Are you planning to hit the trails on your upcoming vacation and want to bring your pup along? Or, perhaps you’re putting together the ultimate day-trip hiking excursion with your dog and want to make sure you’re adequately prepared. Either way, the first step is choosing some dog-friendly hiking trails that are a good match for both you and your canine companion.
10 Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails in the United States
There are actually numerous parks throughout the country that welcome dogs, but you can’t assume that all trails are dog-friendly. Therefore, no matter where you’re heading, check their stance on dogs first. You certainly don’t want to plan an exciting adventure, only to arrive at the trail and face a stiff fine (or glares from other hikers) when you show up with your pup.
Here are 10 dog-friendly trails that you and your pal can enjoy, ranging from beginner leisure trails to more challenging treks.
This 3.5-mile trail has lots of ups and downs but overall offers a relatively leisurely hike for you and your leashed pup. The beautiful canopy of trees helps keep things cool, and if you go during the week, it will likely be less crowded.
If you're looking for an easy but scenic hike for you and your dog, this roughly one-mile loop trail offers stunning views of Yosemite Falls in the spring. The trail is open year-round, but note that it can get a bit icy in the winter. Also, you'll need to keep your furry friend on a leash and pay a fee to enter Yosemite National Park.
Sometimes, you don't have to be in the middle of a forest to enjoy a leisurely hike. This urban trail in Lake Highland Park offers just under five miles of a paved path ideal for hiking, biking, jogging, and more. There’s also a beautiful lake and numerous picnic spots along the route. Dogs must be on a leash.
When you're ready to tackle a more challenging, but not too difficult hike with your pooch, this 3.6-mile trail is one of the most popular in the state. You'll see incredible views of the Delaware Water Gap, and there are some significant climbing spots. Most hikers recommend going up the Red Dot Trail and down the Blue Dot as the more manageable option.
Beautiful and breathtaking but not for the beginner hiker, so opt for this 9-mile loop trail if you and your canine companion are seasoned hikers looking for a challenge. You can opt to go either way, but most visitors say going counterclockwise is a bit easier on your knees. Dogs are welcome on a leash, and the trail is inside Shenandoah National Park, which does have an entrance fee.
You can enjoy this 1.2-mile out-and-back trail with your dog as long as you keep them on a leash. With unique rock formations and awe-inspiring scenery, this trail is a favorite for many hikers. If you plan to go to the top of Cathedral Rock, prepare for some steep spots where it can become almost vertical.
Austin is a dog-friendly town, so it makes sense to find several trails to enjoy with Fido. This pleasant and easy 1.8-mile hike offers plenty of trees, beautiful blooms, and it’s a good choice if you like to run with your pup (on leash).
Whether you're looking for a challenging backpacking adventure or a camping excursion over a few days, this difficult trail offers 25.7 miles of breathtaking scenery. However, even seasoned hikers can find it challenging, so ensure you and your dog are up for the task. Many hikers opt to go counter-clockwise and toward the end of summer.
You might not think of a forest when you think of New Orleans, but believe it or not, that's exactly what you'll find, located inside the magnificent City Park. The 60-acre forest is a practice in conservation that features multiple ecosystems and a 1.1-mile trail that takes you through the woods, along a lake, and more. Dogs are supposed to be kept on a leash, although be aware some hikers do let their dogs off-leash, so ensure to keep your pal with you.
This paved 1.8-mile in-and-out trail located in the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area is wheelchair accessible and open year-round. You'll see a waterfall and enjoy views of the river, with benches along the way and ending at an observation deck.
Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
Always practice the B.A.R.K Rule of the National Park Service. This rule makes it easy to remember the proper etiquette when exploring the trails with your pooch.
B - Bag Your Pet’s Waste
A - Always Leash Your Pet
R - Respect Wildlife
K - Know Where You Can Go
It’s also essential to ensure your dog knows the basics, at least when it comes to obedience and simple commands like sit, stay, and come. It’s also vital to train your dog to walk appropriately on a leash and help condition them by going on increasingly longer walks during the weeks leading up to your hiking excursion. If you plan on trail running, then make sure your dog can run next to you on the leash as well.
Making Sure Your Dog Is Healthy Enough for a Hike
Before assuming your dog can handle a hike, check with your vet if you’re planning a lengthy trip or difficult trail. Some dog breeds are better suited for hiking than others, like Siberian Huskies and Portuguese Water Dogs. Plus, you should avoid bringing older dogs and puppies on long or strenuous hikes. If you don’t feel your pup is up for the challenge of a strenuous hike, opt for an easy, short trail (or a portion of a trail) that you can tackle in about 15 to 20 minutes.
If your hiking adventure will take you on an extended hike, or you’ll be hiking for multiple days, it’s worth making sure your pup is up for the task first. It’s sort of like those exercise program disclaimers you see for people; you know the ones – consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program or routine.
What to Bring on Your Hike with Your Dog
If your dog does get the go-ahead to join you on your hike, ensure you keep your pal healthy by using flea and tick prevention and bringing along plenty of fresh water. These are just a few examples of what you should pack in your doggy hiking kit; here’s a handy packing list for you:
Food and Drink
- A collapsible water dish and plenty of fresh water is a must. Not only does it help your pup from getting overheated, but it also discourages your dog from drinking from streams or puddles of standing water. These types of things can hold nasty bacteria, like Leptospirosis, and other hazards like parasites.
- Ensure you bring some healthy dog-friendly snacks (and dog food if you’re planning a long hike) for your pup to enjoy and maintain their energy.
Health and Safety
- Ensure your dog has on a collar with current ID tags. It’s also a good idea to consider microchipping your pet if you haven’t already done so.
- Even if the trail you’re hiking allows dogs off-leash, the safest thing is to keep your pup on a 6-foot leash during your hikes.
- Don’t forget the poop bags, so you can keep the trail clean for other hikers.
- When going on a hike, you might have a first-aid kit for yourself, but it’s also critical to pack one for your pooch as well. It should have some antiseptic wipes, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, rubber gloves, and copies of your pup’s updated medical records, too. It should also contain any medications your pup takes regularly. You can put together your own dog first-aid kit or purchase one.
- If you are crossing rough terrain, you might also want to consider dog booties to protect your pal’s paws. This can also be a good idea for overly hot or cold ground.
- Bring along a pet-friendly insect repellant as well, plus consider putting your dog on regular flea and tick prevention if they aren’t already.
Now, when you’re ready to hit the trail, your best pal will be prepared too. Hiking together with your dog can be a great way to bond and a wonderful experience. But, it’s always essential to be prepared and take the proper steps to ensure everyone stays healthy and happy during the adventure. For more resources and tips on how to care for your pets, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find there’s always something new to learn about your furry family members.