Visiting Parks Canada National Parks and Historic Sites is one of my favourite things to do with my dog, and touring Canada with a canine companion is now on my bucket list – especially after recent developments.
Parks Canada announced last May 2020 the Phase 1 opening of Canadian National Parks and historic sites for day use only, until further notice. This includes parking lots, trails and greenspaces, and some boat launches and fishing, but no camping until June 20, 2020. Outdoor areas around historic sites are opening, but heritage buildings remain closed. (These aren’t pet-friendly anyway).
Even a limited opening is great news for stir-crazy dogs and their people who’ve spent the last three months evaluating ‘what’s really important.’ For the record, being with my three furkidz, ranked number one on my list – clearly no surprise.
Before you venture out to a Canadian National Park, first check daily hours. Limited sites are open (see the list here), and Parks Canada has some rules:
- Avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces. Carry your own supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and toilet paper
- Tell others when you will pass on pathways or trails and maintain a 2-metre distance from others.
- Yield to oncoming users in narrow spaces. Allow others move out of bridges and platforms before entering.
- Step off trails to let others pass but avoid stepping on vegetation.
- Slow down on trails. Adjust your distance from others to maintain a 2-metre distance.
- Pack in and pack out. Bring your own food (limit food service on site) and take your garbage home. Of course, this means picking up after your dog – there are garbage cans on site.
Like me, you and your pup are likely dreaming of green space and trails.
Three years ago, to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary, I visited an Ontario Parks Canada National Park or Historic Site each month, taking my dog Victor along of course.
I have many images of him propped up in iconic Parks Canada red Muskoka Chairs, and now I’ve curated a list of our favourites:
The 5 Best Dog-friendly Canadian National Parks and Historic Sites in Ontario
5. Take your Dog to Sault St. Marie Canal Locks and Park
This one made the list because my dog actually had a great time running in the wide open space along the canal shore and behind the historic Superintendent’s home one site. And, even on the eve of national Aboriginal Day, we had space to ourselves with no issues from others.
The Sault Ste Marie Lock, now a historic site run by Parks Canada, was built in 1895 to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. It was the first electric lock system in the world and today you can walk along it with the dog (including over the metal grate bridge – but my pup demanded to be carried). You can’t, unfortunately, take your dog on the boat trip through the lock system. You can, however, easily walk to White Fish Island from the canal park.
4. Take your Dog to Fort Wellington
Fort Wellington in Prescott, Ontario was built during the War of 1812 to defend the St. Lawrence River, a major shipping route prior to the building of the Rideau Canal. Fort Wellington was also a road trip stop on our way to Ottawa – and Victor loved it. For two reasons: first, the staff was attentive dog lovers. Two, the now grass-covered slopping mud walls hold up a circular walkway perfect for little paws to run, run, run. Plus, the aging palisade walls are pretty stinky. What’s not to love?
3. Take your Dog to Point Pelee
Point Pelee National Park is extremely popular particularly because it’s easy to get to from Southern Ontario or Michigan. It’s also Canada’s Southernmost point and really popular with birders (who don’t always like dogs). But this is ideal dog walking area: the park’s eight trails – 14 kilometres in total – are hard packed, some gravel and easy to follow. My little pup loved crossing bridges over mashes, ponds and former canals – it’s a rural historic area too.
2. Take your Dog to Fort George
Fort George National Historic Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario was one of the best dog-friendly historic sites on the list because it’s easy to find along the Niagara Parkway that connects Niagara-on-the-Lake with Niagara Falls, and staff members loved my dog enough to let him into buildings and poise for pictures with him – we also visited in the off season: winter. This site is open all year.
Fort George was originally built in 1799 to defend against American attacks during the War of 1812. After being destroyed by bombs, it was rebuilt in 1813 only to be abandoned in 1820. Not as authentic as some sites – considering it was refurbished in 1950 to become a museum – it was still aged enough to give my dog a good run, following the scent of wildlife around the fortress walls.
1. Take your Dog to Beau Rivage Island
Ok, technically this is one island of many making up Parks Canada Thousand Islands, but it was my favourite. My dog and I checkout out several – and yes, all were worth visiting – while boating through the Thousand Islands four years ago on our first big dog-friendly adventure together.
Why you wouldn’t visit this island with a dog is beyond me. (Ok, the birds; I know). But Beau Rivage Island early morning as the sun is rising over the silhouette of trees beacons a dog walk. And the circular path around the edge of the island was tailor made for curious paws and scent-driven noses. Water loving pooches might find water access easy, however.
What’s your favourite dog-friendly National Park in Canada or the U.S.? Let us know in the comments below.