Spend a dog day or two in surprisingly dog-friendly Hamilton, Ontario

Thanks to beastly weather and world events, we’re staying close to home these days. But home just happens to be within driving distance of dog-friendly Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

A city known for steel production, Hamilton has spent decades trying to shake those associations (primarily because there’s little steel production going on) and rebrand itself ‘the city of waterfalls.’

Being a city of half a million people in the shadow of its more affluent cousin, Toronto, that moniker hasn’t stuck. But I suggest a new one: dog-friendly Hamilton.

Hamilton, Ontario is a surprisingly easy place to spend the day, or weekend, with your dog. Why? Per capita, Hamilton, Ontario has a surprising number of fenced off-leashed dog parks, conservation trails, pet-friendly hotels, dog cafes (yes, dogs allowed), and, well… several waterfalls.

Here’s the ultimate one or two day guide to exploring Hamilton, Ontario with your dog:

Day One: Pet Tourism Visit to Dog-friendly Hamilton, Ontario

Start mid-morning with a leash-free run in an open space or off-leash trail:

STOP 1: Hamilton/Burlington Humane Society Off-Leash Dog Park

215 Dartnall Road, Hamilton

One-hectare area run by the City of Hamilton that’s an open grassy area fully fenced. This is adjacent to a 2-hectare area below the ‘hill’ run by the SPCA – the second park is wooded with a creek running through and a walking trail along the perimeter. This nature trail is off-leash; however, the fence is not high and dogs with poor recall (like my puppy) can escape. I haven’t been to this side for this reason.

However, we’ve easily spent an hour or more in the SPCA ‘hill’ section, which is fully fenced and has a double gate entry. There is, however, no separate large and small dog area. No water source or public bathrooms for people either.

But at the SPCA off-leash park, there is a large enough open space for dogs to run, climb on a few boulders, zip through some trees and leap over the picnic table where people are usually sitting. The quietest times are mornings and mid-afternoon.

After a morning romp, you’ll need a hearty lunch so head to the country’s first dog café located in dog-friendly Hamilton:

STOP 2: Munchies Coffeehouse & BARKery

1000 Upper Gage (unit 4 in the plaza), Hamilton

Believe or not, Munchies Coffeehouse & Barkery is one of two restaurants in Hamilton designed for both you and your dog – there were three, but gentrification of Locke Street saw the third one unfortunately ousted from their rental location.

Munchies Coffeehouse & BARKery deserves top billing and the first stop on the list for two reasons: it’s Canada’s first café and restaurant for you and your dog and second, it opens 10 am to 3:00 pm most days (except occasional evenings usually Thursday and Friday). Also, the list of 20 different gourmet waffle options invite a decadent brunch: apple pie or banana bread for a sweet tooth. Savory includes Monte Cristo with cheddar and bacon or chicken and waffles on the weekends.

There’s limited seating inside, but a dog that gets along well with others can interact with other dogs in the café. A central sofa harkens a bohemian ‘Friends’ atmosphere and most afternoons there’s a group of dog people gathered over coffee. Speaking of coffee, Munchies is a coffee shop, and the quality rivals that of any bistro. The place is run by second generation bakers, so pastries, pies, and cheese cakes are on the menu to take out.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a ‘barkery’ without homemade dog treats – 10 for $10 or pupcakes are 6 for $15. A ‘ruff cake’ birthday cake for dogs can be advanced ordered for $24.

STOP 3: Hill Street Off-Leash Dog Park

13 Hill Street, Hamilton (between Dundurn and Locke Streets)

If you want to check out a trendy neighbourhood closer to the city core, head to Lock Street, but first let your pup make new friends at the Dundurn neighbourhood dog park. This block-sized fence area has a double gate on either end, a mulch covering, water source for dogs and central picnic table under a pavilion along with several benches scattered throughout.

Although the fences at the Hill Street Dog Park are secure, the fence along the residential road isn’t that high – my Sprocker could likely jump it but hasn’t figured that out yet. Pet disposal bins within the park, which is handy, though unfortunately many who use the park don’t seem to know that.

From this park (with road-side parking) you’re within walking distance of Locke Street, a popular gentrified area lined with cafes, bookstore, gift stores, and local favourites like Monster Donuts and Bitten cupcakes. (Hamilton likes baked goods).

Locke Street was once home to the city’s third dog café with a fenced patio called My Dog’s Café. Unfortunately, it closed in 2021 when the lease wasn’t renewed. Most shops along Locke Street allow leashed dogs inside, including Floor Play Socks who’ve met both my previous and current pups.

Or

If you’d rather spend the rest of the day in the great outdoors than shopping an urban street, check out dog-friendly Hamilton conservation areas starting with Borer’s Falls, which has its own dog park:

STOP 4: Borer’s Falls Dog Park in the Borer’s Falls Conservation Area

491 York Road, Dundas

Two full-fenced dog run areas with double enter and exit gates are open 6 am to 11 pm. The larger area is for larger dogs, and the smaller grassy area is for smaller ones. This park isn’t large, has minimal amenities, and no water source or bathrooms.

Parking is beside the leash-free park, but is often full because it’s also the parking lot for the conservation area steps away. But it’s a clean easy site to give your dog a good run before you go on a leash hike in search of Borer’s Falls.

To get to the falls from the dog park, you’ll have to leash your dog and head along the Ray Lowes side trail (marked) which leads to the Bruce Trail then follow the signs to Borer’s and Rock Chapel Sanctuary. Borer’s Falls, once used to power a sawmill, is 15 meters high and the best view is from the restored 1868 stone bridge.

Or, take a shortcut by driving from the dog park, along Highway 5 to Rock Chapel Road and park at the top. This will be significantly less of a hike, but you can still take in the view and get a photo of your dog on the historic rock bridge.

STOP 5: Dinner at Bring Your Dog Café, Hamilton

9 Richwill Road, Hamilton

One of my favourite haunts in the city (especially during rainy days) is Bring Your Dog Café located along a small side street off Upper James Street on ‘the mountain’ in Hamilton. Two open rooms allow dogs to play freely with each other while their people have lunch, coffee, pie or butter tarts. Bring Your Dog Café is all about the dogs… but humans are allowed in too because someone has to pay the bill.

A diner-style menu, including a list of dog donuts and treats made in house, is available but be prepared to get up close with other dogs too (and protect your lunch a bit). Very social dogs thrive here and consequently nudge their humans into socializing too. Expect to meet some regulars.

Each visit, my pup gets a Dexter Donut, named after the owner’s pup, although partying with others is more her thing. Dog donuts are served in a dog bowl but serving is recommended piece by piece (yes, from the table … so this might not work for some). Closed Tuesdays and Wednesday, but open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday 10 am to 5 pm and evenings Thursdays and Fridays until 8pm.

STOP 6: The Drive in Movie Theatre

If you’re in Hamilton during the warmer months, take in a current box office film (or two or three it’s a double or triple feature night) at the Starlite Drive-in Theatre, 59 Green Mountain Road East, Stoney Creek – the east end of the city near Devil’s Punch Bowl waterfalls. There’s even a dog walking zone (on leash) on site. Check out our previous dog-friendly experience here.

Staying another day? Yes, there are several pet-friendly accommodations in Hamilton, including (recently) Homewood Suites by Hilton. See list of pet-friendly hotels in Hamilton below.

Day Two: Pet Tourism visit to Dog-friendly Hamilton

Day two, check out other dog-friendly options within the boundaries of Hamilton: More off leash dog park fun, shopping and hiking to the legendary waterfalls.

STOP 1: Corporal Nathan Cirillo Free Run Area

799 Golf Links Road, Ancaster

Named after a dog-loving local hero who made national headlines defending Canada’s War Memorial in Ottawa, the Corporal Nathan Cirillo Free Run park was never intended to be a dog park. The open grassy area is designed to be a storm water retention area after paving the Ancaster Meadowlands (as it’s now called) and building big box retail stores.

But the residents of Hamilton used the concave geographical zone as a place to run their pups leash free – until finally the city recognized a social need, officially declaring the area  a dog park and adding a double gate to the fence beside the parking lot.

The 23.5-acre leash free area provides plenty of space for a full-on run and hiking the perimeter is good exercise for people too. However, there is no small dog area so watching for high prey-drive large dogs is necessary. Early mornings are quietest and preferable to regulars. Large dogs tend to fill the park late afternoon or early evenings when people are hitting the park after work.

The area is fenced – almost. Because it was originally designed as a water reservoir, there is a steady stream flowing along the far corner, but if dogs run in the water and under the bridge, they will find themselves outside of the park, and dangerously close to a highway.

Because this park is so large, a walk around the perimeter takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour – two laps and you’ll definitely get your steps in for the day. A dedicated volunteer team regularly empties poop bins situated throughout the park. All the standard municipal rules regarding dog parks apply here.

STOP 2: Shopping at Ancaster Meadowlands Dog-friendly Shopping: Ren’s Pets, Petsmart, and Indigo’s

As stated, the CNC Ancaster dog run is wedged between big box stores – parking is plentiful near the movie cinemas – so some shopping that can be had here. The dog park is within easy walking distance of Ren’s Pet Store in the adjacent plaza. Clearly, Ren’s is dog-friendly as is Petsmart at the other end of the shopping complex. (You’ll need to drive there from the dog park).

Albion Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

Close to the dog park is Indigo Books, and yes, you can bring your leashed pup into this giant bookstore, but not the attached Starbucks clearly. However, in the summer Starbucks has outdoor seating so you can have a coffee with your dog. I’ll admit, as an unapologetic bibliophile, Indigo’s is one of my happy places, especially when I can drag my dog along too.

If you’d like to check out the area’s waterfalls, Hamilton actually has a number of conservation sites ideal for long dog hikes. Note that dogs are supposed to be leashed through these well traveled trails that ultimately lead to water falls of some kind. To get most of them from the Ancaster Meadowlands, you’ll have to take the nearby Lincoln Alexander Parkway, better known as the Linc.

STOP 3: Any of Hamilton’s dog-friendly trails and waterfalls

Select carefully. You can’t do them all in one day and each are geographically far apart.

Albion Falls Trail, Hamilton

885 Mountain Brow Blvd, Hamilton

Start at the southern tip of the conservation area near King’s Forest Park, and you’ll find parking, a park map and a safe rock staircase descending to the base of Albion Falls, 19 metres (62 feet) high and 18 metres (59 feet wide). Yes, it’s an almost square waterfall. Start at the rock end of the park, and you’ll be scaling rock to get there like I accidently did with my previous dog. Check it out here.

Ancaster Village Waterfall Walk/Tiffany Fall Conservation Area

900 Wilson Street East, Ancaster

The Ancaster Village Waterfall Walk is actually long – 5.7 km if you do the entire thing, which I haven’t. I did start with the shorter section – called Heritage Trail which starts near the Ancaster Old Mill Inn. This trail is listed as moderate in difficulty and that’s accurate because myself and two dogs made it fairly easily to Canterbury Falls.

dog, trails, dogtrotting.net

If you want to do the entire trial, start at Tiffany Falls Conservation area (park at 720 Artaban Road), and it will lead you to either Stephanie Falls, for a short walk, or to Sherman Falls then to Canterbury Falls for a much longer walk. From the Canterbury Falls you can follow the Heritage Trail back to Ancaster Mill for a full circle experience.

The entire route takes about two hours apparently, but I suspect it’s much longer with pups in tow. This is an afternoon trek, but a waterfall bonanza.

Battle Field House Museum & Park National Historic Site

77 King Street West, Stoney Creek (part of Hamilton)

The park beside the Battle Field House Museum was one of my favourite places to take my previous dog, especially with his best buddy who lived nearby. It was fun to climb the stairs to visit 100-foot monument dedicate to those who perished in the War of 1812. We spent many afternoons in the huge park (not fenced, but some people do let their dogs run leash-free) and adjacent trail along the creek.

However, a feature here is free parking and access to the Devil’s Punchbowl. Walk to the far end of the park, and pick up the steep trail leading up the edge of the escarpment. Eventually, you’ll get to the Devil’s Punchbowl – one of the most photographed waterfalls in the city. The main falls is a 33.8 metre ribbon waterfall plunging over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment.

This hike is a bit strenuous, and if you want to avoid it you can drive to Devil’s Punchbowl conservation site (185 Ridge Road, Stoney Creek) and see the waterfall from above. But you will pay for parking near the observation deck. However, across the street, the Punch Bowl Market and Bakery (open April to Christmas) is awesome. Yes, more Hamilton baked goods.

Staying overnight?

Here’s a list of Pet-friendly Hotels in dog-friendly Hamilton:

Homewood Suites by Hilton in Hamilton

40 Bay Street South, Hamilton

Located in downtown area very close to the 403 Highway is the Homewood Suites. Dog-friendly (as are all Homewood Suites by Hilton) with an indoor pool and fitness centre. Wifi and breakfast included. Rooms have fridge, microwave and coffeemaker.

There’s not much green space around the hotel, and the closest dog park is on Hill Street between Locke and Dundurn Streets (about a five-minute drive away). $50 extra pet fee. Up to two pets (dogs and cats only), but no indication of size restrictions. 

Staybridge Suites Hamilton

20 Caroline Street South, Hamilton

Staybridge Suites is located in downtown Hamilton within walking distance of Dundurn Castle, which has green space for leash walking dogs. Rooms are modern designed for extended stays with fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker.

Staybridge Suites hotel has indoor pool, fitness center, and WiFi and breakfast is included. Additional pet fee is $10 per night and must weigh less than 75 pounds (34 kg).

Sandman Hotel Hamilton

560 Centennial Parkway North, Hamilton

Located along the QEW highway closer to Burlington and on the way to Niagara, the Sandman is a newer property and likely the best value and location. Modern design, indoor pool and hot tub, on-site restaurant and pet-friendly, like all Sandman properties.

This hotel is 3km from Confederation Park, also a popular area for a leash walking along the shores of Lake Ontario. The closest leash-free dog park from here is in Burlington, along Kings Road, about a 15- to 20-minute drive away.

Pets are permitted in select rooms, but there’s a pet fee that’s not listed on their site. The Sandman in Ottawa charged me an extra $40 per night plus tax.

Super 8 by Wyndham

2975 Homestead Dr., Mount Hope

Super 8 by Wyndham is outside the core in Mount Hope on the way to Caledonia and an easy drive to dog-friendly activities on the Hamilton ‘mountain’ such as Bring Your Dog Cafe, Munchies Coffee House and the Dartnell Road dog park.

The Super 8 has been around for a while and offers very basic economical rooms and is close to the Hamilton airport. Pet fee is a surprising $15 per night per pet up to two dogs in one room.

Dog-friendly Hamilton Guide at a Glance:

Dog-friendly indoor dining in Hamilton, Ontario:

Munchies Coffeehouse & BARKery

1000 Upper Gage (unit 4 in the plaza), Hamilton

(open 10 am to 3pm most days, hours vary)

Bring Your Dog Café, Hamilton

9 Richwill Road, Hamilton

(closed Tuesdays and Wednesday, open Thursday and Fridays 10 am to 8pm, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays 10 am to 5 pm)

Leash-free dog parks in Hamilton, Ontario:

Hamilton/Burlington Humane Society Off-Leash Dog Park

215 Dartnall Road, Hamilton

Hill Street Off-Leash Dog Park

13 Hill Street, Hamilton (between Dundurn and Locke Streets)

Borer’s Falls Dog Park in the Borer’s Falls Conservation Area

491 York Road, Dundas

Corporal Nathan Cirillo Free Run Area

799 Golf Links Road, Ancaster

Dog-friendly trails and waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario:

Albion Falls Trail, Hamilton

885 Mountain Brow Blvd, Hamilton

Ancaster Village Waterfall Walk/Tiffany Fall Conservation Area

900 Wilson Street East, Ancaster

Battle Field House Museum & Park National Historic Site

77 King Street West, Stoney Creek (part of Hamilton)

Pet-friendly hotels in Hamilton, Ontario

Homewood Suites by Hilton in Hamilton

40 Bay Street South, Hamilton

Staybridge Suites Hamilton

20 Caroline Street South, Hamilton

Sandman Hotel Hamilton

560 Centennial Parkway North, Hamilton

Super 8 by Wyndham

2975 Homestead Dr., Mount Hope

Dog-friendly Movies

The Starlite Theatre

59 Green Mountain Road, Stoney Creek

DYI Dog Wash

When travelling, I’ve often had to stop and give the pup a scrub before heading back to hotel, especially if we’ve been to the park. The Pet Valu at 1550 Upper James in Hamilton has a well-stocked do-it-yourself bath and drying station for only $10 per dog. They’re also an avid rescue supporter – check out one fundraiser experience here.

Hamilton Region Emergency Vet Clinic

Hopefully, you won’t need it, but the Hamilton Emergency Veterinary Clinic open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week (including holidays) is located at 50 Dundurn St. South (Beside Fortino’s grocery store), Hamilton, Ontario. 905-529-1004

Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for 30 years and travel writer for the last 20. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion.

4 comments

  1. […] Check out the dogtrotting.net complete guide to Hamilton, Ontario with your dog here. […]

  2. Sandy Weinstein · · Reply

    Boy Victoria sure loves the traveling with you. The pictures of her running and playing, see seems so happy. .Have a Happy St. Patty’s Day.

    1. Thank you so much. Victoria loves to run … anywhere

  3. Thank you for fantastic post! The more posts like yours, the better 🙂

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