Updated: Jun 15, 2022
As tempting as it might be to hunker down in an air-conditioned space when the full brunt of summer strikes, most dog parents know that getting outside to exercise and enjoy some fresh air (no matter how muggy) is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. So before the summer heats up, why not start testing out some of the best dog-friendly parks near you? While we’re hoping another heat dome event doesn’t strike BC this summer, it never hurts to be prepared—this list makes loading up your pup and heading to your favourite beach or park to cool off is a no-fuss, no-muss kind of excursion.
What Makes These Parks “The Best”?
The less time driving on a hot day, the better. We’ve chosen these parks for their convenience; they’re all within a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver.
You know what’s worse than driving a long way to get to a park on a gorgeous summer day? Paying for parking once you get there. Most of these dog-friendly parks have free parking, so you can spend a few hours or a day playing without breaking the bank. (The exceptions: Hadden Beach and Lynn Headwaters are pay-parking only and Buntzen Lake requires a free reservation, but they’re still well worth it for a day outside.)
Space to Roam:
If you’ve spent any time enjoying outdoor spaces in the lower mainland in the last few years, you know that overcrowding during peak hours can be a real hassle, especially when you’ve got an energetic pooch that needs to expend some zoomies. These parks experience minimal overcrowding during peak hours, so you don’t have to worry about tripping over other dogs and their owners during your visits. (The exceptions: Lighthouse park and Buntzen Lake are best visited outside of peak hours—like weekdays or early mornings.)
A Place to Chill:
Almost all of these areas have a pup-friendly water source. Whether it’s a creek, lake, river, or the ocean, they're perfect for splashing around and cooling off during the summer heat!
Sights to Behold:
Vancouver is known for its spectacular views; we’ve got the best of the mountains, forests, and beaches—so why not choose the very best Vancouver has to offer with an area that’s as easy on your eyes as it is for your dog to play?
Sights and water sources are all well and good, but the people and other pets you meet during your excursions can make or break a day out with your dog. In our opinion, the best dog parks are the ones where etiquette rules are followed and where pet parents take responsibility for their dogs at all times.
Park hours, rules, and general accessibility can change at any time, so remember to check out park signage and seasonal changes to off-leash dog areas before you head off!
The 12 Best Off-Leash Dog Parks To Explore Around Vancouver
1. Inter River Park 1301 Lillooet Rd, North Vancouver Only a 20-minute drive from Downtown Vancouver, just north of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, lies Inter River Park, a dog-friendly haven on a hot day. This park has tons of leash-optional areas, a maze of trails to wander in (some that eventually connect with Lynn Canyon Park!), and, best of all, a nearby river for some splashy fun. Our favourite spot is down by the beach at Lynn Creek—a great place to wade and cool off when the river isn’t too high.
These wide, interconnected paths mean that overcrowding generally isn’t an issue here, and there’s usually plenty of parking—it’s definitely one of the better, less-populated spots to go for a swim with your dog! Once you’ve had your fun, take a stroll to the pet memorial by the river; it’s a beautiful area for a moment of quiet reflection on the beloved pets who have taken their journey over the rainbow bridge.
2. McDonald Beach Dog Park 3500 McDonald Rd, Richmond
With a long sandy beach bordered by a large grassy field and studded with picnic tables, this park along the Fraser River is one we could spend all day lounging at with our dogs and taking in the mountain views. While this park isn’t often overcrowded, it is popular with other dog owners, so make sure your pup is ready to make friends! There’s a short loop through a conservation area in the back that requires your dog to be on a leash (too many tempting birds to run after), but these trails are often overgrown in recent years, so you might have to expend your dog’s energy with a good game of fetch in the field instead. That said, they’re overgrown with blackberries, so if you visit around July, bring a small container to pick some berries and share some with your pup!
A fair warning about the water at McDonald beach: the river moves deceptively fast as you get further out, so don’t let your dog venture too far.
3. Spanish Banks Beach Off Leash Dog Area 4900 NW Marine Dr, Vancouver
Spanish Banks Beach has been a well-known and beloved spot for Vancouverites for years and with good reason. The stunning views of the North Shore Mountains and downtown Vancouver leave little to be desired, and the off-leash areas to the far west—including the beach and a large grassy field—are large enough to accommodate a whole pack of dogs. Try visiting the beach at high and low tides for a different experience—low tide is an excellent opportunity to explore the intertidal flats, but the sand can get soft and shoe-sucking the closer you get to Wreck Beach, and with the water 1km away at maximum low, you might be in for a trek if you want to swim. You can check the daily tides for Spanish Banks here.
Note that there’s no fencing around the off-leash area, so make sure your dog has a strong recall to avoid them running out towards the parking lot.
4. Pacific Spirit Regional Park 4821 - 4979 W 16th Ave, Vancouver
With over 73 km of trails, most of them dog-friendly, Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a haven for a dog’s forest adventures right in the city. While all the trails are clearly marked, it doesn’t hurt to bring a colour-coordinated map telling you exactly where your dog will be welcome so you can plot out your perfect route. Look out for cyclists and equestrians, as many of these trails are multi-use.
While there are several creeks throughout Pacific Spirit Regional Park, avoid letting your dog play in them—they host a number of sensitive and endangered wildlife species.
5. Hadden Dog Beach
A beautiful sandy beach nestled in a private-feeling cove with plenty of logs to lounge on while your dog romps, swims, and digs to their heart’s content? Yes, please! Hadden Beach is called “Kits Dog Beach” by locals due to its proximity to the vastly popular Kits Beach to the west, so don’t get confused if you’re asking for directions. The sandy bay is certainly the highlight, but there’s also a grassy area if you’re starting to feel crowded. This spot is a fantastic place to watch the sunset over the water with your pooch—bring a camera!
As noted above, this is one of the two parks on this list that doesn’t have free parking because otherwise, this park would be too close to perfect.
6. New Brighton Park
If you’re not ready to let your dog go full free-roaming yet, but you still want to enjoy some off-leash time with a view of the mountains and city, look no further than New Brighton Park. This park is a huge, entirely fenced grassy area that’s perfect for letting your dog run and play with other dogs without worrying too much about them heading off on an unsupervised adventure. There’s also a small dog-friendly beach near the enclosure if your dog needs to cool off. This area can get muddy after heavy rains—aka the Vancouver weather special—so consider bringing a towel for your dog post-play and boots for yourself.
Be aware that some blocks around the fenced area might allow a large or particularly agile dog to fence jump if they’re so inclined, so while having an enclosed area can give you some peace of mind, make sure to keep an eye on your pup!
7. Everett Crowley Park
A lovely and lush network of forested trails, Everett Crowley Park is Vancouver's 5th largest park, so there's tons of room for you and your dog to explore. There are leashed trails around the park's outer edges, but you'll find a warren of off-leash trails once you venture in, some broad and lined with gravel and some narrow, densely vegetated trails. Pay attention to signage on these trails, as they're all clearly marked with which are off-leash and which aren't. Avalon pond is located in the north-eastern part of the park, and while it's in the on-leash area, it's a decent spot to let your dog wade in the water!
8. Lighthouse Park Beacon Lane, West Vancouver
Lighthouse Park is one of Vancouver’s most popular parks, and you’ll understand why when you get there. Grab a trail map before heading out and plot your route around rocky cliffs and through old-growth forests full of mature western red cedars and Douglas firs. Take the trail to the east of the lighthouse to get down to the water for a dip.
Like we said, Lighthouse Park is incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, so plan your trip accordingly, as the parking lot fills up quickly on weekends.
9. Buntzen Lake Buntzen Lake, Anmore
If you’re venturing a little farther out from Vancouver, take a trip on the winding roads to Anmore, where you’ll find one of the most popular lakes in the lower mainland, Buntzen Lake. This is an excellent place to take your dog swimming, but be extra attentive to signage around the lake telling you where your dog is permitted. Dogs are not allowed on the main beach, even leashed, and must be leashed on all trails. However, if you take the trail to the right as you leave the parking lot, you’ll come to a private little beach by Buntzen creek where your dog is free to frolic as they please. There are even picnic tables and a “doggy parking” next to the outhouses!
Due to the site's popularity, Bunzen Lake is implementing parking reservations for the summer of 2022, so this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment kind of trip—but one well worth planning for. Click here to secure your spot!
10. Barnet Marine Park
Barnet Marine Park is one of the smallest parks on this list, but the view of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains makes it worth it. The off-leash park is to the left of the parking lot; keep left where the path splits. The off-leash area is a narrow, contained strip of grass with limited access to the water, but that access is rimmed by a semi-steep rock wall. This works in your off-leash dog’s favour: the walls are shallow enough to get down and up without much hassle but steep enough that your dog won’t take his zoomies too far away from you.
11. Ambleside Off-Leash Dog Park
If your dog likes to switch it up between salt and freshwater, then Ambleside is the park for you. This park has a dedicated off-leash dog beach, so try and drive as far down Argyle Ave. as you can—you can also access the dog park by a paved path from the Park Royal shopping center. This is another popular beach, so try and get there early, or aim for off-peak hours, as the parking lots will close once they’re full. Once you arrive, prepare your dog for puppy bliss: this is a huge off-leash park with grassy areas, a sandy beach, and an expansive shoreline along the ocean and Capilano river for your dog to play in. What more could they want?
12. Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
As Metro Vancouver’s largest regional park, Lynne Headwaters is perfect for when you’re looking to experience a true wilderness park—which isn’t to say the trails aren’t beautifully maintained with a variety of bridges, boardwalks, and gravel paths. Dogs are welcome on all trails while leashed, but your fur buddy can explore untethered on a few trails. The Lower Lynn Loop—the most popular and easiest of the trails—Cedar Mills, the Headwaters Trail north of the Third Debris Chute, and the connector trail between Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve are all open for off-leash adventures. Most of these routes provide opportunities to wade into the chilly waters of Lynn Canyon, so if you can snag a parking spot on a hot summer day and you’re ready to brave the crowds, this is an excellent choice to combine tree-lined trails with fresh spring waters.
Speaking of parking, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is immensely popular, so get there early on weekends; parking is $2 an hour. Snag a park map before you head in, as some of the trails can branch off into more challenging backcountry terrain.
Want More? Here’s a Full List of Off-Leash Dog Parks Across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland:
Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know—we can't wait to see photos of all the doggos out exploring everything Vancouver has to offer this summer! Remember to tag us using #reddogbluekat so we can re-share your adventures on our social media channels. Happy sniffing!