Dogs + Nature = Heaven
When I moved back home to Ontario from Canada’s beautiful west in 2009, I brought with me a new outlook on life and a black and white ball of fur named Dakota. When we lived in Alberta and BC, a good portion of every day was spent outdoors. It’s so easy to be active and live in nature when you’re surrounded by it.
I knew the nature loving part of me would never die. I made it my mission to find awesome outdoor areas close to home. Nearly 7 years later, I still spend a lot of time at dog parks and in the forest with my dogs. They enjoy their freedom and I love to soak up the beauty of nature.
In Waterloo Region and surrounding area, we’re lucky in that we have lots of choice for dog parks. I’ve been to quite a few and I’ve made a short list of the ones I think you should check out. In no particular order:
1. Bechtel Park (Waterloo)
Address: 185 Bridge Street West Waterloo, ON N2K1K9 (Google Maps)
I used to live close to Bechtel, so this spot has been one of my favourites for a while. What I like about Bechtel is that it’s got a big open area and people tend to keep moving (which lessens the chance your dog will have territory issues). I also find the people and dogs here to be very friendly for the most part.
There are some drawbacks to Bechtel however. The first one being that it’s basically a big open space. While that gives lots of room for dogs to run around, it doesn’t provide much shade from the sun when it’s really hot out. The other negative thing I could say is that there’s no access to water. During the summer months, I tend to go to McLennan Park near Ottawa and Strasburg because it’s more shaded and they have a water tap inside the dog park. When I do visit Bechtel in the summer, I make sure to bring water with me because the dogs will definitely need it.
2. Kiwanis Park (Kitchener)
Address: 1000 Kiwanis Park Drive Kitchener, ON N2K3N8 (Google Maps)
Kiwanis Park is a hidden gem not too far from Bechtel. What I like about Kiwanis is that it’s more private. Most of the time when I go to Kiwanis, it’s with friends of mine who also have dogs. I don’t go to this park as often, but when I do, I’m lucky to see anyone else there. They’ve also got a separate small dog area and have dog poop bag dispensers – both of which I think are great ideas.
The only downside to this park might be the walk it takes to get from the parking lot to the entrance of the park (about a kilometre). If you’d like your dog to socialize you might be better off going to Bechtel just around the corner. The people who go here are friendly, but I just don’t see many of them (maybe I’m going at the wrong time of day).
3. Crane Park (Guelph)
Address: 96 Dovercliffe Road Guelph, ON N1G3A6 (Google Maps)
Guelph does things a bit different than Waterloo Region when it comes to dog parks. Instead of having fenced in dog parks, they designate off-leash areas where you are allowed to let your dog run.
My parents live in Guelph and so when I go to see them, I always make a point of taking the dogs for a hike in Crane Park. Just off the Hanlon, the directions to get here are quite easy. What I love about Crane Park is that you feel like you’re lost in a forest. The lush trees and greenery make for a beautiful afternoon walk. The Speed River is also free-flowing nearby which is great for the dogs to cool off and drink from in the summer months.
The downside to Crane Park is that it’s not closer to where I live. I’ve thought about living in a tool shed near the entrance, but I’m not sure that would last long. If your dog doesn’t have a reliable recall, you might be better off in a fenced off area like Bechtel, Kiwanis or McLennan.
4. Sandy Hills Pinery Trail (Elmira)
Address: Sandy Hills Drive, Elmira, ON N3B 2Z1 (Google Maps)
I grew up in Elmira, but I didn’t know about this place until after a few dog-loving friends told me about it. Technically, it’s not a designated off-leash area for dogs (so I didn’t tell you about it) but it’s easily one of my favourites.
The area reminds me of when I used to live in BC. Tall pine trees and well marked trails make it easy to find your way around. I am embarrassingly bad with directions, but I’ve yet to get lost in this forest. It’s about the size of a country block, so eventually you’ll hit a road and be able to find your way back.
I wish that this were closer to where I live in Kitchener as well, but it’s worth the drive on a weekend morning. Much like Kiwanis, it’s very rare to see other people. Sandy Hills is a terrific place to turn off your cell phone, get lost in the forest and reset yourself in nature. The dogs give it two big “whoo-whoo’s” as well.
5. Snyder’s Flats (Bloomingdale)
Address: Snyder’s Flats Road Bloomingdale, ON N0B1K0 (Google Maps)
This felt like a secret for a few years and now it seems like everyone knows about it. Again, Snyder’s Flats is not an official off-leash area, but unofficially, it is to lots of dog owners.
Snyder’s Flats is great because it’s fairly close to Kitchener-Waterloo and it’s a big open nature area for the dogs to run. The water is fairly clean for the dogs to go swimming (although they might stink) and there are lots of trails to wander around. It’s a nice mix of solo traveling on trails where you’ll pass the odd dog owner and social time for the dogs near the edge of the ponds. The people here are super friendly and so are the dogs. When you meet people who love nature and dogs, how could they be anything else?
Where is your favourite place to take your dog for a walk off-leash? Do you prefer a fenced in area or are you a forest junkie like me? If you have any that places you love to visit and you feel I’ve missed, feel free to tell me where they are and why you love them in the comments below.