Camping with the dog at Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

head of dog riding in a canoe down a river at Kejimkujik National Park while camping with the dog

Ah, spring and fall. Shoulder seasons are my favourite time of year to go camping with the dog. Or they would be if I had a favourite time of year to camp. I’m still warming up to the whole living in the woods idea. My dog, however, is a super fan after only one experience.

A recent three-day trip to dog-friendly Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada moved the needle for me. Hightailing-it to the woods is likely to become a common weekend activity for me and my high-energy spaniel cross.  

Even if I’m warming up to camping with the dog, I’ve got some demands in my rider: First, glamping only for me, thanks. And second, shoulder seasons only. Spring and fall offer cooler nights and comfortable days and that’s what I’m attracted to, especially if I’m going to spend days and nights in the forest. Plus, there are usually fewer bugs.

Squeezing one more provincial park overnight outing with my pup this fall is in the plans, but I’m not yet certain where. I do know it will be in a dog-friendly oTENTik because that’s what made the Kejmkujik experience for me. The oTENTik and the beauty of the postcard picturesque, ocean-side landscape Nova Scotia offers, and a national park with a dog-friendly beach kept me in the park … this time.

Safe oTENTik Camping with the Dog

An oTENTik is a part tent, part A-frame cabin accommodation unique to Canadian National Parks. A wooded structure with soft sides, an oTENTik provides creature comforts of mattress-covered bunk beds and a kitchen table. Plus, it’s safe camping with the dog – locked doors and windows keep everyone safely inside at night.

Many wouldn’t even call it camping, but ‘glamping.’ I’ll embrace that designation especially if it doesn’t send me running down the road flagging down a hotel.

Full disclosure: prior to my adventure at Kejimkujik, I’ve never camped longer than one night and that was on a three-day trip three years ago. Night number two at Pancake Bay Provincial Park near Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada, I checked into a motel. Even my dog at the time was happier with that choice.

So staying in a dog-friendly oTENTik in Kejimkujik National Park was mandatory, and I’ve discovered my camping threshold.

Dog-friendly Kejimkujik National Park

Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia is popular in the province and for good reason. Visualize an expansive 400-square-kilometers heavily wooded, sea-side site hosting unique cultural landmarks called petroglyphs carved into rocks by Mi’kmaq first nations hundreds of years ago.

Exploring the entire park is almost impossible in one weekend, so prioritize. Here are a few options:

  • A 5-kilometre hike through a forest of ancient Hemlocks
  • A picnic lunch along the waterfalls
  • An evening looking into Nova Scotia’s only Dark Sky preserve (bring bug spray)
  • A dog beach frolic and the small stretch of beach designed for (on-leash) dogs
  • A two-hour canoe tour along the river

Leashed dogs are permitted on most of the 35-kilometre of trails through the park, some shared by cyclists. Did my dog love it? As a bird-loving spaniel, my crazy puppy couldn’t have been more stimulated.

New smells, birds, and other creatures constantly darting through the brush kept my pup’s eyes, ears, and nose perpetually active. True to spaniel nature, walks never followed a straight line.

Kejimkujik Dog Beach and Canoeing

In one beach in the main park area is a small dog beach, partitioned by a rope. Walking the shore takes a few minutes, it’s that small – this dog beach is for hanging out on the sand and watching the waves.

Kejimkujik dog beach wasn’t my dog’s first experience with waves, yet she’s still not a fan and jumps back with every surge. She will, however, enter the more predictable waters of a lake or stream.

And that’s why I clung to her in our canoe. We joined the two-hour guided canoe tour that takes you into deeper water on a clear day, or along a shallow murky river if the wind is strong. I was glad the wind was strong – and the river water only three-feet deep.

Did my dog love canoeing? Not initially, but likely because I was nervous. Twice my pup tried escaping over the edge, but a stray water ripple heading her way kept her in the boat.

It was a weekend of firsts for us. At Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada, my dog saw her first deer, heard her first harmonica, was frightened by her first campfire, rode in her first canoe, and ultimately experienced her first camping trip, sans tent.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not without my dog.

If you’re in Nova Scotia traveling the west coast from Yarmouth to Halifax, stopping at Kejimkujik National Park along the way, be sure to check out two dog-friendly historic sites: Fort Anne National Historic Site and Port Royal Historic Site.

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.

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