Dog owners love to watch their canine friends run free, which is why off-leash dog parks, trails, and beaches are becoming increasingly popular. Vancouver Island has a great many of these leash-free parks. So many, in fact, for the purpose of this article I narrowed my research to just the Mid-Vancouver Island area.
Please utilize this list as a resource of places to go when your dog needs a little extra freedom and exercise.
I only ask that you show good dog park etiquette by making sure to always pick up after your pooch, and ensuring the waste is disposed of appropriately!
Off-Leash Dog Parks and Trails in the Mid-Vancouver Island Area
The Town of Ladysmith provides seven designated off-leash areas. Each off-leash park includes signage, a dispenser stocked with biodegradable waste bags, and a waste container.
Ladysmith Off-Leash Dog Parks
- Davis Road Dog Park – A fully fenced off-leash park located at the old Davis Road Elementary (444 Parkhill Terrace)
- Transfer Beach Park – This off-leash area is designated by the wood fencing in the upper field of Transfer Beach Park. The easiest access is above deKoninck Way.
- Gourlay-Janes Park – You will find this unfenced dog-friendly area off Chemainus Road.
Ladysmith Off-Leash Trails
- Holland Creek Trail – This 5.8 km (easy/moderate) trail has several access points, including Dogwood Drive, 6th Avenue & Methuen (location of the Kinsmen Shelter and washroom), Davis Road Park, or Mackie Road. Wheelchair access is available at the Methuen Street entry point.
- Rotary Lookout Trail – You can access this easy 1.2 km trail near the log bridge at the top of Holland Creek Trail.
- Stocking Lake – This 9.3 km (challenging) trail begins at Davis Road Park, and intersects with Heart Lake Loop (below).
- Heart Lake Loop – This 6.4 km (challenging) trail has a very steep start, and is accessed at Davis Road Park, or at the Holland Creek Trail.
The City of Nanaimo offers twelve off-leash dog parks and trails. Each dog park has specific areas and times for dogs to exercise off-leash. Please remember that your dog must remain under your control and that you carry a leash with you at all times.
Off-Leash Dog Parks in Nanaimo
- Beban Park – (Labieux Road) – This park provides a two-acre fenced-in grassy and gravel area complete with fire hydrants, especially for dogs. Also provided are tables, benches, a waste bag dispenser, garbage can, wheelchair access, and lots of parking. Hours are 8:00 am – Dusk.
- Beaufort Park Dog Off-Leash Area – This partially fenced grassy area is accessed at the end of Chelsea Crescent (near the tennis court).
- Diver Lake Park – This off-leash park is seasonal, and only open from October 1 – April 30 (it is used as a sports field from May until the end of September). You can access this park off of Black Franks Drive.
- Invermere Beach – This off-leash beach is dependent on the tides. Before you go, please check the tide information for the best use of this beach. The beach is accessed off of Invermere Road.
- May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park – Please note: only the forested land next to this park is off-leash. Park entrances can be found at 6700 Dover Road and 6780 Dover Road.
- Northfield Rotary Lookout Park – There is a fenced-in off-leash dog park behind the visitor’s centre (located on the Parkway). The official address is 2450 Northfield Road.
- St. George Ravine Park – Located in the Brechin Hill neighbourhood (980 Terminal Avenue N.), this off-leash park features an open grassy area.
- Wardopper Park – Located in Departure Bay, this park offers a fully fenced off-leash area. You can find this park at 2957 Departure Bay Road.
- Gallows Point Light Park – This is Protection Island’s only off-leash area. You access this park at 208 Colvilleton Trail.
Off-Leash Trails in Nanaimo
- Cable Bay Trail – This 2 km (easy to moderate) forested trail leads down to a rocky beach. Waste bags and a garbage bin are available at the trailhead. You will find the trail off of Nicola Road in the Cedar area.
- Colliery Dam Park Off-Leash Area (upper dam trail only) – Use the Upper Lake parking lot off of Nanaimo Lakes Road to access the designated off-leash dog area. Waste bags and a garbage can are available at the trailhead.
- Westwood Lake Trail – This is a 6-kilometre trail loop, however, only the area underneath the power lines (on the Southern side of Westwood Lake) is a designated off-leash area. So keep in mind that your dog will need to remain on the leash until you get to that particular area. There are waste bag dispensers and garbage cans available at the park entrance (in the parking area, next to the map signage board).
You will find four designated off-leash parks in the Oceanside Area.
- Greemax Crown Woodlot – This woodlot, located south of Moorecroft Regional Park in Nanoose Bay, is open to the public for off-leash dog walking. You can access the off-leash area from the woodlot parking lot on Stewart Road, or from the Moorecroft Meadow trail.
- Springwood Park Dog Play Area – This dog park, located on Despard Avenue near Springwood Park in Parksville, offers a fenced exercise area with grass, and some trees for shade. You will also find running water for thirsty dogs, waste bags, garbage cans, benches, and a shelter with picnic tables for owners.
- Civic Centre – Tucked in behind the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre complex you will find a lengthy network of designated off-leash trails. A waste bag dispenser is available, as well as garbage bins. The Civic Centre is located at 747 Jones Street.
- Near the Qualicum Beach Airport – Across the street from the Qualicum Beach Airport entrance, at Rupert Road East and Bennett Road, you will find a designated off-leash area.
Regional District of Nanaimo
The Regional District of Nanaimo covers a wide area from Yellow Point (south of Nanaimo) to Deep Bay (north of Qualicum). While doing the research for this post, it was brought to my attention, that all RDN parks and trails are considered “off-leash” (with the exception of Moorecroft Regional Park, and the two Regional campgrounds – Horne Lake and Descanso Bay).
However, as stated in their bylaws “dogs must remain under control at all times“. Which, for a lot of dogs, means they may need to remain on a leash at all times!
The Definition of Under Control
So what does having your dog “under control” mean exactly? Well, here is what the RDN bylaws state:
- A person having custody of an animal must exercise effective control over the animal by restraining it with a leash or by having the animal respond and return immediately when called by the handler.
- A person having custody of an animal must exercise control over the animal to ensure that it causes:
- no annoyance, including barking or howling for a continuous period of ten (10) seconds or more;
- no injury to wild animals nor injury to any person or their animal(s); and,
- no damage to any public or private property, natural park feature, or common facility.
- A person having custody of a dog must remove any excrement deposited by the animal to a waste container.
You might also be interested to know that while it is acceptable to have your well-behaved dog off-leash within the RDN, there are very few locations (if any) that provide waste bags and/or garbage bins. Regardless of that, you are still required to pack it back out!
Acceptable RDN Off-Leash Areas
Even though the following areas are acceptable as being off-leash by the RDN, as with anything, if we abuse it we will lose it! So please be mindful when using these trails as an off-leash area.
The following areas designated as off-leash by the RDN are listed from South to North.
- Nanaimo River Regional Park – This 56 hectre property provides a network of developed trails through the woods and along the Nanaimo River. Park entrances are located on Fry Rd and Frey Rd.
- Morden Colliery Regional Trail – This 3.4 km trail runs along an old rail grade, and connects Morden Colliery Provincial Park to Hemer Provincial Park. Please note: it is ONLY the connecting trail that is off-leash. While you are at either Morden Colliery Provincial Park and/or Hemer Provincial Park your dog IS required to be on a leash at all times.
- Trans Canada Trail – Key links of this approximately 30-kilometre route include *Extension Ridge, Pipeline, White Pine, and *Haslam Creek Trails. (*More information about Extension Ridge and Haslam Creek can be found in our Hidden Gems article).
- Mount Benson Regional Park – There are lots of trails to explore around Mount Benson. But if you are looking to reach the top, expect rough mountainous terrain ranging from 457 metres to 1,006 meters above sea level. The only authorized public access to this area is from the Witchcraft Lake Regional Trail (off Kilpatrick Road).
- Ammonite Falls (Benson Creek Falls Regional Park) – This 5 km hike leads to a beautiful waterfall. However, in order to get to the creek bed, one must manoeuvre down a steep embankment equipped with a rope (so heading down to the bottom of the waterfall would NOT be a good place for dogs)! Jameson Road is a popular access point to Ammonite Falls and Benson Creek Falls Regional Park. However, due to increased parking volumes, traffic congestion, and unsafe access to driveways, tickets and tow-aways are now being enforced. Instead please use the Creekside Place Community Park parking lot.
- Beachcomber Regional Park – This small one-hectare park, situated in Nanoose (off Marina Way), leads down to a great beach perfect for exploring.
- Top Bridge Regional Trail – This 5km trail connects Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park (which is NOT an off-leash area) with the suspension bridge spanning the Englishman River. There are several entrances to this trail, including, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, anywhere along Resort Way, at Industrial Way and Tuan Rd (one block inland from Hwy 19A), or at the City of Parksville’s Top Bridge Mountain Bike Park (end of Chattell Rd, off Kaye Rd, off Hwy 19A by the truck scales). Alternatively, go to the end of Allsbrook Rd (off Bellevue Rd, off Hwy 4A).
- Parksville – Qualicum Beach Links – This 13km low-traffic road route connects the City of Parksville with the town of Qualicum Beach via French Creek. The entire way is marked with pedestrian/bicycle route signs. If you are entering from the Qualicum Beach end, the route starts behind the QB Legion where the Dollymount Trail meets Berwick Rd. From the Parksville end, the route starts at City Hall on Jensen Ave.
- Mount Arrowsmith Massif Regional Park – This regional park covers over 1300 acres of land and includes both Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Cokely. There is a vast network of long-standing alpine trails for the intermediate and experienced hikers. The park is accessible by climbing Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail, and hiking through the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s Mount Arrowsmith Regional Park.
- Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail – This 10 km trail has an elevation gain of 1000 metres. Parking is available at BC Parks’ Cameron Lake day-use area on Hwy 4 (at the east end of Cameron Lake). You will need to cross Hwy 4 to reach the trailhead.
- Little Qualicum River Regional Park – This 44 hectre park runs along both sides of the Little Qualicum River. Although this park is largely undeveloped, there is a developed trail off Meadowood Way that provides an easy link to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. (Please note: Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is NOT an off-leash area).
- Big Qualicum River Regional Trail – Starting at the Big Qualicum Hatchery, this 10 km trail follows the hatchery service road the length of the river.
- Lighthouse Country Regional Trail – This trail has both a North and South loop. The North loop provides approximately 2 km of easy walking, while the South loop provides over 2.5 km of wheelchair accessible trails. The accessible South loop parking lot is located at the end of Lioness Blvd (off Lions Way, off Hwy 19A) in downtown Qualicum Bay. The North loop parking lot is located on McColl Rd in Bowser, one block inland from Hwy 19A.
I hope this list helps you and your pet explore the many off-leash dog areas Mid-Vancouver Island offers!
Do you have a favourite area you and your dog like to go?
Let us know in the comments below!