Pet Friendly State & National Parks in Florida
By Saundra Amrhein
With more than 700,000 acres of state parks and thousands of miles of trails in pet-friendly national parks and forests or pathways along scenic waterways, Florida is a dog-walker’s dream.
On the hottest days – and temperatures can climb even in the winter months – try to seek out shaded trails, avoid hot concrete paths and have lots of water on hand for your furry companion to avoid dehydration or heat exhaustion.
Also, before leaving for Florida, check with your pet’s veterinarian about tick or flea precautions if you know your adventure may include a hike or camping in the woods, as well as specially formulated sunscreen for dogs.
On state and national trails, dogs must be kept on a leash. And, for the safety of your pet, always keep your eyes open for the local wildlife, particularly of the alligator variety.
Here’s a list of some popular places for great hiking and dog-walking excursions:
Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway - Tallahassee
Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, the six-mile trail covered by a canopy of majestic trees, is a magical, tucked-away place in the state’s capital, popular among the locals – shared by dog-walkers, mountain bikers, joggers and equestrians. Off of Fleischmann Road, additional entrances are at Thornton, Edenfield and Crump Roads.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park - Hobe Sound
Just south of Stuart on Florida’s Central East Coast, Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers paved and off-road scenic trails through Old Florida and acres of sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. Other highlights include camping, fishing, kayaking and river tours. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve - Tampa
Alderman's Ford Nature Preserve is a hidden gem about 22 miles east of Tampa in West Central Florida on 970 acres of preserved land includes grass and dirt trails through rolling hills, lush oak forests and longleaf pines. The biggest surprise awaits as you and your dog approach the mesmerizing sound of rapids – the Alafia River flowing over limestone boulders through an eroded channel. There are plenty of sunflowers and wildlife to accompany your walk – including deer, rabbits, snakes, wild hogs and alligators. Bring protection from mosquitoes in the shaded area and from sun exposure in the open areas. Admission is free.
North Bay Trail - St. Petersburg
North Bay trail, the paved, scenic 6.5-mile trail along the waters of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg is a popular one with local dog owners. As you stroll along with your dog, you’ll take in beautiful views of the bay, boats, downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront parks, marinas, wildlife and gorgeous old homes in the Old Northeast section of the city. On walks you may spot herons, egrets and men out fishing in thigh-high water. Before heading home, enjoy a freshly baked pastry or chocolate coconut curry gelato at the dog-friendly Paciugo Gelato & Caffe on the outdoor patio across the street from stately banyan trees.
Riverwalk - Fort Lauderdale
Riverwalk, the one-mile linear park in Fort Lauderale has been called “Florida’s Most Beautiful Mile,” and is dog friendly, welcoming leashed dogs for a gorgeous stroll along the city’s New River. The winding walkways with lush landscaping link restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Bring along some extra water for your dog.
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