Leslie, Michigan is a friendly town of around 2,000 dog-loving souls within the larger city of Leslie Township — and all within easy reach of the Lansing suburbs. The deep Michigan woods are also right at your doorstep. With some of Michigan’s most beautiful parks and recreation areas less than an hour away, Leslie will keep all your trail-dogs happy.
This safe community is begging for you to explore on foot. The wide sidewalks will lead you north through a picturesque downtown business district; stop to say hi to your friends at the veterinary hospital right on Main Street. Just north of downtown is Russell Park, so maybe pack a sandwich or grab a pie to-go at Marco’s Pizza nearby: you and your furry friends might decide to stay awhile. After all, Russell Park has sports fields on one side of the parking lot, and walking paths, lawns, and a tree-covered picnic area on the other.
When it’s time to get out of town, though, Lansing is 26 miles north of Leslie and offers the creature comforts your discerning pups want. With 3 dog parks and more than 30 dog-friendly restaurants in Lansing, it’s impossible not to have fun. We especially recommend the off-leash Soldan Dog Park, a 12-acre puppy paradise with trails and a swimming pond. If trails are what your pups like, you can follow the Lansing River Trail all the way through the city, traversing parks and wetlands and following old railroad tracks through the urban jungle.
Just 6 miles from Leslie in the community of Pleasant Lake — practically down the street — you’ll find the 88-acre Meridian-Baseline Historic State Park. The monuments marking the park’s significance for the history of surveying are more likely to interest you than your pups. More importantly, the park has well-marked trails including a lovely bridge over the creek and boardwalk through wild wetlands. If all that walking gets you in the mood for a taste of the good life, head south over the city limits to Sandhill Crane Vineyard in Jackson. Your pups can join you for a wine tasting or a meal on the vineyard’s wrap-around porch at the dog-friendly outdoor tables.
If you don’t feel like going all the way to Lansing, check out the county seat of Mason, Michigan, just 10 miles north of Leslie. This town was once intended to be the state capital before Lansing stole the honor — those dogs! — but that means Mason retains its small-town charm. The city also has 91 acres of parks. In winter, hit the toboggan hill at Hayes Park and see if your sled dog has a downhill game. Maple Grove Park is the wildest, perfect for a nature stroll along Sycamore Creek, and the Hayhoe Riverwalk follows the creek for 2.5 miles. And, on the edge of town, Rayner Park sprawls over 60 acres, with disc golf, nature trails, and three ponds for all your frolicking needs.
South of the I-96 perimeter in metro-Lansing, Holt and Delhi Charter Township are 16 miles from Leslie with just enough urban hustle for a day out. Grab a cappuccino for you and a creamy pup-cup (with milk bone garnish!) for Fido at Biggby Coffee in the Holt neighborhood, and then head over to the 45-acre Valhalla Park for a splash in the lake or a stroll through the woods. You can follow the Valhalla Trail — one of Delhi Charter Township’s four dog-friendly paved paths — all the way to the Holt Road Trailhead Park, then catch the “enhanced sidewalk” right through downtown.
On 20,000 acres about 25 miles southeast of Leslie, the Waterloo State Recreation Area has plenty to satisfy your demanding doggos, even if your small dog has a Napoleon complex. The recreation area offers 47 miles of trails for you and your on-leash buddies to explore, including interpretive nature trails and cross-country ski trails that are perfect if you have any sled dogs in your pack. There are 11 lakes to splash in, plus canoe rentals if you want to explore the water while staying dry. Do be aware that the recreation area allows hunting and equestrian sports, so those with skittish pups should keep a firm grip on the leash at all times.
The massive Pinckney Recreation Area is only 30 miles from Leslie, near the town of Pinckney. You can hike the 40 miles of mixed-use trails, or maybe rent a boat and check out the string of excellent fishing lakes on a sunny day. With winter camping and skiing, there’s just as much to do on a snow day, too. Or, just spend a lazy day on the fishing pier. When your pups are all parked-out, refuel with a beer and a burger at one of the many outdoor tables at the Hell Hole Bar in Pinckney: it’s dog-friendly and a lot nicer than it sounds.