10 Great Rail-Trails for Dog Walking

Posted 04/10/17 by Laura Stark in America's Trails, Trail Use

Photo by Laura Pedrick, AP Images

Want to enjoy a great rail-trail, but don’t want to leave your furry friend behind? Here you’ll find a list of tail-friendly trails across the country. For older dogs, the gentle grade of a converted railbed makes for an easy stroll, and many of the trails below connect to dog parks or other open spaces for your pooch to explore.

1Napa Valley Vine Trail (California)

Walk with a Doc event on the Napa Valley Vine Trail | Photo by Maria Sestito, courtesy Napa Valley Register

Start your journey off on the right paw at Napa’s Canine Commons (Dry Creek Road at Trower Avenue), a 3-acre off-leash play space that is part of the larger Alston Park, situated only about a mile and a half from the Napa Valley Vine Trail. The dog park has a separated area for small dogs and offers hoses to cool off (or clean off) your dog in the summer. South of downtown Napa, another section of the trail runs through Kennedy Park, a sprawling 350-acre greenspace along the Napa River; your dog will have fun exploring here, but note that a leash is required. If you’re coming to the area for wine tasting (and who isn’t?), you’ll be happy to learn that many of the local wineries allow dogs; Jessup Cellars, located just a block from the trail in Yountville, even has an annual costumed dog event awesomely named the Dress to the K-Nines Stroll.

2Mary Black Rail Trail (South Carolina)

Mary Black Rail Trail | Photo Courtesy Flickr user MarksPhotoTravels

Right at the heart of the Mary Black Rail Trail, you’ll find Spartanburg’s Rail-Trail Dog Park (827 Union Street), which provides a shaded half-acre field for dogs to play in, as well as a doggie water fountain, and benches and picnic tables for their human friends. Heading north or south from the park, the trail provides an easy, paved route through the city. For more quality time with your pet, also check out the nearby Croft State Park (450 Croft State Park Road) as it offers more than 7,000 acres in a natural setting for your leashed pet to go adventuring.

3Old Colony Nature Pathway (Massachusetts)

Provincetown's Pilgrim Bark Park near the Old Colony Nature Pathway | Courtesy Provincetown Dog Park Association, Inc.

The Old Colony Nature Pathway offers a 1.6-mile walk on a natural surface that’s easy on the paws as it winds through picturesque Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. Just over a mile west of the rustic trail is Pilgrim Bark Park, known for its artistic benches, sculptures, and oversized doghouse. And, if you’re up for more adventuring, about 15 miles away is the larger and more well-known Cape Cod Rail Trail that can take you on a 21-mile journey through salt marshes and pine forests, as well as the Cape Cod National Seashore.

4Madison County Transit Schoolhouse Trail (Illinois)

Collinsville's Mutts on Main Dog Park lies not far from the Madison County Transit Schoolhouse Trail | Courtesy City of Collinsville.jpg

The Madison County Transit Schoolhouse Trail begins in Madison, near Illinois’ border with Missouri. Nearby is Horseshoe Lake State Park, a natural oasis your pooch is sure to like with its hiking trails and lake to splash in. The paved trail runs northeast from Madison, traveling through Collinsville, where—about 3 miles south of the trail—you’ll find the Mutts on Main Dog Park (509 W. Main) downtown. The park offers an agility course, dog sculptures, drinking fountains for both dogs and people, and benches. From Collinsville, the trail is well-shaded to its end in Maryville, where your dog will have another opportunity for a lake swim at Drost Park.

5Gary L. Haller Trail (Kansas)

Shawnee Mission Park along Gary L. Haller Trail | Courtesy Johnson County Park & Recreation District

Although not a traditional rail-trail, the Gary L. Haller Trail is a rail-with-trail that offers a similar feeling with an easy linear pathway to follow. It begins on the banks of the Kansas River and, from there, heads south for 17 miles loosely paralleling the wooded Mill Creek, providing the opportunity for long pleasant walks. Mid-trail, you hit the jackpot with the Shawnee Mission Off-Leash Dog Area (7900 Renner Rd.), a sprawling 53-acre dog mecca with a swimming area and natural-surface trails.

6Greenbrier Rail Trail (West Virginia)

With its lush forests, two refreshingly cool tunnels and the adjacent river to splash in, West Virginia’s Greenbrier Rail Trail offers the perfect summer getaway for you and Fido. Its packed gravel surface is also easy on dog paws as it doesn’t get baked in the sun. If you want to tackle the entire 77-mile trail, it runs through Watoga State Park, which offers pet-friendly camping cabins.

RELATED: Watch our Share the Trail video on how to Mind Your Pets

7Larkin State Park Trail (Connecticut)

Larkin State Park Trail offers a 10-mile unpaved route through lush woodlands that dogs will love. The eastern end of the trail enters Whittemore Glen State Park, a 242-acre wilderness with even more opportunities for hiking. To the west, the trail ends south of downtown Southbury. Head 2.5 miles north of the trail to visit Southbury Dog Park (236 Roxbury Rd.), which features a shallow stream for cooling off, a 14-acre off-leash area to run around in and a protected, fenced-in area for small dogs.

8Burke-Gilman Trail (Washington)

Splashing in Lake Washington at Magnuson Dog Park near the Burke-Gilman Trail | Photo Courtesy Flickr user Wonderlane

Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail connects many great parks on its 18-mile paved path through the city. About a half mile from the trail, you’ll also find Magnuson Dog Park (7400 Sand Point Way NE), the largest and most popular of the city’s off-leash areas (there are more than a dozen!). The park offers nearly 9 acres of fenced play space (including an area set aside for small dogs), a gravel walking path and access to the Lake Washington shoreline.

9Cross Seminole Trail (Florida)

The Cross Seminole Trail offers a pleasant 22-mile walking route in the northeastern suburbs of Orlando. Drinking water and restrooms frequently dot the pathway and large sections of the trail lie under protective tree cover, making the experience comfortable for both you and your pet. The trail also bisects the vast and picturesque Spring Hammock Preserve, which offers additional hiking options across its 1,500 acres.

10MKT Nature and Fitness Trail (Missouri)

MKT Nature and Fitness Trail | Photo by Ryan White, courtesy Columbia Parks and Recreation

The MKT Nature and Fitness Trail offers pretty views of wetlands and bucolic landscapes along a 9-mile route between Columbia and the small town of McBaine. The heavy tree canopy will keep your furry friend from getting overheated and its primarily crushed-stone surface won’t get too hot for Spot’s paws. A highlight will be passage through the Twin Lakes Recreation Area (2500 Chapel Hill Rd.), which has not just one, but three dog parks (!) with places to romp as well as swim.

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