Best 15 Dog-Friendly Parks in Ocala, Florida, for Your Fur Baby

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Ocala is one of the few vacation towns in Florida that are not on the coastline. In fact, it is right in the middle of northern Florida, just a few minutes from Silver Springs Shores, which is a popular attraction and one of the largest springs in the United States. It is not a very large city, with just 63,600 residents, and it is still somewhat untouched and natural. In 2007, the city was named the horse capital of the world for its 400+ thoroughbred ranches. 

Being in the southern US, it gets hot in the summers, with an average of 96 degrees F for the high and 75 degrees F for the low. And winter is not much cooler, with an average of 90 degrees F for the high and 47 degrees F for the low. Although it is not on the ocean, the city does have a few beaches, like the ones at Lake Tuscawilla, Indian Lake, and Silver Springs Shores. But letting your pooch run around off the leash is important, and Ocala has a few parks where you can go. Here are 15 of our favorite dog parks in Ocala.

Bark Central Dog Park

Pack up your pup and pup supplies and head to Bark Central Dog Park in Inverness, about 25 miles southwest of the city of Ocala. This pup paradise has a whopping 15 acres of securely fenced space for pooches to play off the leash. There are two sides, one for large and one for small dogs. They each have a variety of seating, like benches and picnic tables, doggie bag dispensers, and lots of shade. But that is not all this dog park has! 

Each section has its own pup pond, tailored for different sizes, so the big moochies have enough water to swim, and the tiny tots are safe to swim in more shallow water. Both ponds are naturally filtered and tested regularly, so the water is clean and safe just in case your pooch decides to take a drink. Each park has trails and dog toys as well. You will need a day pass or membership to play here, but it is worth it!

Brick City Bar-K Park

Just nine miles southwest of Ocala, the city’s first dog park bar, Brick City Bar-K Park is a fun place to go for drinks and socializing for you and your fuzzy buddy. You can find it easily just past the airport and just before you get to West Port High School. The dog park bar just opened in June of 2023, so everything is brand-spanking, shiny, and new! It is the perfect time to pay this place a visit with your little buddy.

One of the owners, Natha, is a vet tech, and the other, Brent, is an experienced food service and client care professional. They both love animals and have a fenced yard with lots of thick green grass for your fur baby to enjoy. Dogs are also welcome inside, and you can both enjoy snacks and beverages as long as you do not take them in the dog play area. There is a small fee, and you need shot records to visit.

Celebration Pointe Dog Park

At the Bass Pro Shop in Gainesville, about a half hour from downtown Ocala, there is a fantastic fun pup place at Celebration Pointe Shopping Center. Celebration Pointe Dog Park. You will find it in the back of the mall to the west of the Bass Pro Shop. The path in the western corner of the lot takes you right to the front of the park. It is not a large park by any means, but it has enough room for dogs to run around off the leash.

There is no separate section for small dogs, so keep that in mind if your little one has big dog anxiety. What it does have is some really cool agility equipment, including ramps, elevated hoops to jump through, and tunnels to run through. They even have water bowls that automatically refill when needed. The gazebo has several picnic tables for the pup parents to relax while the pups play, and there is a poop bag dispenser on site. 

Doggy Doo Run Run Dog Park

Doggie Doo Run Run is a special dog park like no other about 20 minutes southeast of downtown Ocala in Oxford. What makes this place so special? You do not have to pick up doggie poo! You just mark it with a flag (provided at the front entrance), and the staff cleans it up for you. No need to worry about bringing doggie bags here! There is a small fee of $3 for entering, but if you do not have it, you can still take your pup in to play. 

There are several different areas. One for small dogs, one for large dogs, and one for agility training. All sizes and breeds are allowed in the agility section, so everyone gets a chance to run through the obstacle course to run up and down ramps, through tunnels, and jump through hoops. They even have a doggie bath area in case your fur buddy gets dirty. 

Lake Panasoffkee Dog Park

Grab your dog, his leash, and some doggie bags, and head south from Ocala to Lake Panasoffkee Dog Park. It is just a short ride to reach Lake Panasoffkee Dog Park, where your cuddly canine can get off the leash and run around with the other pups. There are separate areas for small and large dogs so everyone can feel safe in their space while playing. Some little dogs are afraid of big ones and vice versa, so this is a plus. 

Lake Panasoffkee Dog Park has about an acre of pup play area with tunnels to zip through and fire hydrants to pee on. Most of the terrain is grass with a little dirt and some paved areas for seating and water bowls. There is a water spigot for filling bowls and the doggie swimming pools too. If you want to take a walk along the trails to see the lake, just put your pooch’s leash back on and bring some doggie bags. 

Leesburg Dog Park

Not far from Ocala to the southeast is Leesburg Dog Park at the beautiful Silver Lake. It is easy to find just off FL-441 by the airport and Lake Sumter College. With half an acre for off-leash fun, your pooch will be happy playing here, especially with separate sections for small and large fur babies. The ground cover is soft golden sand, just like at the beach, and the dogs love it. Just remember that it can be hot in the afternoon when the sun has been shining on it all day.

Pup parents can sit on the covered patio at the picnic tables or on one of the benches around the park perimeter. If you need to fill your pooch’s water bowl, they have water spigots, but it is a good idea to bring your own anyway. The same goes for doggie bags. They have dispensers but run out sometimes. And your cuddle buddy will love the fire hydrant too!

Letty Towles Dog Park

Less than five miles southeast of Ocala in the historic district, the Letty Towles Dog Park takes up over 4.5 acres of Jervey Gantt Park just for off-leash pooches to enjoy. You will find this spacious pup play area in the southwestern corner of the main park. With separate sections for large and small pups, all sizes and breeds can play safely. Each side has a double-gated entry, waste stations with poop bags, and water stations for hydration. 

Your canine compadre will love running through the concrete tunnels, digging in the sand, and splashing in the fire hydrant fountain and other water spouts on the splash pad. Pet parents love the shaded seating area and paved sidewalk as well as the beautiful scenery. Letty Towles Dog Park was named after a local dog trainer who founded the park through long hours and hard work. She still works in the area as a professional dog trainer. 

Ocala Love’s Travel Stop Dog Park

Love’s Travel Stop #363 in Ocala may not seem like the optimal place to take your pup to play, but they have a cozy little fenced dog park just for pooches to play off the leash. It is located just to the left of the entrance on the western side of the building. Love’s Travel Stop has stations all over the United States, and many of them have fenced dog areas for those travelers who bring their cuddle buddies on the road with them. 

It is not a large dog park and does not have a separate space for different-sized dogs, but it has what you and Fido need which is lots of room to run, several picnic tables, waste stations with doggie bags, and nearby lights for night owls. The park gets pretty busy, and there are only a couple of waste bag dispensers, so bring your own baggies just in case. 

Ocala National Forest

With more than 430,000 acres of recreational space, Ocala National Forest is the perfect getaway for nature lovers and dogs alike. There are more than 600 lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water for fishing, boating, swimming, and playing. Some of these include Wildcat Lake, Lake Weir, Orange Lake, Halfmoon Lake, and Lake George. There are also many miles of trails through the woods and along streams, most of them dog-friendly as long as your canine companion is on a leash. 

It is impossible to see all that Ocala National Forest has to offer in one day. Why not stay for a while at one of the 12+ campgrounds? Juniper Springs Campgrounds is just 18 miles east of downtown Ocala and is pup-popular with more than 125 sites to choose from. Always keep your fur baby on a leash no longer than six feet, and be aware that bears, alligators, and other wildlife are frequent visitors. 

Rainbow Springs State Park

It may not be as huge as the Ocala National Forest, but Rainbow Springs State Park has almost 1,500 acres of land, and that is nothing to scoff at. The park is just 22 miles southwest of Ocala downtown and is so full of natural beauty that you will be clicking photos the whole time you are there. And Fido is allowed to join you everywhere except indoors or at the swimming beach. But this does not mean he cannot swim. Just not in the designated swimming area. 

Just like Ocala National Forest, there is so much to do, it pays to reserve a campsite in advance. The river is a popular place to fish, but remember there are alligators here, so keep your cuddly buddy on a short leash. Other animals you may see include otters, turtles, hawks, and kites. The springs are simply stunning, with turquoise waters so clear you can see right to the bottom!

Ritterhoff Park 

Although there is no off-leash dog park at Ritterhoff Park, it is definitely worth a visit with your pupster on a leash. Not all dog parks in the Ocala area allow your pup to play without a leash, but that does not mean you cannot have fun together. Ritterhoff Park is just a couple of miles from downtown and has over 2.3 acres with a fishing pond, picnic areas with tables and grills, a playground for the little humans, and benches to sit and relax. 

Your fur baby can join you at the banks of the pond while you try to catch a whopper. Just make sure you have a Florida fishing license before you throw out that line! There are bait shops nearby, or you can use lures to attract the largemouth bass that live here. They also have bluegill, perch, sunfish, and catfish. Pack a lunch and some water. And do not forget to bring doggie bags. 

Scott Springs Park

Just three miles southwest of Ocala, you can reach the pup-popular Scott Springs Park in less than 10 minutes! Even though your furry friend has to stay on his leash the whole time you are there, you will find that there is plenty to do here. It is not as large as many of the other parks in the area, with just 22 acres, but it has all sorts of fun activities you and your pooch can enjoy. 

Bring some food, and you can have a barbecue in one of the many picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills. There are also several trails, including a bike trail and a fitness trail with exercise stations so you can get a total body workout. Bring the kids and let them enjoy the swings, slides, and other fun at the playground. As the name says, this park also has some gorgeous springs to see too! 

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park is about seven miles northeast of downtown Ocala in the quiet little village of Silver Springs. What makes this park famous is its glass-bottom boats that you can get a tour on. They have been around since the 1870s and give you some really amazing views of the underwater world. Unfortunately, they do not allow dogs. However, you can rent your own boat and take your pup out on the water with you. It may not have a glass bottom, but that’s okay. You can see right to the bottom here!

The park also has 59 campsites that are pup-friendly as long as they are leashed. It is important to keep your fur puppy on a short leash anyway because of all the wildlife that live here, including bears, bobcats, and alligators. Take Fido on a hike while you are there. The ¾-mile Creek Trail is easy and fun, and the Sinkhole Trail is about two miles with awesome views of the sinkhole. Remember to bring doggie bags. 

Squirrel Ridge Dog Park

In Gainesville, about 30 minutes north of downtown Ocala, Squirrel Ridge Dog Park is located in the Squirrel Ridge Community Park. The fully-fenced yard has two sections, with one just for small pups 30 pounds and under. This is perfect for those little pooches that have big dog anxiety. The large dog section is massive, with tons of running room for any size dog to stretch their legs. The ground is mostly soil and grass, with lots of benches in the shade. 

In addition to all that space to play, there are several sand pits for dogs that love to dig. Something your fur baby will love but you may not is an area in the large dog section that turns into a mud bath when it rains. But remember, your mud puppy really loves to roll in the mud, and it is so good for the skin! And there are water hoses to rinse him off before going back to the car.

Wildwood Bark Park

About 30 miles in the other direction (south), you will find the Bark Park of Wildwood in Millennium Park. In the middle of the 90-acre community park, the pooch paradise has about four acres of running space for both small and large dogs, each with their own space. It is right in the middle of the wooded area, with numerous benches in the shade for pet parents to chill and watch their cuddly canines play. 

There are lots of natural obstacles for your fur puppy to learn agility on and grass to roll around on. And, of course, there is some dirt he can dig in. But make sure you refill any holes he digs before you leave. Bring a ball to play fetch or frisbee to toss around so you can both have fun. Also, when you need to scoop some poop, the park has several doggie bag dispensers you can use. 

The Final Woof

Are you a fan of drag racing? If so, take your canine companion with you to Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. The dog-friendly antique car museum and drag strip will teach you whatever you want to know about racing. Since you are in horse country, why not visit the World Equestrian Center? Leashed pups are welcome to watch competitions, have a bite to eat, and get some souvenirs at the largest horse complex in the country. After all the daytime fun, you and your fur puppy can relax and enjoy a movie together at the Ocala Drive-In. They even sell dog treats at the concession stand! Do not forget your doggie bags when visiting any of these places or wherever you and Fido go. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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