Hiking with dogs is a rewarding experience, but it's not without its own set of challenges not the least of which is finding dog-friendly hiking trails that engage your pup from start to finish. Read on for a list of twenty five locations across the United States where you and your best friend can enjoy a scenic hike together. But first, here are some tips for making your outing a safe and fun experience for him.
Before the Hike
Hiking can be strenuous exercise, even for your dog, so it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian before lacing (and leashing) up. Talk to your vet about how much physical activity your hiking buddy can handle for his age and breed, and how many extra calories you should plan to feed him each day of the hike to replenish his energy. Be sure all of his vaccinations and other pest prevention treatments are up to date, too, as he can pick up dangerous protozoa from untreated water or catch fleas and ticks from grasses and other greenery on the trail.
If your dog isn't used to hiking, ease him into it by gradually increasing the length of his walks. Get him used to carrying a dog hiking pack by first letting him wear it around the house and yard, gradually adding weight as you take him on more lengthy walks. REI suggests most dogs in good physical condition can carry up to one-third of their body weight, but again, you should check with your vet to see what's suitable for your own buddy.
Don't just plan for your own accidents or health issues; look over your pet insurance policy so you'll know what's covered for him, or consider purchasing a plan if you haven't already. Look up the nearest emergency vet to where you'll be hiking and keep their contact info handy, and you should study up on doggy first aid for on-the-spot treatment. You might even take a class, offered by many large retail pet store chains.
You can purchase a ready-made first-aid kit or assemble one yourself from the care items you have at home. The Clymb recommends assembling a doggy kit that includes the following:
- Lights and/or bells. Attach these to your pup's collar to make him easier to find if he becomes separated from you.
- A GPS tracker. Attach this to his collar as well to prevent him, or the both of you from getting lost.
- A dog life vest. This is a must if you know you'll be wading across rivers or streams.
- A harness with a handle. This will make it easier for you to help him on difficult terrain or steep climbs.
- Gauze and heavy duty bandages. Heavy duty bandages will last longer for your pooch on the trail.
- Styptic swabs. These neat swabs help stop bleeding and seal up small nicks and cuts.
- Rubber gloves. Rubber gloves make great impromptu booties if your dog cuts his foot.
During the Hike
While hiking with dogs, your first priority should be your dog's safety right alongside that of other hikers on the trail. Although some dog-friendly hiking trails don't require your canine to be on a leash, it's best to keep him on a short one six feet or less& unless you can maintain firm control of him otherwise. For hands-free hiking, use a carabiner to clip his leash to your belt or backpack and keep him from wandering too far away from a trail you may not already be familiar with.
Supplies to Bring With You
Many of the supplies you bring will depend on the weather conditions typical to the area, but it's important to plan ahead for any eventuality. In general, remember to bring the following supplies:
- Food and water
- Collapsible dishes
- Canine sunscreen
- Dog boots
- Pliers and/or tweezers
- First-aid kit
First and foremost, he'll need more food and water than he typically consumes at home, but how much more depends both on the hike and your companion. Check with his vet to determine the right amount, and be sure to pack collapsible dishes for him, too.
You may opt to fit him with a pack that has a built-in hydration system; if not, be sure to pack plenty of extra water in your bag. Even if you're sure to find water on the trail, pack a water filter or water purification solution to protect your dog from contracting giardia, which the VCA Hospitals explain can contaminate natural water supplies.
Some vets recommend adding oral electrolytes to the water itself for replenishing electrolytes after a strenuous hike. Again, ask your vet if this is right (and how much) for your dog.
Protect your dog's nose, ears, and other thin coats of fur from sunburn with canine sunscreen. And as much as your dog might not like wearing them, dog boots will protect his tender paws from everything from hot surfaces, to snow, to rough and rocky terrain. For all other areas of exposed skin, pliers and tweezers should be on hand for pulling out thorns, burrs, or splinters he may pick up on the trail.
Depending on the weather and the length of the hike, and whether you'll be camping overnight, you may also want to bring a sleep pad or child-sized sleeping bag to make sure he is comfortable overnight, as well as a vest or coat to keep him warm. If it's hot and humid, keep in mind dogs don't sweat through their pores as easily as you do. Bring a cooling vest to help him stay comfortable.
Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails
Ready to go? Here are twenty-five dog-friendly hiking trails across the US where you're welcome to bring your best buddy along.
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, offers a leisurely stroll for you and your pup through more than 250 acres of landscaped grounds and gardens. Dogs are welcome to explore the grounds and are accepted at a number of associated restaurants.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona welcomes leashed dogs on hiking trails above the rim on the South Rim, as well as at various campgrounds within the park. Trails offer varying degrees of length and difficulty, and a kennel is available at the South Rim for those who want to venture below the rim on their own.
The Cascades at Lake Mohigan in Fairfield, Connecticut, offer a variety of easy to moderate recreation trails that offer your wet-nosed pal a chance to wet his paws in either the lake or a nearby creek and waterfall. Receptacles are stationed throughout the park for easy doggy cleanup.
Bring your dog to the Cabrillo Tide Pools Trail in San Diego, California, for an easy half-mile hike through Cabrillo National Monument. Note that this is the only part of the park where he's allowed, and he'll need to remain on-leash while there.
Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona, welcomes leashed dogs, as long as they stay out of the swimming areas. Although your dog can't splash or enjoy the slippery rock slides, he can still enjoy a fun, easy trot through the surrounding trails.
Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles, California, offers a large, ninety-acre off-leash dog park that's surrounded by a variety of hiking trails, with convenient baggie stations located throughout the park for easy cleanup.
Less than thirty minutes away from the strip in Las Vegas, you'll find the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which features a variety of hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Dogs are allowed both on the trails and in camping and picnic areas as long as they remain on a leash. The heat in the Canyon can be extreme, so be sure to pack plenty of water for both of you.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, leashed dogs are welcome on both the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail, as well as in campgrounds and nearby picnic areas. The Gatlinburg Trail is a 1.9-mile hike from the Sugarland Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The Oconaluftee River Trail is a bit easier, stretching 1.5 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the edge of Cherokee, North Carolina.
Sequoyah State Park, located on the shores of Fort Gibson Lake in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, features a variety of easy-to-moderate hiking trails ranging from a quarter-mile to 1.5 miles in length. Trails meander through the woods overlooking the lake and are open to both foot traffic and mountain bikes. Dogs are welcome, but should be kept on a leash.
Seward Park in Seattle, Washington, welcomes leashed dogs to explore miles of hiking trails through old growth forest and along the waterfront. Dogs will love stopping for a break along the beach for a romp in the waves.
Grand View Point Trail, located at Big Bear Lake, California, offers a six-mile hike over moderately easy terrain in San Bernardino National Forest. With your dog you can expect this to be about a three-hour hike.
Cromwell Valley Park in Baltimore, Maryland, offers 380 acres of wildlife habitat and a variety of ecosystems that you can explore along any of seven easy, dog-friendly hiking trails throughout the park. Your dog should be kept on-leash in all areas of the park.
Walnut Creek Park in Austin, Texas, offers fifteen miles of hiking and biking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Trails wind over and through hills that offer a bit of a challenge. Your dog should be kept on-leash while on the trails, but the park features a large area where dogs can run off-leash to their hearts' content.
Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, Colorado, features a gorgeous series of waterfalls cascading down a 1,400-foot canyon. Dogs are welcome to explore trails above the falls that are teaming with wildlife. The trails themselves offer an easy hike, but getting to them is a different story; you and he will climb a steep, slippery staircase up the side of the canyon. If he's too big to be carried, a harness might help to get him up the stairs with you.
Also located in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods offers an easy stroll along trails that wind around gravity-defying red rock formations. Leashed dogs are welcome to explore, and can also join you on the terrace for a meal at the Cafe at the Garden.
Kenton, Oklahoma is home to Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve, which features hiking across black lava rock mesas and spectacular views of Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. Expect about a four-hour hike from the parking lot to the top of the Black Mesa. Your pup is welcome on the trails and the nearby camping areas.
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,190-mile footpath through the Appalachian Mountains that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Dogs are allowed everywhere along the trail except in three areas: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina; the Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in Bear Mountain State Park, New York; and Baxter State Park in Maine. Otherwise, leash laws vary from state to state, but for your pup's safety, keep him on-leash as much as you can while on the trail.
Sandy, Utah is home to Dimple Dell, a natural ravine that runs east from Sandy into the mountains. Leashed dogs are welcome on its variety of hiking trails that cross the ravine. Traversing the ravine itself can be difficult, but the trails still offer an easy trek. During spring and early summer the ravine fills up with rushing, icy-cold water, so if hiking during this season, you should both wear life vests.
The Dallas Nature Center in Dallas, Texas, welcomes leashed pets on a variety of hiking trails that wind through the park. Uneven terrain offers a bit of a challenge to hikers and their dogs, and the park features a small lake where your dog will enjoy splashing and cooling off.
Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a large nature park that features a number of well-maintained, easy-to-moderate hiking trails. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails, and the park offers an adjacent off-leash dog park.
Princeton, New Jersey's Mountain Lakes Open Space Area offers gorgeous views and meandering trails that offer about 1.5 hours of easy hiking. The footpaths surround a small lake where your pup can go for a swim and cool off.
The Walt Whitman Trail in Huntington, New York, offers a moderately easy hike over 4.25 miles of mostly flat terrain, not including the 401-foot climb up Jayne's Hill. This hike is unique in that your dog will share the path with horses, and should therefore be kept on-leash so he doesn't spook them or get too close. And although he is welcome on the trails, your four-legged hiking partner is not allowed in the designated picnic areas.
More dedicated hikers in Portland, Oregon, can take their dogs to Forest Park Wildwood Trail, a moderately easy thirty-mile hike. Expect to take about two days to complete the trail, and plan to keep your dog on a leash both while hiking and camping.
Emerald View Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, features about ten miles of dog-friendly hiking trails throughout green spaces in downtown Pittsburgh, with plans to eventually expand to over twenty miles of trails. This is an easy hike for you and your pup and a great place to experience nature in the middle of the bustling city.
The Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve in Savage, Minnesota, offers a short but vigorous hike over rugged terrain. If he's in good shape, your pup is sure to love exploring this wildlife habitat that offers a look at a number of rare bird species.
Don't see a dog friendly hiking trail near you? Check out nearby national forests, state parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and lands maintained by either the Bureau of Land Management or the Army Corp of Engineers for more dog friendly hiking trail options. With plenty of preparation and a healthy dose of common sense, you and your dog should have a wonderful time exploring nature and enjoying the great outdoors together.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is fiction author and freelance writer and editor living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She writes frequently about pets and pet health in her home office, where she is assisted by a lapful of furbabies.