Nothing cleanses the soul more than a day of hiking in an ancient forest with only yourself and your best four-legged friend as company. Spending time in beautiful places reminds us to appreciate nature and the simple things in life.
While you may have hiked alone before, there’s no better way to bond with your dog than on a two-footed and four-footed adventure. For safety, choose your trail carefully, carry a GPS tracker, and let others know exactly where you’re going and when you plan to return.
Hiking with dogs requires only slightly more planning. Rules and regulations vary according to trailhead and park areas, so be sure to contact your local forest ranger station before taking your pets along. Start slowly and work into more intense trailheads or you may find yourself carrying an exhausted dog out in your pack.
There’s a hike for whatever part of the country you’re in and whatever skill level you’re working around, but these are a few of the hikes around the country on my “hike with Chilly” bucket list.
Pacific Northwest: Eagle Creek hike near Portland, Oregon
Only 45 minutes from Portland, this is a well-marked trailhead that stays busy most weekends. Your payoff includes spawning salmon in late fall and lush, and cool, rich foliage all summer. The trail profiles six major waterfalls, old growth forests and is a picture-perfect introduction to the diverse Oregon climate.
East Coast: Shenandoah National Park, Luray VA
A billion years ago, the Blue Ridge Mountains rose from the earth and were higher than the Rockies, becoming one of the first mountain ranges in our history. Time has weathered this ridge and has created one of the most beautiful hiking ranges in the world. With sweeping views of mountains and scenic meadows of wildflowers, Shenandoah offers a hike for every level of experience.
West Coast: Solstice Canyon, CA
If you’re cruising the coastline and find yourself near Malibu, take the path less traveled with a detour into Solstice Canyon. You’ll find the trailhead off the Pacific Coast Highway near Corral Canyon Park. Your reward for locating this hidden jewel is a lush waterfall and giant boulders to climb on. Other highlights include the oldest “still-standing” stone building in Malibu, a small creek, shaded hiking and the ruins of a mansion. This 6.9 mile hike is well-marked and dog-friendly, but keep an eye out for the occasional snake.
What to Bring
- Water: Bring water for you and your pet. Dogs should not drink from unknown sources due to the danger of invisible parasites. Carry bouillon cubes or a small packet of dehydrated goat’s milk to encourage your pet to drink.
- Leash, collar and harness: Your pet should always be wearing a collar and proper ID tags. Keep dogs on a leash at all times.
- Bowls: Bring along a collapsible bowl for your dog’s water and food. They are lightweight and easy to clean on the hike.
- Picture ID: Be sure you have a recent picture of your pet in case the unthinkable happens.
- Poop baggies: Make sure you can (and do) clean up after your pet.
- K-9 First Aid Kit: Be sure you have gauze (enough to wrap an injured paw), flex-tape, and antibiotic cream.
- Natural Pest Control: Be sure you keep your pet protected from mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and other pests. There are many natural pest control sprays that will deter them from your pet (and you). Never use a spray intended for a human on a dog.
- Pack: Your dog should never carry a pack that is more than 20% of his weight, but tasking your pet with a job is great way to tire them a little faster.
- Reflective Collar or Pack: Make sure your dog is never mistaken as a threat by ensuring they wear reflective gear.
- Clean up: The only waste in a forest should be from woodland creatures. Be sure to pick up after your pet as they can pass along diseases to the wildlife and destroy local fauna.
- Respect Wildlife: Never allow your dog to chase a squirrel or bird.
- Protect Vegetation: Remember, the higher you travel, the more delicate the vegetation. It can take only seconds for your pet to destroy a flower that took months to grow.
- Keep on leash: Your dog should always be on leash so as not to frighten other hikers, chase wildlife, or become endangered.
- Yield to Horses & Hikers: If you meet a horse or another hiker on the trail, it’s courteous to step off the trail with your dog and allow others to pass by unmolested.
Check out my Baby Boomer version of this column in this month’s Fido Friendly Magazine.