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Can You Take a Dog Hiking?

A dog walks along a cliff with two hikers wearing backpacks in the mountains

Hiking with your canine is one of life’s greatest joys. Most dogs love hiking in the great outdoors and would love nothing more than to explore it with their favorite human.

However, if you take your dog out hiking, you will want to be sure you are adequately prepared and that you canine is in good hiking condition before hitting the trails. Not only does your dog need to be healthy enough to handle the hike, but they also need to know some basic training to keep them safe.

It is often surprising to find out that dogs are not allowed on all hiking trails; I know it was to me. When I think of hiking and camping, I think of it as a perfect way to spend time with my dogs, doing something we all love. But after doing some research, I found out that not all parks and trails allow dogs, especially national parks, though there are a few exceptions.

The 7 Best Hiking Locations to Take Your Dog 

The Appalachian Trail - Georgia through Maine

The Appalachian Trail (aka A.T.) is 2,180 miles long and runs through fourteen states from Georgia to Maine and is one of the most beautiful trails in the US.

The A.T. has a wide range of trails from extraordinarily rocky and challenging to easier day hikes, so regardless of hiking skill, the A.T. is very accommodating. Though much of the 2,180 miles is dog friendly, there are a few sections that may not be safe for dogs and three areas that do not allow dogs:

  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Bear Mountain State Park Trailside Museum and Zoo
  • Baxter State Park

Runyon Canyon - California

Located in Los Angeles, Runyon Canyon is the perfect outdoor getaway for those in the LA area. It is home to one of the largest off-leash dog parks in the country, spanning 90-acres. Plus, it has three primary hiking trails of varying difficulty, all of which are dog friendly but require a leash outside of the dog park.

Red Rock Canyon - Nevada

Just 17 miles west of Las Vegas, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area receives more than 2 million visitors every year. Red Rock Canyon is a multiuse area with 26 marked trails. The park is open to camping, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and biking. The conservation area allows dogs, but they must be kept on a leash.

Acadia National Park - Maine

Acadia National Park is perfect for camping and hiking with your canine buddy. There are over 100 miles available for exploring, including carriage roads that are all dog friendly. The park even has a scenic 27-mile loop along the ocean. Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet long.

Lake Dorothy – Washington

Lake Dorothy has multiple trails, including an easier one for beginners. There are connecting trails for hikers looking for a longer trail that will lead you onto other lakes. Be sure to sign in at the trailhead before setting out.

Fairmount Park - Pennsylvania

Located in the Philadelphia area, Fairmount Park has miles and miles of trails covering the 9,200 plus acre park. Fairmount has woods, wetlands, and waterfront for you and your dog to explore. But remember, you must keep your dog on a six-foot or shorter leash at all times.

Lake Mohegan – Connecticut

Lake Mohegan is made up of 170 acres with trails and a man-made lake ideal for fishing and swimming. Dogs are welcome to hike and swim at Lake Mohegan. There are two main trails marked as yellow and red. The red trail is the shorter and easier of the two, spanning only 1.6 miles. The yellow trail is only 2.5 miles but includes some steep terrain.

Preparing Your Dog for Hiking

Caring for your dog is essential to ensuring a fun hike. Before setting off on a hike, the first thing to do is to ensure your dog is healthy enough to withstand the hike you’ve chosen. And to do that, you need to train your dog on hiking trails to get them in shape for a longer hike.

Depending on your dog’s health and stamina, you may need to start with a mile or less of off-road hiking.

Keep in mind that hiking on trails is much different than a walk on the sidewalk. Your dog needs to be strong enough, and the pads of their feet need to be properly conditioned to handle rougher terrain.

Additionally, your dog needs to have proper training as well. Trails can get pretty narrow, so they must know how to walk past other humans and dogs safely. It is also critical your dog knows the commands "off" and "drop" to ensure they don’t eat harmful things found along the trail.

Plus, it is essential your dog is up to date on their vaccines and preventative medications, such as:

  • Flea and tick preventative
  • Heartworm preventative
  • Rabies and distemper vaccines
  • Lyme Disease vaccine – Optional but vital for dogs in heavily infested tick areas.
  • Leptospirosis vaccine – Optional it is ideal for dogs that hike, to protect them from parasites found in standing water.

Finally, be sure you checked to make sure the hiking trail you’ve chosen allows dogs.

Taking Care of Your Dog While Hiking

Once you and your dog are ready to hit the trail, there are few key things to remember to make sure your dog is kept safe:

  • Take breaks to allow them to rest, even if your dog doesn’t show it; they need to rest and rehydrate
  • If the temperatures are high, you will want to keep your hike shorter and be sure to take a few more breaks and carry extra water.
  • Also, consider a cooling vest or neck wrap to help keep your dog’s body temperature cooler.
  • Research symptoms for dogs for dehydration, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, and poisoning before setting out.
  • Take the time to read about basic first aid for your dog; you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

What You Need to Take Your Dog Hiking

There are a few essentials to pack when hiking with your dog:

  • Bags to pick up your dog’s waste (Or tools to bury it)
  • First aid kit specifically for dogs, ideally with a first aid handbook
  • Portable bowls for food and water, collapsible bowls work great
  • Strong leash and harness
  • Boots to protect paws over rough or hot terrain
  • ID Tags with contact information and medical information
  • GPS Collar for more remote hikes
  • Jacket depending on the weather (water-resistant jackets are best in cooler weather)
  • Light up collar for long overnight hikes
  • Water and food -Dogs need 1 oz of water per pound of bodyweight on average but will require more when hiking and on hot days

Sold out

Now You Are Ready To Hike With Your Dog

Hiking with my four dogs is one of my favorite things in the world to do; it gets us outside in nature where we can all enjoy the peace. I have been hiking with dogs for over 20 years and, unfortunately, have had some issues. However, being prepared has helped keep these incidents from becoming too serious.

To ensure you and your pup have the best time hiking together, take a little time to do some research and prep work, so the two of you can enjoy your hike to its fullest.

Meet The Author 

Jessica Mabie author of Dog Paw Pad Injuries for dogs: What you need to know

Jessica Mabie

Canine Specialist & Writer

Jessica Mabie is a Freelance Writer residing in the Twin Cities. She specializes in writing about pets, travel, and food. Jessica graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, TC.

Jessica has always loved dogs, and, at the age of 14, she started volunteering at a neighborhood vet clinic. While at the U of M, she continued her work with dogs as an obedience trainer and vet tech. Although she no longer works with dogs professionally, she does use her experience as a volunteer with American Brittany Rescue as well as aiding in her writing.

When not working, Jessica and her family spend a lot of time camping and hiking from spring to fall. So, if you happen to see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).

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