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The Best Off-leash Trails in Austin

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Huey P. wonders where he can wander, frolic and romp off leash in the Austin area. 

By Lucy J. Phillips

Huey P. - Ask Lucy - Off-leash trails
By Nan Sanders

Dear Lucy, 

Hello from Huey P., a devilishly handsome yellow-lab mix. I’m smart, fit, fast and adventurous. I’m humble too. You should see me swim. My mom grew up in Louisiana and named me after former Governor Huey P. Long, who was a rascal, like me. I break the law and charm people to get what I want. Just yesterday, I sprinted off leash through an area that requires them. I was so dashing, nobody said anything. Here’s my question: I visit Shoal Creek Trail, Red Bud Isle, Turkey Creek and Lady Bird Lake for fun. But I’m bored. I want to see new places. Can you suggest other trails near Austin where I can run and swim and maybe go off leash? I don’t mind riding in the car if it means my mom is driving me to fresh terrain. Please, Lucy, tell me where to go. I’ve included my photo so you can admire my physique. 

Best,
Humble Huey P. 


Dear Humble Huey P., 

Lucy J. Phillips - Ask Lucy - Off-leash trails
By Hannah J. Phillips

Thank you so much for sharing this struggle of yours. You are not alone. As much as we do love our humans, we all get that itch to run wild and free when given a chance, especially if there is a squirrel, bird or just any suspicious rustling in the grass. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of options in Austin where you and your human can both enjoy exercise at your own pace. Besides the four you listed (five, really, since Lady Bird Lake includes both Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores), the City of Austin website lists eight other parks and trails in town where you can frolic at your leisure and meet new friends. The site is a great resource, but I’ll share a few of my favorites by region here. 

The City of Austin lists two places in North Austin that I’ve personally never explored (but you can bet your paws I’ve just instructed my transcriber to add them to our weekend to-do list): Davis White Northeast District Park and the dog park off Great Northern Boulevard near Far West Boulevard. I spent much of my puppyhood at the West Austin Neighborhood Dog Park in Central Austin, especially when I had a tad too much energy on Saturday mornings. My human loved grabbing iced coffees at nearby Caffe Medici, reading in the park while I played and played and played. Similarly, Norwood Tract at Town Lake Metro Park is a bit bigger than its West Austin counterpart (and a lot busier too), but it’s a great place to meet if you have friends on the East side. 

As a rule, my mom doesn’t cross the river unless strictly necessary, but our research on South Austin may have given us two new reasons to make an exception. The Mary Moore Searight Park has a gorgeous 3.2-mile loop of trails in 300 acres of parkland, and the 170-acre Onion Creek District Park offers many shaded hiking trails—and the creek is perfect for a dip, especially in summer. 

Apart from city ordinances, it’s important to be honest about your limitations. Since you have so humbly confessed a penchant for pushing the limits, I will share a confession too. After five years, my human only recently started trusting that I will actually come back when called, but still, she knows I don’t make promises. I would thus encourage you and your human to have a heartfelt discussion: Just because an area permits off-leash play doesn’t mean you have to be off leash. If you struggle to control excitement or feel a very strong need to protect your human at all times, it’s much better to stay on leash until your human knows you’re ready. You have to walk before you can run, after all, and no amount of off-leash freedom makes up for unpleasant incidents between furry friends. That’s ultimately why these rules exist. That said, with these many area off-leash options, you should be able to have a doggone great time in the great outdoors! 

Love and slobbery kisses,

Lucy 

P.S. I should also mention May is Austin Pet Month, when we celebrate the successful rescues and adoptions that make Austin a leader in compassion and animal welfare. Check out austinpetmonth.org for more information about all the incredible local partners that help champion the cause throughout the city. 

If you have a dog-related question for Lucy, reach out and follow her on Instagram @asklucydog



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