The Best Places to Hike With Your Dog

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Few places are more appealing to Samantha, a Labrador Retriever, than Kehoe Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, Calif. “Sam loves to explore the wildflowers and hike the trail with me,” says owner Betty Sullivan. “The trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. These days, the summer fog blows in like natural air-conditioning, so it’s a perfect place to cool off, unwind and re-energize.”

Kehoe Beach is among hundreds of sites across the United States where you can hike with your dog. (In this case, on-leash only, and not on the beach south of the trail, which is off-limits to canines.) Be sure to do your homework to figure out where exactly you and your pet will be welcome, and how to best handle the hike.

Hiking With Your Dog: Some Things to Consider

  • Your dog’s breed: Obviously, a little Chihuahua couldn’t handle the same terrain that a larger, more muscular dog could. Brett Rolin of Banfield Pet Hospital says the following breeds are built for hiking: Beagles, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Huskies, Malamutes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. “In general,” says Rolin, “sporting, herding or working dogs are a fine choice.”
  • Your dog’s health: Doug Gelbert, a dog hiking expert who runs hikewithyourdog.com and has authored numerous books, reminds that dogs should be in good physical condition and acclimated to the task at hand before hikes. Pre-training is advised if your dog requires conditioning.
  • Weather: “Heat and sun do dogs no favors,” says Gelbert. Conversely, short-coat breeds might suffer in the cold. Choose a day that will lead to a comfortable hike for both you and your pet.
  • Altitude: Again, acclimation to the elevation is key to an enjoyable outing for both of you.
  • Trail Hazards: Research hazards you and your pal might encounter along the way. Poisonous snakes might lurk on some trails, while others could be littered with broken glass or lined with poison ivy. Nature can be paradise, but it pays to plan ahead for such problems.

What to Bring
Rolin shares a Banfield fact sheet that recommends owners take the following on a hike with your dog:

  • Fresh water and a collapsible bowl
  • Food and treats
  • Current ID tags and a well-fitting collar
  • A sturdy leash for walking or securing your pet to a specific area
  • A proper car restraint, like a kennel or seatbelt
  • A bed or blanket to lie on
  • Doggie bags for waste
  • Pad-protective booties for rocky/rough terrain, snow, ice, cacti or nettles
  • First aid kit
  • Towel to clean your dog
  • Snake bite kit (if appropriate for your area)
  • Dog sunscreen/hat
  • Doggie backpack for sharing the load (use only if your dog is used to doing this)

Where to Go
Websites, books, apps and other sources can help to advise you where you can hike with your dog. Sullivan likes to peruse the National Park Service website. “If you do searches like ‘dogs allowed’ or ‘dog hike,’ you’ll find more specific information on where dogs can and cannot go,” adds Sullivan.

Gelbert often conducts fun surveys, where dog owners share their favorite places to hike. Here are just a few examples:

  • Best Baltimore Hike to a Waterfall: Falling Brook, Rocks State Park
  • Best Pittsburgh Hike Through Meadows: Friendship Hill National Historic Site
  • Best Cleveland Place to Hike All Day With Your Dog: Hinckley Reservation
  • Best Washington, D.C. Historic Hike for Your Dog: Battlefields of Manassas

Be sure to call the site or investigate online beforehand, however, to learn specifics about possible restrictions or changes. Few things are more depressing than packing up, heading on the trail, only to find a “Dogs Not Permitted” sign along the way.

“Now is the time to hike with your dog,” advises Sullivan, who is already planning her next trip with Sam. “These waning days of summer frequently offer more sunshine, which means more time to enjoy a fun day trip.”

Photo: Corbis Images