Header photo: Nick Croken
Even in winter, our four-legged friends need fresh air and exercise. Though parts of the river valley are more suitable for snowshoes or cross-country skis in winter (with deep snow that isn’t as friendly for our shorter dogs!), there are several off-leash parks and trails in the river valley that make for the perfect getaway in the city to burn off your pup’s energy!
Here are some of our favourite spots in the river valley to take your dogs. These are either off-leash trails, or are a trail adjacent to an off-leash park. In both cases, the trails are well-trodden enough by other walkers that you and your pup shouldn’t be knee-deep in snow at any point.
As with anywhere in the city, off-leash or not, be sure to be a considerate dog owner and scoop the poop — we all share the trails.
Dawson Park is adjacent to the Riverdale neighbourhood. Just after the picnic sites begins an off-leash trail that follows along the river with scenic views of the downtown skyline. There are a couple of sections between Dawson Park and the Capilano Bridge where your dog needs to be re-leashed, but for the most part it’s open for free exploring.
Read more about the 5 km Dawson to Capilano loop.
Hawrelak to Keillor Point
While Hawrelak Park is not a dog-friendly park, you can park your car at Picnic Site 2 and take your pup on the trails surrounding the park, or even across the Buena Vista Footbridge. Crossing the footbridge takes you to the open and popular Buena Vista off-leash dog park as well, if you aren’t feeling up to trekking the trails.
One of our favourite routes stays on the Hawrelak side of the river, and follows the old horse trail up and down a beautiful forested trail, finishing at the newly-renovated Keillor Point lookout which offers panoramic views of the river and surrounding valley. The trail is off-leash once you pass the picnic site, but note that once you reach the lookout, your dog has to go back on a leash to enjoy the views.
Read more about the 3.5 km there-and-back Hawrelak Park to Keillor Point trail.
Mill Creek Ravine
Mill Creek Ravine is a neighbourhood gem and there’s no mystery why. South of the Mill Creek outdoor pool is an off-leash trail that goes under the Whyte Ave bridge and crosses several of Mill Creek’s iconic red footbridges, all while getting a taste of nature right in the heart of the city. There are sections when you have to cross a major road where your dog must go back on leash, but for the most part you and your pup will be happy to wander creekside through this scenic ravine.
Read more about the south route in Mill Creek Ravine.
Terwillegar Dog Park is Edmonton’s largest off-leash area, and it’s right in the river valley! The park itself has many trails you and your pup can explore off-leash, or you can leash up and cross the Terwillegar Footbridge for even more vistas. Your pup will love all the different adventures you can have, plus all the other dogs to play with in the snow. Bonus — there’s a dog treat food truck stationed at the park on weekends.
Read more about the West End Trails that originate at Terwillegar Park.
West River’s Edge
The West River’s Edge loop is a groomed, paved on-leash trail in Fort Saskatchewan that follows the river and trees. In the centre of the loop is a fenced off-leash dog park, if your dog isn’t tired enough from walking on the 5 km trail!
Read more about the West River’s Edge trail loop.
If you’re headed out to #trekthetrails with your pup in winter time, make sure they’re just as prepared for the elements as us humans are! These items are available at your favourite local pet supply store.
- Jacket: If your pup has short fur or their belly is close to the earth, a jacket will help keep snow off their underside and keep them warm in colder temperatures.
- Boots: With young puppies especially, their paw pads are sensitive to cold and ice. A pair of booties will help keep their feet from freezing, which means cutting your adventure time short. If your dog hates booties or they don’t stay on, you can look at using a paw protectant salve (also known as musher’s wax) — concentrate the salve in the spaces between their toes so snow doesn’t get stuck in their feet, causing them to freeze faster.
- Water: Lots of pups drink from rivers and creeks in the summertime when they’re out getting active, but this is less of a possibility when the water is frozen! Make sure you bring water for your dog, whether it’s a water bottle or portable water dish.
- Microfibre towel: Good for sopping up a soggy, snow-covered dog before getting back in the car!
Above all, it’s important to watch for cues from your dog to make sure they’re not uncomfortable or cold, and if they are, halting the adventure and going inside for warmth.
We love seeing pictures of pups out in the river valley — they may even be our favourite pictures (we’re a little biased!) Please share your winter dog adventures in the river valley to Instagram with the hashtag #trekthetrails.