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Best Dog Walk

Rillito River Park

READERS' PICK: After a long day it's a safe bet Fido will be waiting by the door, leash in mouth, ready for an outdoor excursion. Therein lies the challenge...where do canine-lovers take their best friends for a little fresh air and exercise? Although there's that occasional pooch who enjoys "taking on" an auto or two, most mutts (not to mention their owners) find it difficult to relax when surrounded by honking horns and exhaust. In a town that offers few alternatives, the Rillito River Park provides a serene, protected escape. Head west from Campbell Avenue along the Rillito and walk to your little heart's content (all the way to La Cholla Boulevard, if you're so inclined). No need to worry about any vehicular close encounters along this scenic, tree-lined path (although it's a good idea to keep an eye out for trail-blazing roller bladers). Painted foot prints remind you to stay to the left to avoid colliding with bikes, strollers and skaters, who somehow manage to co-exist peacefully. Enjoy a picturesque walk surrounded by desert landscape, with the convenience of a paved pathway to protect your precious pooch's paws from stickers or cactus. (For a more serene stroll, saunter along the equestrian south-bank dirt trail, and avoid wheels of any type). Wander along the trail at sunset to hear the birds chirping and lizards rustling in the surrounding brush. Playful ground squirrels and bunnies chase one another along the pathway. Water fountains can be found at each intersection, so don't forget to bring along a dish for your dehydrated doggie. Most of all, don't forget your portable pooper-scooper--no baggies provided here.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: At the risk of spoiling what may be a best-kept secret, Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Blvd., is one of the most dog-friendly pockets in the city. The best place in the park is the gully on the northeast border (along Treat Avenue), where dog owners collectively throw caution to the wind and unleash their charges in a wonderfully chaotic celebration of canine energy. We know and respect the rights of the un-dogged, which is why Himmel is such a great place: Everyone here in this tiny corner of the universe accepts the risks of having their dog toys usurped, getting slobbered on, barked at, overrun or ignored. Here, dogs rule! Friendly dogs, that is, which all of the dogs here seem to be. There's something about a multitude of dogs at play that makes their owners act more civilized. It's a godsend for those of us who lack the energy after a hard day at the office to properly play with our four-legged pals.

Case History

1998 Winner: Rillito River Park
1997 Winner: Rillito River Park
1995 Winner: Rillito Wash

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