Want to know a secret pet-friendly place open during pandemic lockdown?
Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
Ok, it’s not so much a secret as void of promotion because, well, it’s 2021 in a country scrambling to get enough COVID 19 vaccines for the population while watching infection rates rise faster than the universal healthcare system can handle. Traveling is not encouraged.
Leaving your ‘region’ is banned – well, ordered. People are being encouraged to stay home except for essential reasons. Fortunately, exercise and dog-walking are essential reasons.
Also, fortunately, the spring weather is finally making hours spent outside with the dog a reasonably pleasant experience. Add together these factors, multiply by one incredibly high-energy pandemic puppy, and I’ve got reason to explore a new dog park, dog trail, or dog walk every day this month.
Yes, off-leash dog walking is penciled in to my agenda every day. For hours. Welcome to May 2021.
First stop: Bronte Creek Day Use Park and free weekday admission!
Bronte Creek Park (1219 Bronte Road, Oakville, Ontario) is not only open for day use from 8 am to 10 pm, but it’s free! That’s right, May 1 to September 1, 2021, Monday to Thursday, there’s no admission cost. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the usual $15.93 plus tax entrance fee applies.
But Ontario Provincial Parks aren’t shouting this from the rooftops. Ontario Provincial Parks across the province remain open with limited services including no public washrooms and no food service. Camping, however, is not yet permitted May 2021.
Here’s the important question: Can I take my dog to Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Ontario? Yes!
Leash-free zones remain open and Bronte Creek Provincial Park has two dog zones. That’s right, two! The first is a field with winding easy walking trails through minimal forested areas in the day use park. Follow the yellow dog signs passed Lot C and you’ll find a small parking lot beside the park. Look for the scattering of happy dogs.
While not fenced like a traditional park, the expansive land away from the road makes fences almost unnecessary for dogs that don’t run far away. (Fortunately, my seven-month-old Sprocker is falling neatly into that category … fingers crossed. Recall is improving). The circular winding paths make it easy to move away from other walkers, if that’s desirable. The open field makes it possible for pack play, if everyone is as sweet as my pup.
Bronte Creek Overnight Park and leash-free wooded hiking paths
The second leash-free zone is in the other park. Bronte Provincial Park’s day use and over-night use parks are located in two different places. To get to the second dog zone in the over-night camping area, you’ll have to drive east on the QEW highway one exit.
Once at the camping park, however, a vast space awaits and so do densely forested hiking trails, a designated section of which is off-leash. (Check out an adventure with my previous dog, Victor, here).
Off-leash wooded hiking trails is like an oasis for high energy pooches. I’ve yet to test my new dog there, but she did so well along the less dense trails I’ve placed it on my list – a list that’ll likely include an overnight stay, though clearly not in the park yet. We’ll hotel it. Because this provincial park is in the middle of city, several hotels (and a convention centre) is directly across the street.
Here’s my suggested (and planned) future trip to Bronte Creek Park:
Bronte Creek Provincial Park (Day Park)
Arrive mid-morning on weekdays to avoid both an admission charge and many other dogs in the leash-free zone. Park in the lot adjacent to the leash-free area and circle the trails, perhaps for at least an hour.
Get lunch at the Courtyard by Marriot
A day pass, purchased or free, includes in and out privileges from the park, so drive across the street to Courtyard by Marriot, beside the convention centre and get a take-out lunch from the lobby bistro. The Mediterranean Salad travelled well, and my dog got the chicken, which kept her near the picnic table when we headed back to the Bronte Creek Park and parked in Lot C. Picnic tables still scatter the grounds within feet of Lot C. Added bonus – the public washrooms are open at the hotel, so the boxed lunch pickup is worth it.
Stroll Bronte Creek park
Dogs are permitted in other parks of the park, but must be leashed. (Check out dog-friendly Maple Sugar Festival adventures here). Bronte Creek Park boasts five hiking trails in total, a Nature Centre, a children’s farm with live animals (dogs not permitted in the barn), a turn-of-the century restored Spruce Lane Farm House, disc golf course, and a 1.8-acre outdoor pool (dogs also not permitted near the pool). Unfortunately, all these features aren’t operating during lock-down.
Stay the night in a tent
During non-pandemic (otherwise known as ‘normal’) times, Bronte Creek Provincial Park and Conservation area offers tent camping April to October at its second site located at 3201 Upper Middle Road West. This is also where you’ll find the leash-free hiking trail through the 50-metre deep Bronte Creek Ravine because you can camp here with dogs.
The campgrounds can also accommodate small trailers and RVs. Electrical hook ups, a fire pit, and picnic table are at each site and water taps, comfort stations, laundry facilities, playgrounds, hiking trails and amphitheater are close by. Three yurts are available accommodating up to six people each for minimum two- or three-night stays; however, pets are not permitted in the yurts.
Stay the night at a hotel
If the campground is closed (or like me you don’t want to camp), you’ll have to cross the street and stay at a hotel. Unfortunately, the Crowne Plaza Hotel is not pet-friendly, though the near-by Sandman Hotel is – all Sandman Hotels in Canada welcome furry family members. (Check out our experience in Ottawa).
The Sandman Hotel in Oakville offers traditional rooms with two queen or king beds and suites with sitting area, small fridge and microwave. Also, Denny’s is downstairs for takeout or breakfast.
On the way home
The next morning stop at the campground area (Bronte Road exit from the QEW) and spend hours roaming the dog-friendly trails along the park ravine. A clearly marked section is designated leash-free, though leash dogs can roam with you for km through what’s left as protected conservation area, wedge in the middle of Oakville’s commercial and residential sprawl.
General information: Bronte Creek Provincial Park opened in 1975 to preserve the natural and farming heritage of the region. Since then, the city has grown up around it, making the conservation area a 6.4 square kilometer oasis amid the heavy traffic flowing through the surrounding urban and residential build up.
Another fun fact: you can see the PetSmart sky scrapper office building from the day use dog park.