Holly, Michigan is a quiet community of nearly 7,000, located a mere 18 miles south of Downtown Flint. With all the creature comforts a city dog could want, Holly is also the gateway to parks and nature preserves with enough outdoor adventure to keep your furry family in tip-top shape. The local veterinary hospital is there to patch up any misadventures, and two other veterinary practices are in Fenton, the next town over.
It’s a quick trip into Flint for the many dog-friendly restaurants and pet supply stores. If you need a pit-stop along the way, the Grand Blanc Dog Park is just 10 miles north of Holly and provides a small fenced off-leash play area for a small membership fee. Or, hike the on-leash Bicentennial Park Path at adjacent Creasey Bicentennial Park.Holly is a park lover’s paradise. The city is home to both the 1,400-acre Seven Lake States Park on its northwest corner as well as the 640-acre Rose Oaks County Park at the town’s southern edge. Seven Lakes has 6 miles of hiking and walking trails with a wide range of difficulty levels, which are perfect for snowshoes, cross-country skis, and sled-dog booties in winter. As its name implies, the park also has boating and swimming for cooling off during the summer. Rose Oaks County Park has two loop trails that total 4 miles of hiking. Rose Oaks is popular with equestrians. Since your Great Dane might not be the biggest guy on the trail, keep a strong hand on that leash and an eye out for horse droppings.
Fenton, Michigan is just next door to Holly and home to the area’s dog park. Small and large dogs get their own off-leash play areas at the Thompson Road Regional Dog Park, just north of town. Warm up at Biggby Coffee, where your barista will top a whipped-cream pup-cup with a Milk Bone garnish, or fuel up on the dog-friendly patio at Beale St. Smokehouse BBQ. You’ll both earn the calories at the Dauner Mountain Nature Preserve. The ambitious 1.5-mile Blue Trail winds through forests and wetlands around the park’s perimeter. For those hiking on shorter legs, the less-challenging Yellow Loop Trail begins and ends near the parking lot.
Six miles west of Holly, Groveland Township is the gateway to the Holly Recreation Area. At almost 8,000 acres, this vast expanse of woods, lakes, and meadow is just begging for your fur family to come explore. There are 35 miles of trails that range in difficulty from expert to lap-dog. The recreation area also offers your dog-paddlers both boat docks and a pet-friendly swimming area at Heron Beach. (Leashes are required and a waste disposal station is provided.) With a disc golf course and camping on site, too, you might decide to stay awhile — but don’t forget that Groveland Oaks County Park is right next door. You and Spot can rent a rowboat to explore Stewart Lake, or just grab a hot dog at the concession stand and watch your neighbors wipe out at the skate park.
Fifteen miles southeast of Holly are the Indian Springs Metropark and Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area, two adjoining green spaces where your pups can frolic. Downhill dog sledding, anyone? The Indian Springs Metropark has a sledding hill in the Medowlark Picnic Area, plus over 12 miles of hiking trails to explore on-leash. The Pontiac Lake Recreation Area sprawls over 3,475 acres with plenty of quiet wilderness available, but sensitive doggos might want to steer far from the noisy rifle range. Fetch fanatics might also avoid the radio-controlled aircraft hobbyist field (in case they aren't able to resist the temptation). The recreation area has miles of hiking trails to sniff out, including a 9-mile loop that runs the perimeter of the park and features wildlife viewing areas.
The Eastside neighborhood of Flint takes you into the heart of the city fur an urban adventure just 18 miles from Holly. Eastside is a culturally diverse and vibrant neighborhood just south of the Flint River. It is true that Flint's economic troubles in recent years have affected the city's crime rates. However, Eastside’s 57-acre Kearsley Park is a historic part of Flint’s local culture and was the focus of a recent renovation. If your pup has a taste for theater, you might catch some free summer Shakespeare in the Park from the Kearsley Park Players, or enjoy the Fall Festival a few months later. The park has walking paths and meadows in addition to the amphitheater. You can also follow Gilkey Creek down to Dayton Park along the Flint River — a grassy field perfect for a game of fetch awaits.
The metro-Flint community of Davison is just south of the Genesee Recreation Area, 21 miles north of Holly. Genesee Recreation Area has 2.5 miles of hiking trails plus acres of forest and meadow to explore, as well as dog-friendly lake access for summertime swimming. The park’s historic Crossroads Village gets a spectacular array of holiday lighting each winter: just the place for an evening stroll when the sun goes down early. For off-leash play, though, try the Davison Area Dog Park. With four separate fenced areas, the park offers small-dog play, unrestricted play, and two smaller areas for anxious pups. For an easy picnic, grab a pie at the walk-up window at Baby Jake’s Pizza in Davison.