Travel Toronto: High on High Park Dog Off-leash Park

High Park Dog Park dogtrotting.netHigh Park Dog Off-Leash Park might be the best dog park Victor and I have ever visited.

It might be the best dog place ever.

Located inside High Park in the west end of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the adventure at this leash-free park (if you can find a free parking spot along the road) begins in a large open dirt mound called ‘dog hill’ by locals. The ground is worn bare by fury feet, a few trees remain in the centre and forest (not fully fence) surrounds the hill. There are a few picnic tables and a water facet with bowls for pup hydration.

It’s popular, so impossible not to make a new friend or two … your dog anyway.

My schnoodle Victor is more into exploring than socializing. Therefore, the trails beacon.

High Park Dog Park dogtrotting.net

Sticking to the trails

Thanks to rustic wooden and wire mesh fencing that line the walking trails into the forest, dogs can roam the woods leash free. Wildlife remains on one side, and the wild fur child remains on the other. A map guides you through the 8.5 acres of looping wood-chipped lined trails, marked ‘yellow’ meaning no leash required. The red zone, however, is on-leash only.

It’s impossible to get lost, thanks to fencing creating a corridor – just keep walking for a few hours until you come back to the beginning, or turn around anytime and head back to the start. Leash your dog where the path crosses roads used for other activities, but otherwise it’s a long worry-free romp through the woods.

High Park Dog Park dogtrotting.netAll parts of the 400-acres of High Park, which includes the largest pond in the city, a wading pool, a trackless train and two baseball diamonds, are dog friendly, but only the designated dog park is leash free.

In addition, your dog can go to the zoo – the High Park Zoo has housed primarily hoofed animals such as deer, bison and llamas, behind chain-linked enclosures for more than 100 years. Because the zoo essentially runs along a pedestrian street, leashed pets are welcome.

High Park is in the middle of west Toronto, so it’s an easy afternoon staycation from where Victor and I live. We haven’t been venturing far from home recently, for good reason.

My cat and soul mate of 17 years, Kaitlynn, is in the later stages of kidney disease and is catessentially in palliative care. I’ve been treating her for almost three years, and she’s exceeded her original prognosis by 30 months. I haven’t been spending any more time away from her than necessary, and definitely overnight excursions are on hold.

Victor, however, still needs to get out. So, short trips are the order of the day.

Fortunately, Victor is a good road traveler and hunkers down in the back seat while the car’s running. During longer rides, I’ll hook him into the seat belt using the Kurgo harness and clip (love that company).

dogtrotting Toronto High Park park

Dog Hill in High Park

Most often, though, he’s lying quietly and has a new travel bed to do it in: a Cesar Milan Cushion Mat in bright orange. It’s surprisingly durable, like semi-rigid canvas that can be thrown down at a campsite or beach, yet is machine washable.

In the meantime, we’ll be schlepping it around with us to nearby dog-friendly festivals around Southern Ontario close to home only. Hopefully, for a while yet – as long as we have Kaitlynn to come home to.

Highlights of High Park:
  • 400 acres of mixed park and conservation land in the middle of Canada’s largest city
  • Leash-free dog park called Dog Hill
  • 8.5 acres of leash-free dog hiking trails lined by fencing to protect sensitive natural species
  • High Park Zoo where buffalo, deer, yak, peacocks and llamas roam within enclosures and dogs stroll leashed to strollers
  • High Park Nature Centre promoting environmental education and park stewardship
  • Site of the annual Shakespeare in the Park theatre outdoor theatre production

If you’re on the east coast of the country, check out Go Pet Friendly.com‘s guide to “Best Spots for Dog Friendly Hiking in Halifax” including downtown Halifax and Long Lake Provincial Park, written by a guest blogger. Go Pet Friendly is a resource I use frequently.

If you’re in Toronto with the dog (or not), check out the Purina PawsWay, the city’s only dog-friendly museum, coffee shop, and in-door leash-free activity centre.

48 comments

  1. Mario · · Reply

    another one Toronto’s hidden gem for pet lovers. dog friendly park. looks great. next time I’m in town I’ll be checking it out with Sasha, my 3 year old lab cross

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    1. Victor loves Sasha!

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  2. Sounds like an awesome place to visit with or without a pet! As a side note, I’m sorry to hear about your cat, but you must be giving her beautiful care for her to have outlasted her prognosis by so many months!

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    1. Thank you. Yes I know my vet and staff very very well. I’ve even seen some turnover of techs since we started this 3 years ago.

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  3. FiveSibesMom · · Reply

    Very cool! Now that’s what I call a dog park! My Huskies would love it there!

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    1. With five they’d love the space

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  4. This sounds like one awesome dog park! I’m glad that you guys enjoyed yourself. Seems like the perfect place to make new doggie friends!

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    1. Yes, but a bit too crazy for kids. Weekends are dog crowded.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Special thoughts as you help Kaitlynn approach the end of her life.

    I love the idea of fenced trails where it is impossible to get lost.

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    1. Thank you for your kinds words. This weekend she rallied a bit.

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  6. This sounds incredible! I sure wish we had something like this in Arizona. I don’t even think there’s anything this wonderful within a few states of us. But wow. How amazing!

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    1. Trees make it a little cooler too – and cleaner air in the city

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  7. Gone to the Snow Dogs · · Reply

    What a beautiful park! If we ever make it up there will will have to visit! This looks like a very fun stimulating park for dogs and people!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, most of the people were ok too… I also recommend visiting the zoo.

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  8. Lindsay · · Reply

    This looks like the coolest park ever, it looks like you guys had a great time!

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    1. Yes next time we spend more time there – and bring a picnic

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  9. This sounds like a great place for dogs! It’s great that the walking trail is fenced – both so humans don’t get lost and so the dogs can roam around off-leash.

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    1. Yes sometimes I’m just as worried about me getting lost as I am my dog.

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  10. This looks like a beautiful dog park! It is nice to have a place where you can go and have carefree times with your pets. 🙂 I’m so sorry about Kaitlynn’s Kidney Disease. It is so hard to watch someone you love go through these things. I just had to put down my 10-year-old cat, Cinco, last month because of cancer. I will be praying for Kaitlynn and your family.

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    1. Thank you so much. Sorry to hear about Cinco. It’s gut wrenching to make those decisions.

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  11. This place looks way cooler than any park I’ve ever been to! I’d love to visit someday.

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  12. Sherri – The park is amazing and I know all three of mine would love to have access to a place like that to play!

    I am so sorry to read about your girl, Kaitlynn. My cat Grace had severe kidney disease and I know how hard it is to go through what you are experiencing right now. Sending good thoughts your way ❤

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    1. Thank you very much. Kidney Disease is like cat cancer. I lost my first cat at the age of 20 this way and that was long before there were this many treatments available. Right now my kitchen counter looks like a pharmacy.

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  13. That park is awesome! We have no dog parks in my little town, but, since I live in a rural area, Tippy really doesn’t need one, except for socialization. She has plenty of room to roam and explore here at home.

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    1. Going to parks has helped my Victor socialize, for the most part. I live in essentially a rural area too so runs are generally easy. But dogs in the middle of a big city? I can understand why those in Toronto love and defend this park. It’s an effort to find a safe place to run.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So glad you have that there.

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  14. Beautiful park and I love parks where our dogs can run free and explore

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    1. I actually hate walking my Victor on leash – he pulls. Plus he’s gotten much better off leash. Maybe he figured it out.

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  15. I’m really sorry to hear about Kaitlynn – 😦 I totally understand not wanting to leave her except when you have to. You also had me at “dog at the zoo” – I would freak out if I could take our old dog to this park and then stroll through the zoo… omd.

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    1. The zoo is interesting – it’s more like farm animals behind fences (it’s 127 years old and started as a deer park). I was there on a weekday and there were many young moms, strollers and dogs. The whole family goes. And thank you for the supportive words.

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  16. Miss Molly Says · · Reply

    Sounds like an amazing park to visit! I love the fencing idea!

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    1. The fencing is remarkably clever and a good compromise between two competing interests: the environmental purist who believed dogs were damaging the fauna and all the dog owners in the city who needed a place to go. Now, I recently heard it was vandalized then repaired. I don’t know what interest that serves….

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  17. How wonderful that you can let dogs roam free. The fence is a great idea.

    Sending much support to Kaitlynn. I hope you have many more wonderful moments together.

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    1. Thank you very much. Yes, I’m trying to focus on the final days being our best.

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  18. This sounds a great place. Are the dogs OK together? No-one fights? (Asking as a non-dog owner!). It looks as though there is plenty of roaming space which is a doggy dream come true.

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    1. I haven’t heard anything tragic and when I was there, no issues that I saw. But like anywhere you do have to watch. What I liked is that the fenced trail is very wide so there is room for dogs to greet each other properly or completely move around each other easily if one isn’t interested. My dog was so thrilled to be smelling all the nature scents he hardly noticed other dogs.

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  19. That looks like a great park. And I’m sure the dogs enjoy the zoo. I like how it’s in the middle of the city. We have a huge off-leash park but it’s a little ways out.

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    1. Well,it’s kind of funny: when High Park was first established as a conservation area (about 100 years ago) the main criticism was that it was too far away to be useful to the citizens of Toronto. The city grew to meet and surround it. Now the bus goes there.

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  20. How wonderful that dogs can roam off leash. The fencing is a great idea.

    Sending my best to Kaitlynn! Hope you have many more wonderful moments together

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  21. The park looks and sounds awesome.

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    1. I was remarkably surprised when I finally checked it out. I thought it was just another square fenced area.

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  22. What an incredible place to share with your dog. We do not even have a single dog park in our city It is such a shame when so many cities and areas have wonderful parks. I’m glad that you can enjoy yours.

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    1. I’m about an hour from Toronto, but plan to get back there several times this summer. Fortunately, it seems to be becoming a trend in new city developments that a corner of a public park be for dog parks.

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  23. This place looks amazing! I wish I could take our dog to a place like this. And hugs to Kaitlynn.

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  24. Wow! That park sounds amazing! The most we get around here are regular Ole dog parks which unfortunately are more like places for people to let their dogs loose and pay zero attention to them. :/ we’d love to visit Toronto!

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    1. I was surprised when I saw it too. The ‘dog park’ part is good – the hill. Then someone told me to follow the trails and those were wide enough dogs didn’t startle each other but easy to navigate through the woods.

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  25. wow. seems like a very cool park to visit with your 4 legged friend. I will definitely check it out. Cool article. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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