Columbia is the capital of the state of South Carolina and has a population of 137,000. Its nickname is Soda City. Not because it produces the beverage but because its name is often abbreviated to Cola. The city is known for its famous school, the University of South Carolina, the hot summer temperatures, being named after Christopher Columbus, and its iconic firefly show in May and June when all the lightning bugs light up at the same time.
With summer highs in the low 90s and winters in the 60s, outdoor activities are very popular. Because of this, there are over 200 parks and recreational areas in the city, with more than 1,000 acres of green space. However, it can be difficult to find a park that allows dogs to join you and even harder to find off-leash dog parks. Here are 15 of our top choices for you and your fur puppy to visit in Columbia, South Carolina.
Sesquicentennial State Park
Less than 15 miles northeast of downtown Columbia, Sesquicentennial State Park is one of the only state parks in the country that has an official off-leash dog park. Located in the center of the 1,400-acre park, the fenced dog park has two full acres of space to run around off the leash with the other pups. You will need a permit, but you can get a daily tag for less than $5. And it is well worth the few bucks to know that all dogs in the park have had their shots.
But your canine companion is also welcome in other areas of the stunning park as long as he is on a leash. You can go fishing, swimming, or boating on the 30-acre lake, explore the 12 miles of trails, or have a picnic at one of the picnic shelters in the park. And if you want to stay longer than one day, you can book one of the 83 campsites. Some of them have electricity and water, and all are dog-friendly.
NoMA Bark Park
In northern Columbia, NoMA Bark Park is located in Earlewood Park. There is two acres of fenced space waiting for your fur puppy just off North Main Street. This park requires a membership that includes vaccination reports and vet records. If you are just visiting, you can get a visitor’s membership that lasts four days. Your pup has to be at least six months old, be spayed or neutered, and be in good health.
There is a separate area for the big dogs and a double-fenced entry so all pooches can play safely. They also provide lots of shaded seating, water, doggie pools, and tennis balls. Your pup is also welcome to join you in the rest of the park on a leash no longer than six feet. It is a fun family place with basketball, disc golf, tennis courts, baseball, and a kids’ playground. Or you can just hang out and relax in the recreational area.
Dog Park at Page Ellington Park
Page Ellington Park is in the BullStreet District in northeastern Columbia and is one of the largest public spaces in the district, with 20 acres. Named after a famous area architect, Page Ellington, the recreational space has all sorts of fun activities for anyone of any age. There are several paths for walking and jogging, Smith Branch Creek, beautiful gardens, a two-acre pond, and a fenced dog park where you can take your cuddly canine companion.
The pup park is relatively new and is covered in grass and wood chips, so dogs can enjoy the park whether it is rainy or dry. There is also a large basket of tennis balls near the entrance for everyone to play with. You can find several dog cleanup stations with a pooper scooper and doggie bags, a few water fountains for pups and pup parents, and plenty of seating. There is no separate area for small dogs, though, so all dogs play together.
Columbia Dogge Park
The Columbia Dogge Park in southeastern Columbia is right next to the City of Columbia Animal Services on Humane Lane. It is a large fenced area with about three acres that includes a double-gated entry with a lock for extra security and safety. You will need to sign up for a membership and pledge a small donation, but the surety that the pups are healthy and safe make it worth every penny.
All dogs must show proof of shot records and be spayed or neutered. The best part is that the animal shelter is right next to it, so if you need any kind of first aid for your cuddly canine, you can get it right away. There is also a puppy pond and several doggie pools, as well as water fountains for your fur puppy to cool down on hot days. Pet parents can enjoy shaded seating, fresh water, and doggie bags.
Emily Douglas Dog Park
Just a few minutes southeast of downtown Columbia, Emily Douglas Park has a great dog park that is fenced for off-leash fun. The park itself is a decent size, with a playground for the little humans, basketball hoops for the older kids, and an indoor game space for humans only. There is also a splash pad during the summer where everyone can cool off. Your pooch has to remain on his leash while he is in the main part of the park.
Inside the fence, all dogs play together here as there is no separate space for smaller pups. But there is lots of room to run around with ample space for a game of fetch or frisbee, as well as some trees to run through just for fun. You will be able to have a seat on one of the benches or chairs in the shade or soak up the sun in the other part of the park.
Saluda Shoals Barking Lot
Saluda Shoals Park is not far from downtown in northwestern Columbia just east of Lake Murray. The massive natural space has approximately 480 acres that include swimming, boating, and fishing on Saluda River as well as miles of trails and lots of different ball fields and courts for tennis, baseball, volleyball, and more. There are numerous picnic areas, a splash pad, a bird garden, a boardwalk, playgrounds, disc golf, a concession building, and a place to rent boats and floating tubes.
The Barking Lot is a two-acre off-leash park for pups who want to run around without a leash and play with the other fur puppies. You can find it in the northwestern section of the park just east of Rawl’s Creek, the Bird Garden, and the Education Center. The fun pooch park has several bone-shaped pools where your canine companion can cool off, agility equipment, and a fire hydrant water sprayer. Also, there are drinking fountains and shaded seating for pet parents. You will need a membership, but the fee is minimal for the safety and security of your fur baby.
Mason Family Bark Park
Just about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Columbia, you can find the Mason Family Bark Park, which is the newest dog park in the area right off Main Street. Named for the generous family who donated the three acres and helped pick out the fun equipment, Mason Family Bark Park is more than just your average dog park. There are modern agility courses items like tunnels, ramps, see-saws, and even a fire hydrant that sprays water to cool down your pup.
You will have to spring for a membership here too, but, like the others, it is well worth the money to know that all the canines in the park are vaccinated and healthy. It also includes a variety of toys, a climbing castle, and water fountains for both pups and their pup parents. There are also doggie cleanup stations with baggies, but it is a good idea to bring extra, just in case.
Bark West Park
Bark West is found in western Columbia just off of highway 1 and Hendrix Street. Although it is for members only, this one allows you to try out the park once before you pay. This is great for those who will only be in town for a day or two, so you do not have to pay for a full membership that you may only use once. However, the price for this membership is very low compared to the others, so it is worth it even if you only visit once or twice.
There is a full agility course here, so your pooch can get a good workout and lots of extra space for a game of fetch or frisbee too. Or you can sit and watch your fur baby play with the other pups while you relax. All dogs must have all their shots, including rabies and parvo, and they have to be spayed or neutered.
Lexington Paw Park
Less than 20 minutes from downtown Columbia Lexington Paw Park is found in the western section of the city just south of Lake Murray. With separated sections for the large and small pooches, there is a total of three acres of fenced space for off-leash fun. The park is grassy and clean, with several climbing obstacles and natural hills to play on, as well as loads of running room for all. You will need to pay a membership fee here, too and show proof of shots and good health.
Those who complain about having to pay are typically the ones who do not have their dogs vaccinated, so it pays to shell out a few bucks to let your cuddly canine companion play with the healthy pups whose pet parents are responsible. There are covered seating areas with fans to cool you off during the summer, pools for the pooches, and lights for nighttime play.
Dreher Island State Park
Who doesn’t want to play on an island in the middle of a 50,000-acre lake? Dreher Island State Park is on the gorgeous Lake Murray, about a half hour from downtown Columbia and it is totally pup popular for leashed pups. They even allow pets in the camper cabins for those who plan to stay longer than one day. You could also bring your own camper or tent. But make sure you book your spot in advance because this is a popular park.
There are actually three islands that make up the park, with over 100 campsites, some with water and electricity. There are also tons of picnic tables as well as 10 picnic shelters if you have a group with you. The fishing here is so good that they even have fishing tournament shelters here with live wells. If you have human youngsters, there are three fun playgrounds for them too!
Guignard Park is in the heart of Columbia near Cayce, and it is very popular with pup parents. Even though they do not have an official off-leash dog park, there are a few areas in the park that are unofficial spaces for off-leash doggie fun. The family community park is located between Deliesseline Road and Knox Abbott Drive and features several picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills if you want to cook up some burgers or have a picnic.
The park also has a clean and clear stream running through the middle of it, and both two and four-legged kids love splashing around in it during the summer. There is a paved path that takes you through the wooded area around the stream, where you and Fido can meander around the water’s edge and look for wild critters. Just make sure to keep him on a leash and bring doggie bags to pick up after him.
Cayce Riverwalk Park
Cayce Riverwalk is more of a trail system than one single park, with over 20 miles of trails to explore and enjoy with your leashed canine companion. It is only five minutes from downtown Columbia and has all sorts of historical sites to see along the way. You will get to enjoy Three Rivers Greenway as well as the Congaree Creek Preserve, Newman Boat Landing, and Timmerman Trail. You will follow the river along boardwalks, bridges, and paths with forests, picnic areas, and parks along the way.
Your fur buddy is welcome in most of these places as long as he is leashed, and please bring baggies to clean up after him. Be sure to have a camera, too so you can get some pics of your pup by the animal sculptures and other public art installations along the trail. The lion bench is a handmade masterpiece done by local artists and is a perfect spot to take a break.
Along the Congaree River in Granby, just a few minutes to the southwest of Columbia, Granby Park is a dog-friendly place where you and your playful pooch can enjoy a day by the water. Just keep his leash on and bring baggies to pick up what he puts down. There are a lot of historic features here and there where you and your pup can get some fantastic selfies to share on your social media pages.
It is also part of the Three Rivers Greenway that connects to other trails, including the Cayce Riverwalk. You can bring along your fishing gear if you want to try catching something in the Congaree River but make sure you have a South Carolina fishing license first. You and your cuddly compadre can also share a meal at one of the picnic tables along the water or elsewhere in the park. Do not forget to bring extra water and snacks if you want to do some hiking.
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is just south of Granby Park and lauds more than 20,000 acres of woods, wilderness, and water. Your dog is welcome to join you as long as you keep him on a leash that is six feet in length or shorter. It is a huge place, so you may be able to find some places where your pup can play off the leash but be careful of the wildlife and remember there are alligators in the Wateree and Congaree Rivers as well as the lakes and ponds.
If you want to stay overnight, there are a handful of walk-in campsites in the woods, but they are rugged and have no amenities like water, electricity, or restrooms. You can also enjoy a kayak or canoe ride on Cedar Creek with your pup but bring a life vest for each of you. Fishing is great here too but you need a license. There are miles and miles of trails, from easy and short trails to long and challenging hikes. Bring water and doggie bags with you.
Maxcy Gregg Park
Right next to the University of South Carolina to the southeast of Columbia, Maxcy Gregg Park is a city park that was established in 1911 and was named in honor of General Maxcy Gregg, who was in the Confederate Army. Donated by George Rembert, the small patch of grassy space became a nice community recreational area with a bathhouse and swimming pool built in 1949. Although pets cannot swim here, it is an interesting sight with its stunning gardens and architecture.
The park does allow pet parents to bring their pups to the park on a leash but bring your own doggie cleanup baggies. You and your fur puppy can take a walk along the creek, where he can sniff all the exciting nature scents. The park also has picnic areas and a trail through the woods as well as plenty of room to run around with your cuddly canine kid.
The Final Woof
After spending the day running around the dog park, you and your pooch can take a break while you enjoy an adult beverage at River Rat Brewery. The deck is a popular spot for pup parents to hang out on a nice day or evening. Remember those old general stores they used to have where they sold penny candy and other nostalgic items? Take Fido to Mast General Store on Main Street, where they have all that and more. They love friendly dogs and may even offer up some treats and water. Or go take a deluxe tubing tour on the Congaree River with Palmetto Outdoors. Your pup will love it, and so will you!