Reviewing an Oshawa Dog Park – Harmony Valley Off-Leash Dog Park

Reviewing an Oshawa Dog Park – Harmony Valley Off-Leash Dog Park

We drove almost 1.5 hours East after seeing this British Columbia-like forested trail at this Oshawa dog park location on our Instagram newsfeed. 

… Please tell me we aren’t the only dog parents out there willing to drive long hours to fulfill our dog-child’s happy dog park dreams?

Located in northern Oshawa, Harmony Valley Off-Leash Dog Park is more than just a regular dog park. If it wasn’t so far away from where we live, this *might have* actually topped our longstanding favourite dog park: Etobicoke Valley.

If you’re looking for:

  • Fenced and unfenced off-leash options in the same area
  • Varied and somewhat challenging terrain (e.g. trees, open field, water, hilly terrain)
  • Dog park with friendly dogs & owners
  • Spacious dog socialization area
  • An active volunteer group dedicated to maintaining and raising awareness of responsible dog ownership

Harmony Valley Dog Park may not be right for you if you’re looking for:

  • Dedicated small dog park space
  • Walking trails with strict on-leash regulations
  • Easily accessible / stroller-friendly / wheelchair accessible off-leash dog park (strollers can still use the trails but you will need something more rugged)
  • You are not comfortable making your way through off-leash dogs right at the parking entrance
  • A quiet conservation area – this is a busy area due to the popularity of its off-leash park

Looking for more dog-friendly related content? You might enjoy these posts too!


Harmony Valley Dog Park – Off-Leash Dog Park Review: Contents

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Harmony Valley Dog Park Summary

Address:  915 Grandview St N, Oshawa, ON L1K 2J9
Hours: 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Entryway(s)

*Confirmed by SYDE Road*
Main Entrances to Off-Leash Dog Park:
1. South and North Entrances on Rathburn St. (The main parking lot to access Harmony Valley’s Off-Leash Dog Park)

Nearby Residential Access:

2. The pathway from 1043 Beneford Road (currently blocked off due to construction of new neighbourhood according to Google Maps)
3. Near 1255 Maddock Court
4. Near 1349 Maddock Drive
5. Near 1038 Pondview Court

Lights: No
Fencing: Partial – there is a dedicated completely fenced off portion of the park for off-leash dogs
Dedicated Small Dog Area: No
Water Access: No – you’ll have to bring your own water into the park unless you don’t mind your dog drinking from the water holes within the park
Terrain: Natural
Park Size: LargeTrail ~ 2-5 KM of looped trails
Seating: Yes
Poop Bag Dispenser: Yes
Disposal/Recycling: Disposal throughout
Traffic: 

Weekdays – Low to Moderate
Weekends – Moderate to High

Getting to this North Oshawa Dog Park

Harmony Valley Conservation Area’s Off-Leash Dog Park encompasses the southern half of the conservation area. 

To get to the area, you will need to turn into Rathburn St as you drive along Grandview St. N.

As you enter Rathburn St, you will notice that there is an open entryway into the park immediately after you turn onto the street. 

Parking Tips

Parking at Harmony Valley is free.

While you can access the off-leash area from this entrance, I recommend parking further south on Rathburn St if you can. There is a second entryway at the southernmost end of Rathburn St where you will have several immediate access points to the off-leash portion of the park.

Reverse into your parking spot. Based on a quick estimation, this parking lot can comfortably fit 30 cars on Rathburn St designated parking spots. If you’re visiting on the weekend, you’ll notice that cars will park

  1. In the overflow lot area west of the southernmost point of Rathburn St
  2. Curbside on Rathburn St itself – since the street is fairly narrow, I’d recommend backing your car in so that you’ll have an easier time exiting the lot in case a car decides to parallel park on the curbside in front of you. 

Key Features of Oshawa’s Harmony Valley Dog Park

Much like Etobicoke Creek’s Off-Leash Dog Park, this park sticks to its ‘natural’ terrain. These are the key features and amenities that you can expect to see at this dog park:

  • Natural Terrain – you and your dog will be able to enjoy varied terrain, textures, sights and sounds thanks to the hardwood forests, coniferous plantations, open fields, meadows, and wetlands in this park.
  • Well maintained wide footpaths – the main footpaths are well maintained and can be easily followed. While I list this location as not entirely stroller friendly and wheelchair accessible, I have seen strollers tackle the walking trails here with a more rugged stroller so it isn’t impossible
  • Poop Bag Dispenser at parking lot entryways Thanks to Oshawa/Durham Area Walks Group (ODAWG), this park supplies 120,000 poop disposal bags every year for guests to use in case they forget to bring their own
  • Disposal bins – located by parking lot entryways and one within the main social clearing area. Unfortunately during my visits, I did not notice any disposal bins situated along the walking trail portion. You will need to carry out your poop bags until you return back to the main social clearing area or until you exit the park where the main disposal bins are located
  • Benches There are several benches distributed around the main social clearing area for you to rest while your dog socializes with the other dogs at the park
  • Active Memorial Project – Located within the main social clearing area is a memorial project that ODAWG developed to remember the canines and people who loved the park. The memorial project features 3 main pieces:
    • Georg Mlynek Memorial Bench – dedicated to a stalwart volunteer and supporter of the off-leash park creation
    • Corian dog bone plaques – mounted on the side of the bench
    • Plantings of native species in the memory of people for whom the park was a special place
  • There is a porta-potty located directly at the main entrance of the off-leash dog park. We haven’t used it yet so I can’t comment on its state on the inside. 
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Missing Features You Should Know:

  • There are no fountains or running faucets in the area. However, dogs can easily quench their thirst at Harmony Creek while walking around the park. If you are staying for a while make sure to bring your own bottle and keep yourself hydrated as well.
  • There are no lights inside the conservation area while the park is open until 11:00 PM, I wouldn’t recommend visiting this park while there is light to avoid any accidents and injuries
Woman wearing a sun hat bending down and caressing her corgi on a field at Harmony Valley Dog Park
On hot days Limone needs shade and oftentimes you’ll find her hiding between our legs enjoying the shade we make with our bodies

Review of Oshawa Harmony Valley Dog Park (plan for 2 hours)

Once you enter this 25+ hectares (70+ acres)  conservation area, it’s hard to imagine that this conservation area and the partially off-leash dog park are nestled in the heart of several suburban neighbourhoods.

While the land itself is owned by the City of Oshawa, the off-leash park located within the conservation area is managed by the Oshawa/Durham Area Walks Group (ODAWG). Its day-to-day, capital improvements, responsible dog ownership awareness and educational programs are supported by this non-profit, volunteer-based group. 

Harmony Valley’s Off-Leash Dog Park is considered a public park and is open to everyone who visits the area.

First Impressions of Harmony Valley Dog Park (Weekend Experience)

As soon as we made it to the southernmost entryway on Rathburn St, (demarcated by the visitor’s sign) I immediately noticed that all the dogs that were immediately off-leash as soon as we reached the entrance

Main entrance to the off-leash area at this North Oshawa Dog Park - Harmony Valley Off-Leash Dog Park
The main pathway from the parking lot to the off-leash area.

We walked no more than two steps onto the main footpath before we were immediately met with some (thankfully!) friendly off-leash dogs. This park is one of the few parks that I’ve been to where you can essentially take your dog off-leash immediately after you leave the parking lot.

There are no gates between the parking lot and the entryways. On our way to the entryway, we actually saw several dogs walking off-leash back to their car in the parking lot. 

However, please note that we later learned that this is not okay. Bylaw officers monitor this parking lot frequently. Dogs should be kept on a leash after exiting the park and on a leash in the parking lot or you risk facing a CAD 125 ticket. 

The main pathway is framed by a visitor information billboard and a porta-potty. This pathway takes you past the fenced off-leash dog area towards the main clearing/dog socialization area before branching out into the walking trails.

There are secondary pathways that are also accessible at this parking lot:

  • To the right of the main pathway is a secondary pathway will take you directly into the off-leash forest walking trails
  • The northernmost entryway near Rathburn and Grand View’s intersection will lead you towards the rest of the Conservation area (where dogs are required to stay on leash).

What to Expect in the Fenced Area

The fenced off-leash area at this Oshawa Dog Park (Harmony Valley) is located within the unfenced off-leash area of the park
Double-gated fenced area

Important Note:

The fenced off-leash area is half a kilometre inside the off-leash area. For any leash-reactive dogs, there is a very high chance that you and your dog will encounter several off-leash dogs who are either leaving or heading further into the park while you make your way towards the fenced area. 

The fenced area is a fairly small zone within the off-leash area. The area offers:

  • two picnic tables
  • standalone coniferous trees – which act as great natural obstacles during games of chase, and provide additional shaded areas
  • sufficient space for small to medium-sized dogs to run around safely all within view of the entire fenced area
  • disposal bin located just outside of the double-gated entryway

Please note that this fenced area is not a dedicated small dog area. It is popular with all dog sizes. We saw several huskies playing with some smaller dogs when we passed by.

Socializing with Other Dogs in the Main Clearing Area

As you continue on the main pathway, you will need to head down a hill and up some timber stairs to reach the main clearing. This is where most of the dogs congregate. As soon we climbed up the timber stairs, Limone immediately left us to minger and socialize with the dogs.

Corgi rolling around in the dirt and sandy area of Harmony Valley Dog Park
Limone is a big fan of rolling in sandy/dirt patches

Like Etobicoke Creek Valley, she also got to know the dirt/sand very well too.

Our first visit was in the spring, so this massive field was available for the dogs to play. However, we noticed that most of the dogs and their dog owners tended to stick close to the entrance. 

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However, the clearing is wide enough that several dog owners can play fetch with their dogs away from the main crowd without distractions too. 

The Walking Trails

We love taking Limone to these types of parks because of their off-leash walking trails. 

It’s always so fun to go on a hike with Limone. Her inquisitive nature and lopsided tongue of happiness never fail to lift our moods. 

So for us, it’s an extra special treat when we find off-leash walking trails and we can freely hike together. I LOVE watching her nimbly navigate the trails with us. I’m always so surprised at how high she can scrabble up a hill in spite of her low-riding and long body. I admire her athleticism haha. 

If it wasn’t for the fact that Oshawa was so much further away from our home than Etobicoke Creek, this might have become our absolute favourite off-leash dog park. 

The walking trails at Harmony Valley have a lot to love:

  1. Multi-looped Trails – The off-leash area offers a network of trails in between the woodlot forests, meadows, and floodplains. All of the trails interconnect with each other so you can easily spend more than 2 hours in the park walking several kilometres more than you planned to
  2. Extra-wide footpaths with shade – a huge joy to have extra wide footpaths when you’re walking on a looped trail. Dogs and owners can comfortably pass each other while still keeping some distance if they like.
  3. Access to Harmony Creek – these shallow watering holes are perfect for most dogs who want to cool down without actually take a swim. On summer days, the creek depth will reach chest height  at most for medium-sized dogs 

Overall, our first impression of Harmony Valley’s Off-Leash Dog Park was strongly positive. Limone LOVED the watering holes, and we loved the varied terrain, heights, and landscapes offered at this park. 

We spent just under 2.5 hours in the park on a hot afternoon in the summer with Limone.  

Subsequent Visit to Harmony Valley Park (Weekday Experience)

After our first visit in the early summer, I had the lucky opportunity to share this dog park with my mom and my brother’s almost 7-year-old beagle, Chu, at the end of summer as well. 

Here’s a short video summarizing their experience together 🙂

As it was Limone and I’s second time visiting the park, we were already familiar with the layout of the dog park and were eager to share the space and show the area to our companions.

We arrived on a September weekday around 10:30 AM. The parking lot was about 60% full when we arrived and there were fewer dogs in the park.

Some of the key differences I noticed between my weekend visit versus the weekday visit were:

  1. The main clearing was now populated with hardy meadow plants – compared to my first visit only ¼ of the clearing was easily accessible to the dogs. 
  2. The majority of dogs were kept on leash past the fenced dog area and stayed on a leash until they crossed the timber wood steps to the open play area
  3. Most of the visitors were either dog walkers or dog owners with multiple dogs

We actually ended up spending *less* time at the park and only completed half of what we explored on our last visit to ensure that our beagle had enough energy to make it comfortably to the car. 

Golden Retriever wearing Rex Spex walking and carrying a large branch
One really cool dog friend we made during the weekday

Now I know a 6-turning-7-year-old beagle isn’t considered geriatric by any means, but we were more aware that she was older than our energetic corgi. We were more cautious about overexerting her. 

Considering how Chu was used to strictly flat, open dog parks, we thought that spending over 1.5 hours at this park would be too challenging for her thanks to the varied terrain with uprooted tree roots, steep descents, and logs along the path 

Seasonal Details

While I’ve only visited this location twice myself, here are some seasonal tips that I’ve found after looking through several hundred google reviews:

Spring – Wear crappy shoes and expect to walk through muddy paths / during times of heavy rainfall

Summer :

  • Bring water for the dogs and yourself when you come to play – you may end up spending more time here than expected
  • Bring dog-friendly insect repellent. Mosquitoes are popular in the area
  • Expect to have less play space in the clearing than in other months once meadow plants have been established in the area

Fall: Wear crappy shoes and expect to walk through muddy paths / during times of heavy rainfall

Winter:

  • Like most other conservation areas, the hiking trails can become an ice rink in the winter after periods of freezing and refreezing
  • A key area to watch out for is the timber wood steps leading to the main play area – they can be especially icy

What other reviewers are saying

Corgi attempting to eat a branch
Limone had a VERY positive experience visiting this Oshawa Dog Park

Since I had to look through the 500+ Google reviews for seasonal advice, I figured I should give you a gist of what other reviewers have mentioned:

With 4.8 Average View – The Park is a mostly positive experience – these are the recurring positive comments:

  • Huge Off-Leash Dog Park
  • Great Terrain
  • Many accessible points to access the shallow creek
  • Friendly dog walkers
  • An active volunteer group that not only maintains the park but are also advocates of responsible dog ownership
    • Reviewers like that you can report or file complaints about irresponsible dog owners and/or dogs that bully other dogs in the area and that action is taken by the ODAWG community 

In terms of negative or low rated stars, this is what most dissatisfied visitors had to say:

  • Too many dog owners are not picking up their poop
  • Dog owners and groups of dog owners are not respecting the on-leash signage within the conservation area and increased risk of accident – especially in the children’s playground area
  • A rise in irresponsible dog owners and/or aggressive dogs in the park
  • The clearing/dog socialization play area is not well maintained
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Harmony Valley Dog Park Summary

In conclusion, this large 25+ hectare park is best suited for dogs and dog owners that:

  • Have a great recall when off-leash
  • Enjoy taking on or off-leash walks on extended trail systems with wooded areas, creaks, and clearings

If you live in the Durham region or even in the Eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area, this dog park should definitely be on your radar and may easily be one of the best dog parks in the region. 

To us finding designated off-leash trails within the Greater Toronto Area is like discovering a beloved treasure. When we see how much enjoyment our dogs get out of these types of hikes, the  3-hour roundtrip drives suddenly don’t feel quite as long anymore.

If you’re interested in off-leash trails but live on the west side of the Greater Toronto Area, I’d definitely recommend visiting these two areas for a similar experience:

  1. Etobicoke Valley Off-Leash Dog Park
  2. Bronte Creek Provincial Park (Paid parking required)

What We Always Bring With Us to Dog Parks

We prefer to bring silicone collapsible water bowls with us instead of specialized dog water bottles. Why? Limone drinks more water than most dog water bottles can carry. We save ourselves from carrying extra bottles by carrying an extra-large water bottle with us and pouring water into the bowl instead.

Dog Waste Bags. Standard item to always have with you whenever you’re out with your dog. We get ours from Costco – Poops! 720 count + 1 dispenser option for CAD 21. If you were to buy the same amount from Walmart, Homesense, or other pet specialty stores, it can easily run you past CAD 40 for a similar quantity. Get it from Costco! You won’t regret the $$$ savings!

Dog Treats. This is a given – we don’t have any favourites yet but we tend to carry a couple of handfuls of treats with us to call her back or coax her to come back home with us.

Dog Treat Pouch. I admittedly did more research than I cared for before settling on this dog treat pouch. Out of all the dog treat pouches on Amazon I settled with this one because:

  • It can carry 2 rolls of poop bags – one on the side and one in the back, so even if I run out from the first roll I’ll always have a backup handy (technically you’re supposed to use the back hidden pocket to store your phone since it has a headphone hole but… I don’t use it that way)
  • It has a mesh outer bag for small quick-grab items like my clicker. 
  • A deep front zipper pocket to store my keys and phone (it’s deep enough for my Pixel 3!)
  • A massive treat/toy pouch with a full drawstring. Some may hate it but I LOVE the neon green lining. Every treat stands out against the neo green lining make it very easy for your to look for specific treats. Also this pocket is massive enough to carry a small toy with you too
  • You can wear it multiple ways – the bag comes with a long strap and accessories so that you can wear it however you’d like. With the clip, you can waer it directly on the side of your pants. With just the strap, it that can be worn messenger-style (my preferred style), and with the clip + strap, you can wear it like a waist pouch. 

What’s on Limone:

Depending on the situation we rotate Limone through various harnesses and collars:

Similarly, we rotate Limone’s leash based on our needs. These are the three leashes we use regularly:


How to Support Harmony Valley Dog Park

Disclaimer: I am not being paid or earning a commission for the below –  I just want to support our local communities that have worked so that dog owners like myself can enjoy the space

Did you know that it took almost 7 years of hard work and lobbying to create this space? 

The very existence of Harmony Valley Off-Leash Dog Park is all thanks to the ongoing efforts and previous efforts from the Oshawa Durham Area Walks Group (ODAWG).

Even to this date, the ODAWG group is mandated to:

  • Regularly monitor park use and etiquette
  • Provide ongoing education and awareness of responsible dog ownership
  • Assist in future funding of off-leash are improvements

In order for this dog park to continue its existence. 

If you love Harmony Valley’s Off-leash Dog Park and regularly use this park, there are a number of ways to show your support (more information can be found here) :

  1. Consider becoming an annual member of ODAWG  – annual membership fees go directly towards funding park enhancements
  2. Become an Ambassador at Harmony Valley Dog Park  – volunteer and monitor the park. They educate park users about park etiquette and By-Laws governing Harmony Valley Park. Ambassadors are NOT responsible for the enforcement of rules or by-laws or for resolving disputes. They provide the appropriate contact information to the concerned parties. Ambassadors assist with special events planned by ODAWG.
  3. Become a volunteer
  4. Participate in or purchase ODAWG’s annual calendar – ODAWG has an annual calendar they create with photos provided by passionate dog fans of the park. All proceeds earned when submitting your photo to the calendar or purchasing the calendar itself go directly to funding park maintenance and enhancement efforts.

Want to see more reviews like this? Let us know in the comments below! We (Limone included) would love to explore new places and share our thoughts with you!

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Maria is the founder of SYDE Road, a blog about adventure and often-times dog-friendly traveling. She loves researching and planning for trips and is the 'project manager' for many of the small group adventures documented on this blog. She believes that while it is always best to go into a trip with a plan, the best planned trips are always the ones that have time built-in to explore and get a bit lost. Her itineraries are detailed with safety hints and tips, but are also peppered with unique travel stories and experiences that are the result of free time, getting lost, or stepping off the main trails. She aims to inspire others and give people the confidence to travel the world and get a bit sidetracked!

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