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Leo Carrillo Dog Beach

Owen enjoys the surf and sand at Leo Carrillo

Leo Carrillo State Park, named after the actor and conservationist from the 1950s, is a fun place for all sorts of nature lovers. The state park is located off Highway 1 in Malibu and features hiking and camping. For those who are more sea-loving, there are 1.5 miles of coast perfect for surfing, swimming, and just plain hanging out at the beach. For us, we liked the dog-friendly beach at North Beach located north of lifeguard tower 3.

We spent an early summer Monday here at Leo Carrillo. We wanted to find a new ocean adventure for the pupper and were willing to drive to get it. After all, that’s what lazy summer days are for, at least in the space between school letting out and summer jobs starting. So we packed up some snacks and headed north on U.S. 101 toward Malibu. From 101 northbound, we exited Kanan Road and headed over to Mulholland Highway, continuing onto Encinal Canyon Road with its twists and turns. We eventually reached Pacific Coast Highway pretty uneventfully, except a TPMS sensor coming on and my brief moment of panic that accompanied it.

By the time I had clumsily parallel-parked along PCH about a quarter mile from the dog beach, our boy was whining with excitement. He scampered out of his bed in the trunk of the van and waited obediently, albeit a little impatiently, for us to gather our human picnic necessities. We made the trek down, finding lifeguard tower 3 easily and continued north and down to the beach. Being a Monday afternoon, the dog beach was relatively quiet. There were only a few families with their canine companions, which was in contrast to the no-dogs-allowed beach to the south. That side was very busy, and the dog days of summer were evident with people who had flocked to the coast to escape the inland heat. Indeed, while it wasn’t all that cold, I did wish that I had brought a light sweater to guard against the sea breeze.

But that was no deterrence to fun. Owen had a great time exploring in the sand and the surf. While he was pretty good about exploring the shore off-leash, he preferred to have us with him when he approached the water. I am not sure why that is. Being a retriever, he does love bodies of water, and will get soaked in freshwater ponds and streams, but for some reason, he’s a bit more timid about approaching the ocean alone. Perhaps he understands the vastness of the Pacific. Or perhaps he’s just not used to the ocean, since his first trip to the beach was when he was already advanced in years.

After a while of exploring on his own, I leashed him back up and took him for a walk. We explored the rocky cliffs and caves. These areas looked familiar, not just from prior visits without the pupper in years past, but from popular shows. Leo Carrillo is a popular filming site, and Sami pointed out a spot that looked like it could be from her favorite binge at the time, The Good Place. According to Movie Maps, it may well have been where Janet ‘died’ several times. Owen, who cared nothing about film locations, sniffed around more, marked his territory, and enjoyed getting his paws wet.

Soon enough though, it was time to head out and think about some dinner, as we were about an hour from home. We made the hike back up along the trail to the beach and back to where the car was parked. We attempted to dry Owen off before he got back in the van, an exercise in futility so that the car wouldn’t smell like wet dog. It was fine; I was going to drive with the windows rolled down anyway and enjoy the cool Malibu air for as long as we could. And so we did- humans and canine alike- after our beach adventure.

For more information, check out California State Parks.

While we are now into autumn, the weather in Southern California stays famously mild. The beach is open year-round and there are many sunny weekends to adventure with your furry buddy. Be sure to check the weather and surf report before you go. Happy tails!

A May 2022 picnic at the Dog Beach

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