I often get emails from dog owners asking where in the country they can go to walk their dog off-leash. It seems like a sort of random general question. Are folks so frustrated with their local leash laws that they are willing to just travel to let their dog run free? Perhaps.
If you are looking for a place to spend a few days exploring parks where you can let your dog off-leash I have found Massachusetts and the Trustees of Reservations to have the most enlightened policy to allowing dogs off leash. The Trustees manage over 100 properties across the Bay State - not all of them allow dogs off leash and some don’t allow dogs at all. But you can certainly find enough primo hiking for your dog off-leash to fill up a vacation. The website (www.thetrustees.org) spells out the regulations for dogs at each property.
When dogs are allowed to go off-leash generally the rules are:
1) Leash your dog in the parking lot and for the first 100 yards or so on the entrance trail.
2) Don’t allow your dog to approach anyone off-leash unless you know he is welcome.
3) Don’t allow your dog to go into environmentally sensitive areas.
4) Don’t allow your dog to chase wildlife.
All things a responsible dog owner does anyway. But if all it takes is a sign reminding me to be a decent human being to allow my dog to hike off-leash, I can live with that. This is no experimental “let’s-see-how-it-goes” policy. The Trustees of Reservations has been around since 1891 and is one of the oldest organizations managing parks in the country.
So where to go? Here are a few suggestions:
Mount Greylock Reservation - the highest point in Massachusetts and one of the most famous views in New England
Tyringham Cobble - quintessential New England hike with stone walls, church steeples, grazing cattle and the Appalachian Trail
Noanet Woodlands - friendly dogs and a hilltop view of the city skyline
Weir Hill - about a mile of lakeshore trail with easy access for your water-loving dog
Appleton Farms Grass Rides - one of the most popular dog-walking spots in New England
Ravenswood Park - over ten miles of easy-going carriage roads
Oh, and one more suggestion - before you go, print a map off the website; the Trustees publish wonderful park brochures but they are often empty at the trailhead. The trails are seldom blazed but marked by numbers at the many trail junctions and you will want to have a map in hand.
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