After such a hot summer, it’s hard to believe fall is just around the corner, but the somewhat cooler temperatures lately are giving us a hint of what’s to come. Fortunately, the cooler temperatures make it an ideal time to go outside and enjoy nature, and our pets would love to come outside and enjoy nature with us. This season, check out some of the many great places in central Ohio where pets and their owners can enjoy the great outdoors together.

Metro Parks
There are 13 Metro Parks in central Ohio that offer pet trails. People can enjoy the scenery and pets can enjoy the wonderful sights and smells, plus it’s a great way to get some exercise! Owners are required to keep their dogs on the leash at all times. Leash-trained cats are also welcome on the pet trails. Pet owners are also asked to pick up after their pets out of courtesy for the other park-goers. If you want to have a picnic and include your four-legged companions in the fun, the parks also allow leashed pets in the picnic areas. Plan to pack some doggie or kitty treats in the cooler along with the burgers and hot dogs.

A few Metro Parks, such as Three Creeks in Groveport, Highbanks in Westerville, and the Darby Bend Lakes Area in Hilliard have multiple pet-friendly trails, ranging from 0.5 miles to over 14 miles.  Scioto Audubon Park also has a dog park and an agility course. For dogs who like to swim, Darby Bend Lakes also has a dog swimming area. If you are looking for more structured activities, the Friends of the Metro Parks hosts a series of Paws in the Park hikes throughout the year. These hour-long hikes are designed with your dog in mind and offer a great way to learn more about nature while socializing with fellow animal lovers. You can check out www.metroparks.net to see a full listing of pet-friendly trails and upcoming events.

The pet trail my dog and I visit the most is the Goldenrod Trail at Blendon Woods, since it is only about a mile from my house.  The Goldenrod has two hiking loops surrounded by some beautiful natural scenery, and plenty of wildlife too. On a recent weekday, my dog and I spotted a couple of wild turkeys as well as some frogs hopping around in a stream along the path. You can walk the entire 1.2 miles around both loops if you are feeling energetic, or you can just hike one of the loops.  There are several benches along the trail if you or your pup needs an occasional rest. I wouldn’t have minded sitting down myself, but my dog would have none of it. He was too busy sniffing around to find out what he could about the other dogs on the trail or trying to track down some more wildlife!

Off-Leash Dog Parks
If you want to let your dog off the leash once in a while, there are also a variety of dog parks around Columbus where your dog can roam or play in the large outdoor spaces. Many dog parks offer separate spaces for large dogs and small dogs. It’s a good idea to make sure your dog has been socialized to interact with other dogs. My dog has had some issues in the past at dog parks with some of the more energetic dogs, but overall they can be a great change of pace from the usual walk around the neighborhood. I recently discovered Pizzuro Park. It’s located off Hamilton Road across from Port Columbus. It has two large spaces for the dogs, along with an agility course. There is also a picnic shelter and a playground for the kids, so you can bring the whole family for a day of fun. The one drawback is it is a little hard to find at first. You have to turn onto Tech Center Drive, and then another quick turn onto Pizzuro Park Road. I drove past it a couple of times, but now that I know where it is, I plan on taking my dog often.

Another great place for pets is Goodale Park. On any given day, you can see several people with their dogs, and a few cats, out for a stroll or just working on their tan. This is another park where you have to keep your pets on a leash, but the park is large enough that you and your furry one won’t get bored. It’s also conveniently located to downtown Columbus and the Arena District. I don’t take my dog there often, but whenever I do, he gets so excited. It is such a treat for him to sniff the other dogs and chase squirrels. For a more complete listing of pet-friendly parks in central Ohio, check out the Ohio Animal Companion Resource pages.

There are a wide range of wonderful places to visit with your pets this fall. Anything you enjoy doing, they will probably enjoy doing with you! So when you are planning for fun fall events for the whole family, make sure to include your furry family members as well.  — Lee Gruver