If you think the walls have been closing in on you over the last year, imagine how your dog feels. After all, just like we need to get out and take in some nature or even just grab a beer, our pets need a break, too.
And here in the Philadelphia area, luckily, we have quite a few options.
From dog parks and hiking trails to more offbeat options, there’s no shortage of places to take our pups for a nice day out — whether you’re feeling rugged and outdoorsy, or more metropolitan. In a place like Philly, that’s good news, considering there were an estimated 350,000 dogs in the city alone as of 2015.
So, where can you take your dog for a good time without traveling too far? Here are a few good options in the city, the burbs, and New Jersey:
In the city
Philly has tons of off-leash dog parks to choose from, but the Schuylkill River Park Dog Run is among the most beloved. Located on the east side of the Schuylkill in Center City, the park has separate areas for small and large dogs, and is fitted with an AstroTurf-style surface to keep your pup’s paws safe and clean. Plus, there’s plenty of room to play fetch, and it has amenities like drinking water, some shade trees, and, for hot days, kiddie pools. It’s a popular park that can get crowded, and it’s next to train tracks, so make sure your pup is comfortable with lots of stimulation.
This off-leash hidden gem sits tucked away in Northern Liberties and is a must-visit for Philly dog owners. You do have to jump through a few hoops before going, such as filling out a registration form for your dog and going through a brief orientation, but the effort is worth it. Here, you’ll find a spacious plot of wood-chip-covered, fenced-in land for pups to get out their zoomies, socialize, and relax. There is also plenty of shade, and it has human-focused amenities like benches and picnic tables, so you can take a load off, too.
While this Spruce Hill park technically doesn’t have a dog park, it is something of an unofficial doggie destination for pup parents in West Philly. An area of the park known as “the bowl” (or sometimes the “dog bowl”) is a popular play area for dogs and their owners. You may see dogs running around off leash there, but it should be noted that dogs need to be leashed in public spaces per Philadelphia law — and the bowl area of the park, which is located near a playground, is not fenced in. So, if you go, remember to be safe and respectful.
At about 1,800 acres, the Wissahickon is enormous, and just about everywhere in it is a great place to explore on a hike with outdoorsy pups. (Please note, though: Dogs must be leashed at all times.) A favorite among dog owners is the Forbidden Drive Trail, which follows the Wissahickon Creek via a flat, gravel-covered path throughout the length of the park. But if you’re looking for something a little more challenging, you can head up into the park’s more wooded areas for more than 50 miles of trails — but come energized, as some trails can get pretty steep.
Sports fans probably know FDR Park best for being a tailgating locale — but it also happens to be a great, low-impact on-leash hiking spot for South Philly dog owners and their pups. At about 348 acres, there’s plenty to explore, but good options include a nice, scenic stroll around the park’s main lake or a walk through the South Philly Meadow trails. Plus, it’s known as an Important Bird Area that’s home to lots of wildlife for you and your dog to check out.
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If your dog loves a good swim, check out the Second Chance Pool at Philadelphia Animal Hospital. Filled with pet-friendly saline, it varies in depth from 3.5 feet to 6.5 feet and can be reserved for private recreational, therapeutic, or rehabilitative use. Sessions are a half hour each and run $35 — but if your pup isn’t already a patient, you’ll have to schedule a one-time examination for an extra fee and provide vaccination records. And yes, you can also swim with your dog in the pool, and it’s open year-round.
In the suburbs
This Delaware County park stands at 2,600 acres and has about 13 miles of hiking trails to help tire out your pup (and you, if you’re not careful). Dog must be leashed at all times, so your furry friend won’t be running wild, but don’t worry — there’s more than enough to keep their interest. The White to Yellow Trail Loop is a popular one among dog owners, and features tons of scenic forest views, lots of wildlife, and some spots where dogs can dip their paws into a creek across its 5-mile run. It can get strenuous, so bring some water and snacks for the both of you.
This bucolic Chester County spot is pet-friendly, so long as you keep your dog on a leash, pick up after it, and stick to designated trails to help protect plants and wildlife (it is a nature preserve, after all). Following those ground rules, you can enjoy breathtaking views on some nine miles of hiking trails across 571 rolling acres of woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. For a longer, slightly more challenging hike, check out the red loop trail (4.1 miles), or keep it short and easy on the purple (0.8 of a mile) or green loop trails (2.2 miles).
If you’re all hiked and dog-parked out, the Elmwood Park Zoo is offering something completely different with their Dog Days and Yappy Hours. At these, you can take your dog on a trip to the zoo to check out the animals on select days and hours, or have a drink in the Zoo Brew Beer Garden. To participate, you’ll need to complete an online application, provide vaccination records, and have a copy of your most recent vet visit records. When you’re approved, you’ll be able to buy a pass ($9.95 to $10.95 per dog, depending on your membership) for your furry friend for a particularly unique day out (seriously, it’s the first dog-friendly zoo in the country.)
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Back in 2012, this park’s namesake pup, Beau (and his mom, Angela), won a Beneful Dream Dog Park contest, bringing some $500,000 in renovations to Buchanan Dog Park in Lancaster. With that, it became one of the coolest (and highest-rated) off-leash dog parks in the state, complete with splash pads, a tennis ball tree (with launcher), a dog tunnel, drinking fountains, and separate areas for small and large dogs. If all dogs go to heaven, it probably looks a lot like this.
In New Jersey
Just over the bridge in Blackwood, this Jersey park has plenty of room to explore on leash with your pup — but the real draw is the nine fenced-in acres in the woods where dogs can run off leash to their heart’s content. That’s a huge amount of space, so keep an eye on your dog and make sure they respond to commands to stay nearby (and for extra insurance, consider getting a pet tracker or GPS dog collar). As a bonus, there’s a small lake outside the dog park area that is commonly used for swimming during hot days, but technically your dog should be leashed while there.
This Medford park has received plenty of kudos over the years, including being named the No. 1 spot on Rover’s list of Jersey dog parks and getting a nod from USA Today as one of the top 10 dog parks in the country. The park has 26 acres of open fields to explore, creeks to swim in, and nature to take in. There are even two fenced-in off-leash areas for small and large dogs, each 30 yards by 100 yards, and each complete with agility equipment to train (and tire out) your pup.
Known variously as Longport Dog Beach, Malibu Beach, or simply Dog Beach, this spot is exactly what it sounds like — a (somewhat unofficial) beach just for dogs and their owners. Located at the Malibu Beach Wildlife Management Area, this is a no-frills spot — as in, no public bathrooms, no water fountains, and no provided poop bags. But the main draws — the sand and surf — are available and accessible for your pup. Be warned, though: Parking gets tough because it’s a popular spot, and you could be ticketed or your car could be towed if you park in unauthorized areas.
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