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Looking to shake up your pooch's routine walk? Pet health and behavior experts agree that hiking can be as beneficial for your pup as it can be for us humans. But before lacing up your boots and grabbing Fido for a day of climbing mountains and splashing in streams, check our picks for the 10 best dog-friendly national hikes for your next family vacay. These walks in the great outdoors were specially-selected for their pet-friendly nature.
Things to Keep in Mind to Take Your Dog Hiking Safely
From dog-friendly mountain hikes to rushing streams and forested walks—you might be wondering which hike is best for your pooch. Bonnie Beaver, veterinary behaviorist and professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS), recommends considering your pup's physical condition and breed when choosing a dog-friendly hike near you.
"It isn't a good idea for a human couch potato to suddenly start long hikes. Couch potato pooches need appropriate conditioning too," Beaver says. While hiking is a great choice for mental and physical exercise for you and your pup, start with an easy to moderate hike that fits you and your dog's experience level.
Beaver also reminds us that our four-legged friends aren't all built the same, and we should pick a hike that suits their needs. Squishy-faced breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers are brachycephalic, meaning they have short faces that could cause them to overheat quicker than other breeds. Large breeds like mastiffs could be prone to medical conditions including hip dysplasia. Not to worry, she will still love a short romp around a trail with secure, flat terrain!
Whichever hike you choose, the proper gear for your dog is a must-have. "Panting is their only real way to stay cool, and exercise will increase body temperature. So, having fresh, clean water is a must," Beaver says.
10 Best Dog-Friendly National Hikes
These picturesque getaways are sure to be fun for your whole family, fur family members included:
Bear Mountain Trail Loop in Bear Mountain, N.Y.
Just south of the Catskill Mountains and rising from the banks of the Hudson River is the 5,205-acre Bear Mountain State Park. Here, you and your pup will find expansive views of wooded mountains and the winding Hudson River. Rated as moderate, this pet-friendly hike is for those willing to put in some hard work. You and your furry friend will ascend a total of 1,154 feet on this 3.8-mile loop.
Corona Arches Trail in Moab, Utah
A great alternative to the not-so-dog-friendly Arches National Park, this 2.5-mile in-and-out dog-friendly hike is situated just outside the park and boasts the same great views! While this hike includes a few challenging obstacles including one short scramble with cables, two and four-legged hikers of all abilities will enjoy this hike.
Mission Creek Preserve in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.
This pup-approved trail is located just 20 minutes outside of Palm Springs and works as a good alternative to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, which does not allow pups on trail hikes. Trek along the moderately flat 3.5-mile loop to the stone houses that were once a working dude ranch, and long before that, was the area home to the Mission Band of Sonoran Indians. The mid-hike dip in Mission Creek and shady picnic spots are sure to keep you and your leashed pup happy. For folks who want to stay longer, the preserve allows campers to pitch their dog-friendly tents at one of the free campsites.
Ramona Falls in Rhododendron, Ore.
A favorite summer destination for Pacific Northwest outdoor enthusiasts, Ramona Falls is located just over an hour outside of Portland. This 7-mile pet-friendly loop is rated as moderate with most of the hard work at mile one, where hikers cross the Sandy River via downed tree. But the balancing act pays off: after the river crossing, hikers are then greeted by an awe-inspiring view of Mount Hood, wildflowers, sheer rock walls, forest walks, and the stunning Ramona Falls.
Thunder Knob Trail in Rockport, Wash.
Score mountain views without a strenuous elevation gain on this 3.6-mile dog-friendly Washington hike. Surrounded by the North Cascade Mountain Range, you and your pup will climb a mere 425 feet in elevation to the stunning views of the turquoise Diablo Lake. Bring plenty of water and a snack for you and your pup—you'll want to stay awhile to enjoy this view.
Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Among its endless trails and wide walkways, Wildwood Regional Park boasts a dog-approved 2.8-mile loop to Paradise Falls. Just outside of bustling L.A., it's here that you and your leashed pup can enjoy the spectacular views of this year-round 40-foot waterfall. Bring a picnic and stay a while or choose to continue hiking via one of the many well-maintained trails.
Cowles Mountain Trail in San Diego, Calif.
Sunny San Diego is known for its dog-friendly vibe, and this hike does not disappoint! Rated as a moderate 3-mile hike, even small but mighty Sego the Avocado gives this hike two paws up! On a clear day, two and four-legged hikers will be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County, and Orange County.
Calvert Cliffs Red Trail to the Beach in Lusby, Md.
West Coast hikers don't get to have all the fun. This unique 4.5-mile moderate loop will take you through Maryland's lush forests to a dog-friendly beach on the Chesapeake Bay. The beach stretches for 24 miles along the 10- to 20-million-year-old Calvert Cliffs, formed when southern Maryland was covered by the sea. Here, your pup will love splashing in the waves while you search for shark teeth and other fossils along the shoreline.
Mohawk Lake Trail in Breckenridge, Colo.
This moderate to hard 8.4 mile out-and-back trail is a water-loving dog's dream! This dog-friendly Colorado trail features amazing views of Breckenridge captured with a swift 2,106-foot elevation gain. The work will be worth it—there are six alpine lakes on the trail for pups who want to take a mid-hike dip. Just be sure your pup has the right gear to stay safe while swimming.
Catawba Falls in Old Fort, N.C.
This peaceful dog-friendly hike just outside of Asheville treks through South Carolina hardwood forest to a cascading waterfall on the Catawba River. Beagle brothers Dakota and Samson report having a blast splashing through the small creek crossing and remind their doggo friends to respect Pisgah National Forest leash laws.