During eight years with my dog, I learned a lot – including how to find the best places to exercise my high-energy mutt who needed to get out, run, move and track, especially while travelling.
What resulted? A keen eye (and pre-trip research strategy) for finding walking trails and scenic hikes within a short drive off a highway or within city boundaries.
Ok, you ask, where are the best places to walk, run and get your wag-on while traveling Ontario’s endless highways? Or more specifically:
Where are the best dog-walking trails in Southern Ontario, Canada?
While no means an exhaustive list, here are the trails we found within an easy drive from urban areas or a short exit off a major highway. We present our seven off-the-beaten-pavement dog-friendly hiking options discovered without venturing far off the beaten path:
1. Where to take your dog in Oakville: Bronte Provincial Park Off-leash Nature Trails
One of my favourite places to take the dog in Southern Ontario: Bronte Provincial Park in Oakville, Ontario has two off-leash options because essentially the park is in two different places. The day use park, home to several annual festivals including a spring maple syrup event my dog thoroughly enjoyed, has a leash-free field.
But the camping section of the park (a highway exit away) is where you want to be with the dog – off-leash hiking trails along the Bruce trail give you pup a good run for miles.
Check out Oakville with the dog for details.
2. Where to take your dog along Highway 11: Off-leash Dog Park at Chutes
My last major road trip with my precious pup was to Sault Ste. Marie in 2019, and on the way back we checked out Chutes Provincial Park along Highway 11. Yes, there’s a beautiful waterfall to see, but even better: a fenced leash-free forested run with picnic tables for eating lunch on the road, while Fido chases squirrels up trees.
Check out Chutes Provincial park with the dog.
3. Where to take your dog in Sault Ste. Marie – Whitefish Island
Speaking of Sault Ste. Marie, Whitefish Island in St. Marys River had a restorative effect on my little Cocker-cross who ran the island wearing his custom leg brace supporting his ACL injury. Established as a Native fishing area two thousand years ago, it’s a serene soul-soothing site with gravel trails meandering along river banks, and an easy hop, skip and scamper from the city’s historic boat lock.
4. Where to take your dog in Peterborough – Beavermead Park and Waterfront Trails
Starting at a boat launch, along a beach, past a historical lock and over the bridge, you’ll meet other dog walkers along the waterfront trail in Peterborough, Ontario. More specifically, from Roger’s Cove to Beavermead beach to the Greenup Ecology Park presents your dog with at least two hours of mental and physical stimulation.
If you make it to the end and still have some energy, the Peterborough off-leash dog park is across the road from the Greenup Ecology Park, about a five minute walk from the parking lot.
5. Where to take your dog in Campbellville – Mountsberg Conservation Area
What’s better than dogs and horses? Well, a few raptors too. There’s a wild bird sanctuary at Mountsberg Conservation Area in Campbellville, Ontario but that’s not why you take your dog there. Go for the trails. Long winding trails through the Maple bush are fun anytime of year, but particularly interesting (and still dog-friendly) even when the sweet sap is flowing.
6. Where to take your dog in Sudbury – Sudbury Waterfront
Sudbury’s waterfront walk, part paved trail and part boardwalk, holds a special place in my memory. I ventured along this route this route in 2019, starting at one end near a beautiful memorial sculpture to celebrating the city’s mining heritage, all the way to Science North science centre, following the curve of Ramsey Lake.
It’s a route my high-energy pooch would have done wildly in his youth, knocking past others along the way and sniffing every dog. However, we visited in his twilight days and he experienced parts of this waterside walk from his stroller. (Yes, I have a dog stroller – see here). That said, the trail is stroller friendly. And you’ll meet a lot of other dogs, too.
Check out Sudbury with your dog here.
7. Where to take your dog in Hamilton: Albion Falls hiking trails
Albion Falls in Hamilton, Ontario’s east end (an oasis of conservation amid a city that’s snapping at its edges), holds a special place in my heart because it’s one the first day-long hikes I ever took with my dog. We headed to Albion Falls back when he had the vigour to lead the way – and climb a rock face, which we discovered we didn’t really need to do.
However, Albion Falls is a spectacular cotton candy-like cascade over a stair formation of jutting rock providing a mystical grand finale to our otherwise odd adventure.
Fun fact: Albion Falls is almost as wide as it is tall (18 x 19 metres) and rocks from around the falls help construct the Royal Botanical Garden’s Rock Garden (also dog-friendly) in 1932.
Check out Hamilton waterfalls with your dog.