High 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.
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.
All 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 essentially 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).
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.