On the weekend I revisited my old stomping grounds with my new pooch. There is a beautiful large off leash area in the same valley as the Valley Zoo. At the bottom of the hill leading to the zoo, you have the option to turn right (towards the zoo and Laurier Park) or left towards the rowing club and the off-leash area. There is parking along the road, a parking lot a little further around the bend, and overflow parking at the end of the road where the rowing club is. The hours to park in the rowing club lot are restricted based on their needs, but we managed to arrive at a time when we were able to park there, which was great because everywhere else was full.
It was a beautiful day and the place was crawling with people and their dogs! From the main parking lot, you walk into a large open field where apparently they also launch hot air balloons. There are a few benches at places around the field, but generally this is a nice big area for the dogs to chase each other and get some good play time. Most people walk through the area to the trails on the other side, and there are many of them to explore.
Since we parked in the rowing club lot, we came to the park through a wooded trail that vaguely reminded me of the brambles outside of Sleeping Beauty’s palace. (Only because there weren’t leaves on them yet!) We crossed the open field and then proceeded on the main trail. At one point, you come to a bench at the foot of the trail where it branches off in several directions. We chose the right branch and headed back in a loop to where we started. This loop took us towards the river and a bridge that leads across the river to what I believe is Hawrelak Park. (Definitely need to check back on that one!) We looped back towards the parking lot where we started.
This park is an absolutely fantastic place to go out walking, with or without a dog. When we went, it was a warm sunny day, and the smell of the earth being warmed by the sun and the smell of the poplar trees was heady. You couldn’t help but breathing deeply to try and capture the incredible smell. I remember walking there long ago with my dog Geordi and meeting a woman who said to me “I think that there would be no mental illness if everyone had dogs they had to walk everyday.” Dog or no dog, it’s hard to feel depressed in a place like this. You barely feel like you’re in a city — it’s a wonderful escape from your usual life.
People and dogs are generally very friendly when you do encounter them, and you can usually find someone to have a friendly chat with, but you can also be alone with your thoughts here. This whole area of Edmonton is a fabulous place to spend the day for all. After you’ve tuckered out your pooch, you can head over to Laurier Park, find a shady place to park your vehicle, and head into the park for a picnic. No dogs allowed in this park! But with picnic benches, a kid’s playground and ample space to play ball, Frisbee and other sports, this 205 acre park is another lovely place to spend some outdoor time. Many of the sites have camp stoves available, so remember to bring your own wood and some matches, and you can have a wiener or marshmallow roast. This is also a great place to picnic after a day at the Zoo. The options for spending a day in this little pocket of Edmonton are many.