A small dog plays in a local park.

Central Pennsylvania is beautiful in all seasons, which is probably why dogs of all ages and attitudes leap at the chance to explore its natural splendor. Local pet owners are blessed with a bounty of options to heed this call of the wild, including local trails for dogs and plenty of dog-friendly parks that allow for off-leash play.

If you are looking to get off the beaten path — and onto an immersive trail with nature all around you — then look no further than our guide to dog parks and trails worth visiting.

Wildwood Park

Address: 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg, PA 17110

Features: Multiple trails, pavilions, dog-friendly water stations, lake and nature views

Website: explorewildwoodpark.org

As its name implies, Wildwood Park features all the natural scenery you could ever want without having to leave Harrisburg proper. Independently operated and financed by the Friends of Wildwood organization, the park aims to preserve nature while offering a respite for wild critters, humans, and pets alike. 

Wildwood boasts seven trails across its 229 acres, many of which loop around the gorgeous lake. There are also plenty of garbage and water stations for all the doggy businesses to be attended to during the trip.

Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area

Address: 401 Fishing Creek Valley Rd, Harrisburg, PA 17112

Features: Nearly 950 acres of forest and wildlife preserve, including old-growth trees and over 11 miles of trails

Website: dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/BoydBigTreePreserveConservationArea/Pages/Hiking.aspx

This massive park is a hiking dog’s paradise. Most of the trails are fairly gentle, with opportunities to keep your trip relatively short if you aren’t in the mood for a more strenuous hike.

There’s also a stunning amount of scenic beauty, making you quickly forget that civilization lies just a few miles away. Gravel trails are shaded and well-maintained and are lined with ample signage. 

You can enjoy this park all year round but do keep weather and time in mind so you aren’t caught unawares a mile or so from the park exit when it gets dark or bad weather starts to come in.

John C Rudy (+ Canine Meadows Dog Park)

Address: 400 Mundis Race Road, York, PA  17406

Features: Green space, horseshoe pits, cross-country running trail, off-leash dog area

Website: yorkcountypa.gov/680/John-C-Rudy-Park

John C Rudy is a great park just a quick drive away in York, PA. It features a charming historic stone building built in 1798, which now serves as the park’s administrative and maintenance headquarters. 

Here, there are plenty of grassy areas for sports, frisbee, frolics, and more. A gentle, shady 5K course snakes around the entirety of the park. The trail is billed as a “cross-country running” course, but walkers and woofers on leashes are more than welcome.

As another big draw, the facility features a fairly large off-leash dog park with three separate areas for play. Canine Meadows Dog Park is as idyllic as it sounds, with lots of grass and trees to give your pup a place to truly roam free.

Tall, sturdy fences keep everything safe, too, although owners are always advised to keep a close eye on the activity.

Riverfront Park

Address: 200 S Front St, Harrisburg, PA 17104

Features: City and river views along a sumptuous 4.5-mile stretch, also live concerts and events

Website: wagwalking.com/lifestyle/trails/harrisburg-riverfront

Riverfront Park is the crown jewel of the city’s park system, located in downtown Harrisburg, along the Susquehanna River from Vaughn to Hanna Streets. It was built as part of Harrisburg’s big redevelopment push way back at the turn of the 20th century. Today, the park is still in stellar order. It regularly calls locals and visitors alike to its pampered shores, beckoning with tree-lined promenades and stunning riverfront views. 

The park regularly hosts dog-friendly events like WoofStock, as well as family-friendly concerts and other outings.

If you’re inclined to extend your hike, there’s also the entire Greenbelt trail system, which loops around the downtown area to take advantage of. It has a particularly fun, scenic leg called Asylum Run, which winds alongside a creek bed up to the historic former Harrisburg State Hospital grounds.

Note that there is no dedicated parking lot for the trail, but many park-goers choose to park on City Island and take the pedestrian bridge back towards the riverfront.

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail

Address (North Trailhead): 6 Collins Rd, Bainbridge

Features: 14 miles of natural, riverfront trail crossing through five municipalities

Website: nwrt.info

If you’re looking for a hike worth doing multiple times — one that offers something new each time you take it — then look no further than the sprawling Northwest Lancaster County River Trail system. 

The entire trail system spans 14 miles, from the northern trailhead in Bainbridge down to the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center at its terminus. Visitors can take a trip through time as they cross through multiple abandoned industrial sites that hail the powerful role this region once had in America’s economic boom. 

You’ll cross directly through a former railway tunnel, known as Point Rock Tunnel, which was blasted through solid rock in the 1850s. Keen hikers can also spot defunct canal locks, iron furnaces overgrown with nature, and the former quarry at Billmeyer.

Enjoying all the trails and parks worth stopping at along the way requires much more than you could pack into one day. That’s why this trail system is worth returning to again and again.

Fort Hunter Conservancy

Address: 480 Camp Reily Rd, Harrisburg, PA 17112

Features: 153-acre park with boating, fishing, trails

Website: dauphincounty.gov/government/support-services/parks-recreation/parks/fort-hunter-conservancy

This conservancy was once part of the sprawling 900-acre Fort Hunter estate. Now, the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park grounds are separated from this conservancy by a mile of development, but both are worth visiting if you and your adventurous pup want to soak up natural beauty in a picturesque setting.

A one-mile hike winds around the property, offering views of the preserved forest as well as the YWCA Camp Reily grounds nearby. You could also visit the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park on the same day, offering a great opportunity to tour the grounds or enjoy a picnic with your four-legged friends and the rest of the family.

Italian Lake

Address: 3rd and Division Street, Harrisburg

Features: Scenic developed lake surrounded by greenspace and historic neighborhood

Website: harrisburgpa.gov/parks-and-recreation/italian-lake/

Que bellissima! This beautiful and iconic park surrounds a manmade lake bedecked with classic-looking lamposts, scenic gardens, and a breathtaking Japanese-inspired bridge. 

While the lake may not feature piping hot marinara sauce, as its name may imply, it nevertheless offers an excellent break on a weekday or weekend outing. The trail loop is just 0.7 miles, but that’s more than enough for a brief afternoon or early morning outing with the pooch.

You can also enjoy the gazebo, gardens, historical markers, and the sight of beautiful homes in the Riverside neighborhood of Uptown Harrisburg, where the park is located.

Appalachian Trail at Swatara State Park

Address: 1450 Suedberg Road, Pine Grove, PA 17963

Features: 34 miles of trail in the park, access to a 2,190 mi trail spanning from Georgia to Maine

Website: dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/SwataraStatePark/Pages/Hiking.aspx

The mother of all trails, the grand Appalachian route beckons millions of hikers across multiple states each year. Only 3,000 or so will complete the full, months-long journey from one end to the other, but you’re under no obligation to set aside half of your year to enjoy the scenery.

Instead, you and your dog can visit Swatara State Park, near Fort Indiantown Gap, to enjoy a sampling of what the 2,000-plus mile trail has to offer.

Swatara State Park is a paradise for nature lovers, with opportunities for hikes, camping, kayaking, fishing, and plenty of wildlife to watch. It boasts 34 miles of its own trails, as well as access to the famous Appalachian trail, as it winds down from the ridge of Blue Mountain.

You don’t have to drive all the way to Swatara, though, to get a taste of the massive trail. Harrisburg is fortunate in that the Appalachian Trail winds completely around the city, giving multiple opportunities to step on its hallowed pathways from a number of parks and wildlife areas nearby.

In addition to Swatara, there’s Appalachian Trail access in Carlisle, Duncannon, Table Rock, Peters Mountain, South Middleton, Monroe, Union, Bethel, and many more areas. Check out this detailed map on appalachiantrail.org for more information on how to experience one of the country’s greatest treasures right in your own backyard.

Get Ready for Dog-Friendly Parks With Greenlin Dog Training

Trail etiquette requires many skills, including those that can be quite tough for your dog to pick up on naturally. There are also the risks that come with any public outing, especially when you’re entering an area with other off-leash dogs.

Greenlin Pet Resorts offers dog training classes to help transform your dog into the polite park-goer that you’ve always aspired for them to be. We tailor lessons to their unique personality and your own personal goals, ensuring that you’re always working towards having a better relationship together, both on and off the trail.

We also offer dog daycare in the Harrisburg area for adventurous pups who don’t always have the luxury of having a nature trip on their current itinerary.

Come see all that Greenlin has to offer — and get ready for your next big outing together — when you call or contact one of our six locations in the Harrisburg area for more information on all that we have to offer. Book your pet’s stay online by clicking on one of the links below!