If you thought Young’s Jersey Dairy was a cool place for you to visit while trialing at Champions Center, your fur pets will thank you for taking them to Prairie Oaks MetroPark. Here they can swim and play along a dog beach … unleashed! Located at 2755 Amity Road in Hilliard, OH, it’s about a 30 minute drive from Champions Center. But oh so worth it!
Confusing to find the dog beach section; bit of a hike too
Darby Bend Lakes (note plural) consists of 3 smaller lakes that sprawl along the Darby Lakes entrance road to the MetroPark. There are no signs as to where the dog beach might be at the entrance or at any of the three parking areas. And the truth is, it is roughly the same distance from each of the parking areas to get to the dog beach!
After entering the park, the beach is technically along the first lake on the right side of the road . However, it is at the end of the lake, and to get there, you have to walk across some grass and go over a bridge. That bridge is over a stream connecting two lakes. Once across the bridge, keep walking and not too far down you’ll finally see a sign for the dog beach on your right. It is not fenced in, so if you have a dog that won’t stay around, the leash will have to stay on.
The beach is course gravel and sand, with some grass attempting to grow. The lake also seems to get deep pretty quickly and the water is murky as a result. It still seemed quite clean though. There’s a floating dock that goes out a short ways into the lake, and a small shelter with a bench underneath for a little shade.
Overall my dogs absolutely loved this place. We’d been travelling and they hadn’t had a chance to full out run for several days. So they not only enjoyed the water on such a hot day, but also tore up and down the beach several times. Since it was a weekday when we went and a storm was fast approaching, there weren’t many other dogs there. But they really enjoyed the dogs and handlers that chanced it along with us!
Trails, trails and more trails
The weather didn’t permit us to explore the park, but I picked up a brochure and found no less than eight trails in the park. They range in distance from .7 miles to over 5 miles long, and in challenge levels from easy to difficult.
If hiking isn’t your thing, the park also offers picnic areas, fishing and non-motorized boating. There’s also a restroom with flush toilets and an outdoor faucet for cleaning off the lake water!
Nature abounds at Prairie Oaks MetroPark
The Darby Watershed is nationally recognized for is ecological diversity, and is home to nearly 100 species of fish and 44 species of mussels. Wildlife includes numerous types of birds, white-tailed deer, turkey, and more.
There are three other entrances to the 2,203 acre Prairie Oaks MetroPark, in addition to the Darby Bend Lakes entrance noted above:
- Sycamore Planes entrance – has a nice trail that loops over the plains and then winds into the woodlands along Big Darby Creek
- Main park entrance – includes two picnic areas, trailhead to the bridle trail, a picnic shelter, and restrooms
- Beaver Lake – a small lake for boating and fishing, and a designated “natural” play area where one can wander off trail, climb a tree, dig in the dirt, or just have fun playing outdoors
So if you or anyone in your party is interested in fishing or wildlife-watching during the time you attend the CPE nationals or take your champion agility dog to the beach, you now know the place to go.