You can enjoy your hike with your dog on a leash in most places in the National Park. Moreover, we have even created some places where your dog can run free. In 8 dog walking zones, the leash can be taken off and your dog can run free: these are fenced zones near the marked walking loops, nice and easy.
Below you will find a summary and a clear map of where your dog is allowed to run free. In addition, there are 2 red zones where leashed are not allowed because of the cattle and horses. And of course, your dog is not allowed to swim in our lakes in order not to damage fauna and flora. Thank you for your understanding.
WHERE IS MY DOG ALLOWED TO RUN FREE?
*Walking area Mechelse Heide
•Access route Mechelse Heide/Salamander >> green loop (3.5 km), blue loop (5.3 km) red loop (7.2 km) >> between walking route 41 and 42.
•Access gate Mechelse Heide/Ven onder de berg >> green loop (3.5 km), blue loop (5.3 km) red loop (7.2 km) >> between walking points 45 and 46
•Kikbeek boarding point >> between walking points 52 and 53 (at the car park, no loop)
*Hiking area Pietersheim
•Boarding point La Butte aux Bois >> green loop 4.3 km >> between walking points 63 and 64
*Bergerven walking area
•Boarding point Chapel of the Resistance, Brugstraat z.n. 3650 Dilsen-Stokkem >> green loop (2.7 km), blue loop (7 km), orange loop (9.8 km), yellow loop (4.7 km) >> at the car park
*Hiking area Oudsberg
•Boarding point Duinengordel (Opglabbeek cemetery)>> green loop (4.2 km) >> between walking point 195-196
•Commanderij boarding point >> blue loop (4.1 km), yellow loop (10.5 km), red loop (14 km) >> between walking points 202 and 203
*Hiking area Donderslag
•Boarding point Donderslagweg, 3670 Oudsbergen >> green loop (5.1 km) - blue loop (8.5 km) - red loop (14 km) >> between walking point 224 and 225
The dog-walking areas are also indicated on the maps of the hiking areas Mechelse Heide and Pietersheim.
WHERE IS MY DOG NOT ALLOWED?
Some areas are grazed by horses and cattle. No dogs are allowed here, not even on a leash! (Red zones on the map)
•Mechelse Heide >> boarding point Camping Kikmolen: green and blue walk
•Hiking area Bergerven >> entry point Ketelstraat and Chapel of the Resistance: between walking switch 158 and 164 (rough boot path)
By now, everybody knows that dogs must be kept on a leash in the National Park, but you will still occasionally see walkers with a dog running loose. Do not hesitate to speak to these people, sometimes it is unconscious or an oblivion, and in this way you will avoid a fine of 80€ and you will help nature a little.
Three reasons to have your dog on a leash at all times:
- To protect nature: Every year, several (rare) animals die because they are bitten to death by a stray dog. Nature is then one big maternity hospital. A large part of life in nature takes place low to the ground. There you find breeding birds, small mammals, pheasants... and fawn. During their first days of life, they lie quietly in the grass or between leaves and bushes in the forest. Dogs sniffing around and going off trail can startle them into silence. Some animals literally run out of fear, get hurt or even killed. The scent trail that a dog leaves behind makes animals anxious, so that a parent animal does not return (in time) to the young animal.
The National Park is there in the first place to protect nature, and in the second place as a recreational area for people. If stray dogs cause too much damage, the areas where humans and dogs are allowed to roam will be drastically reduced. So please help and prevent dogs running loose, so that we can all continue to enjoy the beauty of nature.
- Out of respect for other visitors: Everyone wants to enjoy nature, with or without a dog. Dog owners often assume that their dogs are sweet and loyal and pose no danger or threat. This may be true in many cases, but an animal is never 100% predictable. A dog can be startled and react unexpectedly. Other visitors usually do not appreciate being jumped on or touched by a (wet or dirty) dog. For children, a strange dog is often quite frightening. Also walkers, joggers and cyclists don't appreciate it when a loose dog uninvitedly approaches or follows them. So help ensure the welfare of all nature visitors by keeping your dog on a leash. Each year, several biting incidents involving joggers and walkers are reported, caused by dogs running loose and reacting unpredictably.
To protect your dog: Did you know that a dog running loose is in danger himself? Not only other dogs, but also wild boars or startled horses can injure your four-legged friend. Roads that run along the edge of the forest are also dangerous if your dog runs too far away. An accident happens quickly. Moreover, dogs running free and enjoying nature are more susceptible to diseases and strange creatures, such as ticks.
For many hikers, nature is the ideal place to take the dog for a walk. There is nothing nicer than a brisk walk with your four-legged friend. This keeps both owner and dog in top condition. Dogs are welcome in nature, but only on a leash. Staf Coppens explains why in detail below! Click on the image to see the short film. #dogs-on-a-leash