Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails - A Comprehensive Guide

woman with her dog on a hike

Hiking is one of those activities that, once you fall in love with, makes you want to introduce everyone in your life to the wonders it has to offer. Dogs are no exception.

Arguably, going on a hike gets even better when you have your furry friend on the trail with you. So, why not take them with you next time you go?

Of course, before you hit the trails, there are a few pieces of information that will ensure that you - and your pup - have the best possible time while still being safe.

One of the decisions you'll have to make when planning a hike with your pup is picking your favorite dog-friendly hiking trail. Many factors go into this choice - and we're here to tell you all about them and give you some other valuable information regarding taking your doggo for a hike.

Hiking With Your Dog - The Basics

Dog on a snowy hiking trail

 

As we've mentioned, you'll need to know a few things before hitting the trail with your pup in order to maximize your experience and minimize the potential risks.

Before sharing some of the best hiking trails for dogs, here are some tips you should know before your hike.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Up For The Task

Even though most dogs have an innate inclination towards the outdoors and are naturally athletic, a hike with your dog won't be the same as walking or running at the dog park.

Hiking trails are a whole different terrain with an abundance of obstacles, inclines, and potential hazards. You shouldn't just assume that your puppy will be able to keep up effortlessly.

Before you embark on this trip, consult with your vet to see if your doggo is a good companion for your hike. Certain breeds make great hikers - but others are better off sticking to the nearby park.

It's also a good idea to start working on your dog's endurance. Go to the dog park more often than usual and have your dog be more intentionally active.

It would be best if you were wary of your dog's age before hitting the trail. You should keep young puppies and old dogs off the trails since they probably won't be able to endure the hike, and it might ultimately do them more harm than good.

Be Wary Of The Weather

Weather is a super important factor when hiking, regardless of whether it's an all-human hike or one with a four-legged creature involved as well.

Since going on a hike can be a pretty strenuous activity, you'll need the weather on your side. Mostly, we're talking about excessive heat here.

Always make sure that the temperatures aren't too high. Even though you think you might take it just fine, your pup probably won't.

That's because dogs react to heat differently, mainly because they don't sweat as we do. Their primary means of thermoregulation is panting.

So, the heat that might be bearable for you most likely won't be for your doggo.

Take Precautions

Regardless of who's joining you on a hike, you'll need to be prepared for some not-so-good scenarios.

Your pup probably loves adventures in nature - but they don't know how to protect themselves out there. That's your job as a responsible owner.

First of all, you'll need to get your pet a collar to protect them from ticks, fleas, and other pesky insects.

Another necessity on hikes is water. Because of the previously mentioned way of dogs' thermoregulation, they'll need plenty of water to help them out. 

The good thing is that you won't have to worry about them needing to pee - you're already outside!

Here's an additional reason why you'll need to take enough water for your furry friend:

They'll probably opt for a lake, pond, creek - or any other available water source - if you don't. These water sources may not be the cleanest and can be potentially harmful to your dog.

Prepare In Advance

As fun as hiking is, you still need to be very vigilant throughout your hike to prevent any serious mishaps or injuries from happening. The best way to minimize this potential risk is by preparing and planning everything thoroughly and some time in advance.

That will ensure that you enjoy your hike to the max - without having to worry too much.

Dog sitting at the edge of a cliff
A woman and a dog enjoying the view

 

Bring A Leash

Regardless of how well trained your pup is, it's never a bad idea to have a leash on hand - and this is especially true when hiking.

The terrain on trails can be pretty unpredictable, and there's generally a high chance that you'll encounter wildlife along the way. So, having physical control over your dog by using a leash will be crucial throughout the trip.

Even the most well-behaved dogs can have impulsive reactions, especially when you're in nature and their instincts are already heightened.

So, make sure to always have a leash with you - and do not be afraid to use it.

Teach Your Dog Important Obedience Skills

If your pup is off the leash, you need to be sure that it will follow your commands regardless of the circumstances.

That could be a potential life-saver, especially during rigorous climbs to the summit or hikes through remote forest areas.

There are many possible risks you might encounter on the trail, ranging from poisonous plants and berries, water that's not safe for drinking, dangerous animals, and so on. If you cross paths with other animals, you'll want to be able to prevent your dog from unknowingly getting hurt.

Being in an open space in nature - like mountains and national forest trails - can be very exciting for dogs. So, our advice is to be sure that you have complete control over them, especially if you're on an off-leash dog hike.

Bring The Necessary Equipment

To make this trip to the nearby state park or national forest as pleasant as possible for both you and your doggo, you'll need to bring some equipment.

Here's a list of what we think is important to have on you when embarking on dog-friendly hikes:

  • A pet-safe insect repellent
  • A first aid kit
  • Dog food/snacks
  • Dog boots for more challenging terrains
  • Water and bowls
  • A cooling collar
  • Poop bags

 

How To Choose The Best Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

We've got you covered with the basics of hiking with your dog - and now we can move on to choosing the best dog-friendly trails for you and your pup.

Many criteria play into you choosing suitable trails for the upcoming dog-friendly hikes, but luckily enough, there are miles and miles of trails to choose from here.

Here's what you need to know.

Two women with dogs on trail

 

Start Slow

If you're dipping your toes into the world of dog-friendly hiking, our best advice is to take it slow.

Just remember your first few times going on a 15-mile hike. It probably wasn't pretty, huh?

Knowing that, give your dog and yourself the time to get used to this new activity. Don't insist on extra long or challenging hikes right from the start. Instead, get into it with a more beginner-friendly, two-mile hike, for example - and work your way up.

This way, you'll track your dog's stamina and physical abilities and be more conscious of how they might be doing at different stages of the hike.

Check If Dogs Are Allowed

Even though it might be baffling to some, not every trail welcomes dogs. Every state park will have a different set of rules regarding this, but the good news is that nowadays, most national parks and other hiking trails do cater to dogs.

Never jump to conclusions, though.

You don't want to arrive at the state park all excited, only to find out that your dog isn't welcome there.

Some national parks, national forests - and even a wilderness park or two - will be off-limits to dogs. So, it's best to check with the visitor center beforehand to see if the park features dog-friendly trails.

Explore The Best Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

Dog at a lake
A dog near a lake

 

Finally, we've come to the meat of this guide. You're now equipped with the necessary knowledge about dog-friendly hikes - meaning we can get into the fun stuff.

We've compiled the list of the best hiking trails for you - and your dog - and we're sure that you'll be able to find at least a few that will spark your interest.

Evergreen Lake Trail

Two dogs at a lake

 

Location: Dedisse Park, West of Evergreen, Colorado

The Evergreen Lake Trail will introduce you to the wonders of hiking without many hazards - and with the wonderful addition of the lake.

Granted, dogs aren't allowed to take a dip in the lake - but it's a sight to behold, nonetheless.

This trail is also perfect for those hikers that enjoy meeting new people on hikes since it's quite a popular trail for families and fishermen. Also, be prepared to see a deer or an antler on your way, since they like roaming around it.

Your doggo will have to be on a leash for this one.

Hewlett Gulch Trail #954

Dog in the nature
A man sitting with his dog

 

Location: Poudre Park, Near Fort Collins, Colorado

Hewlett Gulch Trail #954 is also a trail ideal for beginners and those more experienced hikers looking for an easier trail to have a peaceful hike with their dog.

There is plenty of open space for your dog to enjoy and explore, and in addition, there are many stream crossings that your doggo can splash around in and cool off - especially since this is an off-leash dog trail.

This hiking trail allows you to keep your eyes on your pup while they freely explore the surroundings and the meadows created by the awful 2012.

Don't forget to bring a map, though, to ensure you don't stray from the path.

All in all, this is a hike that you and your four-legged friend must take if you're ever near Gordon Creek in Colorado.

 

Grizzly Lake

Man sitting with dog

Location: Collegiate Peak Wilderness, Southeast of Aspen, Colorado

Now, this is a more advanced hike and certainly not for the faint of heart. This Colorado 7.1-mile hike is a complete alpine adventure with multiple water crossings, meadows, and a stunning lake.

Your pup will have to stay on a leash during the hike - but they'll undoubtedly have a great exercise nonetheless.

Since this is a more challenging hike, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind.

Firstly, the trail reaches an altitude of over 12000 feet. So, don't embark on this adventure if both you and your doggo aren't acclimated to such heights.

Dogs can suffer from altitude sickness, too, you know.

Don't miss the opportunity to spend some time at the lake - the scenery along the Grizzly Ridge Trail is beautiful, and it will serve as a well-deserved break for both you and your furry friend.

Don't forget your dog's leash on this trip, either, since they are required to wear it.

 

Manitou Lake

Location: Manitou Lake, Near Colorado Springs

Now, this is a more advanced hike and certainly not for the faint of heart. This Colorado 7.1-mile hike is a complete alpine adventure with multiple water crossings, meadows, and a stunning lake.

Your pup will have to stay on a leash during the hike - but they'll undoubtedly have a great exercise nonetheless.

Since this is a more challenging hike, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind.

Firstly, the trail reaches an altitude of over 12000 feet. So, don't embark on this adventure if both you and your doggo aren't acclimated to such heights.

Dogs can suffer from altitude sickness, too, you know.

Don't miss the opportunity to spend some time at the lake - the scenery along the Grizzly Ridge Trail is beautiful, and it will serve as a well-deserved break for both you and your furry friend.

Don't forget your dog's leash on this trip, either, since they are required to wear it.

 

Dog and a woman sitting on a rock
Dog on a mountain peak

Fallen Timbers Loop Hike

 

Location: Fox Run Regional Park, near Denver, Colorado

You could explore this 2-mile loop trail near Colorado Springs with your family as well as with your dog. It's a great, relatively short, 2-mile hike, which makes it perfect for beginners. And as the name suggests, this is a loop trail, so there's little chance of wandering off.

And yes, dogs are permitted to accompany you - but they have to be on a leash.

One great aspect of this trail is that you can be sheltered from the sun by the beautiful shade that the ponderosa pines provide along the trail.

Even more so, there are trails for mountain bikers, a recreation area, and a dog park. A bonus is that there's also a map of this trail available, so there's practically no chance of you and your furry friend getting lost along the way.

All in all, if you love spending quality time on a hiking trail, you'll love this one near the Fox Run Regional Park in Colorado!

Mesa Trail To Bear Canyon Creek

Woman and a dog on trail

 

Location: South of Boulder, Near Denver, Colorado

This 8.4-mile hike will give you the best of both worlds - the physically challenging terrain and breathtaking views of snowcapped mountain peaks and plains.

Dogs will have a great time accompanying you on this hike since there's lots of open space to explore, starting with the banks of Boulder Creek. That said, this is one of those trails that will require dogs to be on a leash.

Oh, and one more thing:

Be sure to bring a map. The Shadow Canyon trail system tends to weave around, so you might end up meandering about while enjoying the meadows.

Bear Peak

Location: Boulder, Colorado

If you ever visit Colorado and ask locals about hiking there, this out-and-back 8.1-mile hike via the Shadow Canyon Trail might not be the first one to be recommended to you. The reason for this is that before reaching the summit, you'll be faced with some steep inclines - steep enough to make beginner hikers rethink their choices.

However, only those who have completed this hike and conquered this trail - with or without their dogs - will tell you that the view at the top is well worth the struggle.

Dogs will generally have to be on a leash while visiting this mountain summit. However, if your doggo has a blue tag, they'll be allowed to be off-leash for this one.

Two dogs running
A dog sitting in the grass

Duck Pass Trail

Location: Mammoth Lakes, California

Now, this trail is something special. Those more versed in hiking consider it one of the most beautiful trails in the Inyo National Forest.

The park offers the perfect combination of snow-covered mountain peaks and the brightest blue-green water.

Several lakes are present throughout this hike, so dogs will have several opportunities to dip their paws in some refreshing water and cool off from the hot California sun.

Dog enjoying the nature

Vital Link Trail

Location: Wildwood Canyon Park, Near Burbank California

If you choose this out-and-back 3.2-mile hike, you certainly won't regret it. With the perfect balance of some challenging facets and stunning views - of the Hollywood Hills and downtown Los Angeles, for example - you're guaranteed to have a good time.

Once you've reached the top of the trail, don't rush back down. Our advice is that both you and your pup rest well before heading down the steep road back to Wildwood Canyon Park.

The trail is dog-friendly and accessible year-round, but dogs have to remain on a leash.

Debs Park To Hermon Dog Park To South Pasadena

Location: Montecito Heights, Los Angeles, California

If you could ask your pup what their favorite trail is, they would probably tell you that it's this one. The reason? Two local dog parks along the Los Angeles River.

This urban Los Angeles green space gives you incredible city views and is home to the eco-friendly Audubon Center. The Audubon area doesn't allow dogs, so take a different trail leading to Debs Lake, also known as the Peanut Lake, instead.

So, if you want to give your doggo the ultimate hiking experience - with some free-spirited fun with fellow pups sprinkled in - this is the trail for you.

Conclusion

If you already love hiking and exploring miles and miles of trails, sharing the experience with your four-legged best friend will make everything ten times more fun. That's a fact.

We hope this guide helped you choose the right dog-friendly hiking trails for you and your pooch.

Here's a brief overview of all the most important information we've covered in this article to make things easier for you.

Colorado abounds in dog-friendly trails, albeit most of them require your pup to be on a leash. However, don't let that stop you from enjoying all the natural wonders these trails have to offer.

When it comes to California, this state also offers some fantastic hiking trails, which can be considered more accommodating to dogs - with lots of dog parks along the way.

Now that you know what you'll need to do to get ready for your hike and you have a great list of dog-friendly hiking trails, we'll let you get down to planning your next adventure on the trails.

Be safe and have fun!

 


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