Written by Guest Blogger Chris Istace


For many of us getting outdoors is easy and fun with options abundant. Although for some of us out there we have one extra consideration when choosing our hiking location for the day – is it appropriate for our trusty four legged companions.


This past Spring my wife and I added an Australian Cattle Dog to our household. We chose the breed for it’s high energy levels and athletic prowess in the forest and mountains due to the nature of our outdoor passion.


Echo exploring Nanaimo (credit: Chris Istace)

Since this time, we have been searching out spots that allow our dog Echo to have fun with us but in a safe off-leash designated place. With that in mind combined with our new adventures and recent exploration of Nanaimo’s hidden nature gems, I spent some time on the Tourism Nanaimo website to see what would fit our search criteria.


With so much information jam-packed into this user-friendly trip planning website, we easily found a link to the Nanaimo Off-Leash Dog Parks. Check it out HERE.


The list was reviewed and the choice was made; we would visit  Colliery Dam Park, which has both a leashed and an off-leash upper lake section of the park.  We soon realized the level of amenities here was first class for families, hikers and dog owners alike. It would be a fun day for sure.


Fall beauty in Nanaimo (credit: Chris Istace)
Fall beauty in Nanaimo (credit: Chris Istace)

Well we did the entire park (and recommend allowing yourself the time to visit all aspects of the park), but for this post we will focus on the fun off-leash upper lake area.  The 3 spots we found that our dog enjoyed the most were the large boulders on the far side of the lake, the waterfall (“Granny Falls”) located through the tunnel and at the end of the trail, and lastly the rocky outcrop on the near side to the right of the concrete bridge for the dogs to swim.


Credit: Chris Istace
Upper Lake Off-leash area. Credit: Chris Istace

While here we enjoyed the fall weather and our dog especially enjoyed playing in the falling leaves of early autumn. We met several other dog owners and found the overall behavior of both handlers and the pooches to be very good with no bad experiences from our time there.


Credit: Chis Istace
Credit: Chris Istace

We enjoyed our fall visit and only one thing we will change and that is how many times we return (hint: more often!) We especially look forward to returning when there has been a substantial rain storm or the spring run-off is highest to fully appreciate the flow coming over the waterfall, which is to me was the hidden gem of this loop. The waterfall is accessed at the very end of the upper lake by the wooden bridge, follow a set of stairs down the river heading away from the lake. Follow the trail to a large tunnel which you will continue, through and then up the last bit of the creek to the falls.


Wonder what the waterfall looks like at full force? Check it out last year at this time:


The tunnel to the falls. Credit: Chris Istace


The best parking is available at 645 Wakesiah Ave. From the parking lot you can stay to the right and the upper lake which is the off-leash area or choose to add the lower lake on your left which is the on-leash zone into your plan to give you roughly a total of 2.5 kms worth of main trails to explore.


Colliery Dam Park is a treat without having to venture far from the city for those on who don’t have time to make a big day trip or for those looking to have a fun local adventure. Be sure to add it to your list if you want Explore Beyond the Usual with your hiking buddy.


My hiking buddy (Credit: Chris Istace)




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