preserve and nearby beaches. You’ll take the calm and a part of the experience home with you.