The Best Dog Parks in Toronto
The best dog parks in Toronto aren't necessarily the biggest or greenest - desirable criteria often attributed to the greatest of recreational spaces. For dog owners, spaces that are safe and accessible set the standard.
In identifying the diverse uses of Toronto's parks, city bylaw expects dogs to be leashed at all times, except in designated areas. But not all off-leash parks are created equal. Some spaces enforce time restrictions or outline unclear boundaries, while the very best parks cater to pets and people alike. Conveniences like washrooms, poop-bag dispensers, and seating can make walking Fido, well, a walk in the park.
This site's resident dog owners, along with a duo of discerning terriers, reviewed (and sniffed) 12 of Toronto's best dog-friendly spaces, listed alphabetically.
T= walking trails
D= dog poop bags
G= adequate disposal facilities
H= 24-hour access
S= on major Subway or streetcar route
Allan Gardens, 121 Carlton St.
Home to a century-old conservatory and six greenhouses, Allan Gardens is an overlooked urban oasis. In Fall 2008, the park opened new digs for its canine friends. The improved off-leash area boasts ornamental fencing surrounding the fully enclosed space, manicured shrubs and even a dog-themed sculpture - details that are surely impressive to humans, but typically left unnoticed by dogs. F,B,G,S,H
Bickford Park, 400 Grace St.
While the park provides 24-hour access to dogs during the winter months, beware that hours are greatly restricted in the summer. Pooches amicably share this community space with tobogganing children and scrimmage soccer games. Dogs are aplenty, ensuring a good game of chase on any given visit. While not fenced, the crater-like park offers an expansive space with safety from traffic. B,G,S
Don Valley Brickworks, 550 Bayview Ave.
The Brickworks is located along a network of gorgeous hiking trails, many of them off-leash friendly. It is well worth the 25-minute trek from Castle Frank subway station. But, if you must drive, parking is available. The "Dog Patch" is a large completely fenced wooded area with plenty of exploring opportunities. Best bet: visit in the summer months to take advantage of the Brickworks Farmers' Market and additional community events. W,F,B,T,G,P,H
High Park, 1873 Bloor St. W.
High Park, the city's largest, offers the best strolling opportunities. "Dog Hill" may be your run-of-the-mill dog park, but the adjoining well-marked trails are also part of the designated off-leash area. Dog Hill has plenty of seating for weary feet, nearby washrooms, and a drinking fountain for pets. W,G,P,T,B,D,S,H
Kew Gardens, 2075 Queen St. E
The Beach is home to several pet-centric businesses and a large community of tail-wagging customers. A brisk window-shopping walk along Queen and through Kew Gardens leads to a huge 24-hour off-leash area bordered by the lake at the south end. While we may be skeptical of the water, dogs are a little less discerning. Poop-bags are free for forgetful owners. F,G,B,D,T,S,H
PawsWay, 245 Queens Quay W
Canada's first pets-allowed indoor eatery is reason enough to visit PawsWay's Harbourfront digs. Here, not only can Fifi dine with you; she also has 3700 square feet of indoor off-leash heaven. Winter dog walking is miserable at best, but PawsWay offers respite from cold paws and fingers. Coffee, restrooms, and free poop-bags are the icing on the cake. Refer to the events calendar for the off-leash free-play schedule. W,F,B.D,G,P,S
Sir Winston Churchill Park, 301 St. Clair Ave. W.
Adjoined by Nordheimer Ravine to the North and Roycroft Park to the South, Sir Winston Churchill offers a scenic walk for owners not content to just sit and supervise. Start at the entrance to the ravine and snake your way South through the ample off-leash area, ending at Roycroft. Sir Winston Churchill is picnic-perfect, with plenty of open green space for expending canine energy. T,S,G,H
South Stanley Park, 845 King St. W.
A good bet for downtown-west dog owners, this space is about to get better. Beginning this Spring, the City will be conducting major design improvements to the park, including the addition of an enclosed off-leash area. Currently, unleashed hours are limited during warmer months, but the new fence could help ease restrictions. B,G,S
Sunnybrook Park, Leslie and Eglinton
While most easily accessible by car (the parking lot is adjacent to the off-leash area), Sunnybrook Park's system of hiking trails also allows access on foot. Bring a retractable leash and take advantage of the scenic walk. The 24-hour off-leash zone, located behind the hospital, is small but provides owner conveniences like poop bags and seating. F,B,T,G,P,H
Trinity Bellwoods Park, 790 Queen St. W
Hipster dogs congregate in the off-leash pit at the centre of this massive urban park while their human counterparts picnic and play bocce on the surrounding hills. The sunken dog-friendly area provides separation, and a good vantage point for supervising pet owners. Ample seating is available, as well as green bins for doggy waste. B,G,S,H
Vermont Square, 819 Palmerston Ave.
For Annex dog owners, this may be the closest they get to their own off-leash park, even though Palmerston barely qualifies as part of the 'hood. But with a serious lack of dog-friendly spaces, owners can take their chances and defy city bylaw elsewhere or make the trip to Vermont Square. This unfenced patch of grass is nestled between pretty houses and is safely sheltered from busy streets. B,G
Wychwood Barns Park, 601 Christie St.
Set against the gorgeous Artscape Wychwood Barns - historic TTC repair barns turned arts-based community centre - the fenced area provides safety from busy traffic. While small, the off-leash area offers picnic tables for owners and a drinking fountain. Inexplicable time restrictions mean that the parkette sits empty weekdays from 12-3pm. Bring the pooch on weekends, and enjoy Wychwood Barns farmers markets and events. W,F,B,G,S