John McLaren Park is the second largest park in the city of San Francisco, surpassed only by Golden Gate Park. Located in the city’s southernmost region, the park is considered something of a hidden gem by locals and city natives. According to San Francisco Parks and Recreation, hundreds of dogs and their owners visit the park every day to run and roam free in the off-leash dog play areas.
In total, McLaren park is spread out over 315 acres, and there are two separate off-leash dog play areas within this vast space. The area contained within the John F. Shelley Drive Loop and Mansell Street make up the larger of the two areas. San Francisco Recreation and Parks calls this area the “McLaren Amphitheater Dog Play Area” for its proximity to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.
You and your dog will love exploring the 60 acres of trails, shaded groves, gentle hills, and open fields. There are four major open spaces for dogs to run, as well as a lake where they can dip their paws or go for a swim. Most of the area is wide open for hiking, running, dog walking, and exploration, yet many people report that it is still accessible and amenable.
There are two bathrooms—one near the amphitheater and the other near the lake—for humans to go, but poop bags are sparse so you may be better off bringing your own as the city requires that you pick up after your dog. Two rest areas with benches can be located near the lake, and the entire park feels far away from the city.
Remarkably, the majority of the park’s plant and animal life is naturally occurring and well-preserved, making it feel much more like a small national or state park than the public city-funded park that it is. You and your dog will love exploring this park, and it is truly an experience simply to visit.