The 8 Best Dog-Friendly Hikes to Try With Your Pup

If you're looking for a healthy and fun way to exercise with your dog, hiking is a great option. It not only helps you relax and clear your head, but it also has important benefits for your dog. Hiking with your dog exposes them to an array of new sights, sounds, and smells that help them learn, grow, and stay mentally stimulated.

If you're ready to start exploring and discover new places, consider finding dog-friendly trails near you. Both National and state parks offer many dog friendly trails, but you likely have hidden gems close to home at local parks, wildlife preserves, and backcountry trails.

Tips for Hiking with Dogs

No matter where you go, you’ll want take the proper steps to ensure the safety of you and your dog. Here are a few tips for hiking with your dog:
  • Start with short hikes and gradually increase the distance as your dog gets more fit.
  • Leave No Trace, pick up after your dog, and practice good trail etiquette.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks for both you and your dog.
  • Be sure to pack a first-aid kit in case of any accidents.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when required.
  • On off-leash trails safely contain your dog with the SpotOn GPS fence so you can keep them accounted for on the trails.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid hiking in areas where there are poisonous plants or wildlife.

Photo by Jen Sotolongo

Dog-Friendly Trails

Ready to lace up your boots and hit the trail? Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Chain Lakes Loop, MT. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

This 8-mile loop follows two of the state’s most prominent peaks, Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan for the majority of this hike. Blueberry bushes line the sides of the trails, resulting in a colorful explosion of reds, yellows, and greens. If you go early enough in fall, then you may get lucky and find a few trail snacks that have not yet overripened. 

There are plenty of overnight options near some of the lakes on the route, which include vault toilets in some locations. 

The window for this hike is fairly narrow, as snow covers much of the pass most of the year. June to early October are the best time of year to hit this dog-friendly trail. 

2. Baker Lake, Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

This fairly easy dog-friendly hike located just outside of Darby, MT leads to a beautiful alpine lake after just 2.5 miles of hiking. If you are up for a mini-adventure, continue on to Middle and Gem Lakes. Finding the trail leaving Baker Lake requires some navigation skills, so make sure you have an offline map to help you along the way. 

Gem Lake is especially beautiful thanks to the surrounding Larch trees that practically glow in a vibrant golden hue against the backdrop. They are the only pine trees to lose their leaves and can only be found in elevations ranging between 5,800 and 7,500 feet. 

Backcountry camping is available at both Baker Lake and Middle Lake.

Photo by Jen Sotolongo

Photo by John B. Kalla

3. Kebler Pass Scenic Drive/Three Lakes Loop, Crested Butte, Colorado

Home to Colorado’s largest Aspen forest, Kebler Pass is an iconic destination for anyone looking for a gorgeous dog-friendly hike. Spend the weekend in the region to get the most of the journey. 

The Kebler Pass Scenic Drive includes just over 31 miles of beautiful views of the Aspens with fewer crowds than other popular dog-friendly hiking trails. While the road is passable for any vehicle, keep an eye on the snow conditions, as it sits at over 10,000 feet and closes in the winter.  

Just 16 miles outside of the town of Crested Butte, turn off Kebler Pass Road toward Lost Lake. The short and easy Three Lakes Loop is just over 3 miles and features three alpine lakes, a quick waterfall detour, and of course stunning Aspens.

4. Roan Mountain, North Carolina

Considered among the most beautiful hikes on the Appalachian Trail, Roan Mountain straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, traversing over three hilltops, or “balds.” The grass-covered bald summits provide unobstructed views of the valley. 

Locals love the out and back hike that starts at Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge. The exposed hillsides let in views throughout most of the hike, and they just keep getting better and better as you make your way up and over the balds.

Photo by Dave Allen

5. Franconia Ridge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

This dog-friendly hike is long, strenuous, technical, very popular, and 100% worth the visit, especially during the fall. Franconia Ridge is an 8.5-mile loop that can be completed two different directions. The most popular route follows a counter clockwise loop starting with the Falling Waters Trail, however starting with the Old Bridle Path Trail is less crowded, and though steeper, leaves an easier descent at the end of a long day. 

Weather conditions can change quickly here, so bring layers for all seasons. This dog trail involves a full day outdoors, so be sure to arrive early to maximize daylight and bring a headlamp in case you get caught after sundown. 

6. Mount Van Hoevenberg, Adirondacks, New York 

There are two options for arriving at the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg. The first is the relatively new East Trail, which opened in 2018 and starts from the Olympics Sports Complex in Lake Placid. The other is known as the West Trail. Both routes are moderate hikes that lead to ledges offering 180-degree views of nearby peaks like Mount Marcy and Algonquin.  

The total distance for this dog-friendly hike comes in just over 4 miles.

Photo by Mike Saelens

Photo by Bob Stefko

7. Brown County State Park, Indiana

This state park, located in Nashville, IN features over 18 miles of hiking dog trails that range from easy to rugged. Each trail is named by number and hikers can connect a series of trails to create loops as long or as short as they like.  

There are trails that loop around a pond, head to a lookout tower, and meander along streams. Just 60 miles from Indianapolis, this state park is worth the drive, for the tree-lined road alone.

8. Franey Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada   

Unlike in the US, Canada welcomes dogs in their national parks. If you’re itching for a nearby road trip from the east coast, then Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a great spot for a long weekend away. 

The Franey Trail is one of the more popular hikes in the park and for good reason. The short, but steep hike ascends over 1,000 feet in over four miles and rewards the challenge with 360° views of the Clyburn Brook Canyon and the Atlantic Coastline. 

Consider also driving the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic byways in all of North America. This nearly 200-mile drive circumnavigates the upper part of Cape Breton Island, traveling through idyllic towns preserving both Scottish and French cultures.

By: Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the owner and writer of the blog Long Haul Trekkers, a leading resource for adventure dogs and their humans. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, and dog mom, of course. She loves trail running, hiking, and camping in the mountains. She is born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and lives in Bend, OR with her rescued cattle dog mix, Sitka.

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