Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend and often go with us every where as our much loved furry companion. Many of us have acquired a dog as a pet for the primary purpose of being guaranteed at least one adventure buddy at all time. Any dog you’ve met out on the trail is a glowing ball of happiness…proof that they are a-okay with this arrangement. This doesn’t mean that adventuring with dogs is always easy. Oh no, take your dog out to explore comes with its own set of challenges, things we don’t always think about when dreaming out the smiles that will come with a furry friend.
Where are dogs allowed?
What risks will my dog face?
Is this hike too hard for my dog?
When can I start hiking longer distances with my dog?
Do I have enough water for both of us?
How many hours can my dog road trip?
What will I do if my dog gets hurts?
Where will my dog sleep?
How will my dog react to wild animals?
There’s no denying extra steps are required to get your dog ready for adventure…and your adventure plans ready for a dog. But don’t let this stop you. One quick glance at your dog’s spinning tail and perked ears when you get out on the trails will remind you every extra step is oh so worth it!
So, what are the best [+ easiest!] places to get started with your dog-friendly adventures? There really are a lot of options and we’ve made a list. These are all areas we have taken our dog, starting with the simplest and building from there. For a quick visual overview check out the chart at the bottom of the post…or read through the details as your scroll down.
The quickest and easiest place to go outside with your dog is often your very own backyard. This may literally be your backyard, or it can be trails close to home that you know by heart. Sine you’re already familiar with these trails you’ll be able to put all your planning and packing energies into what your dog will need. Even if you are comfortable heading out onto more remote trails it is a good idea to start with the close-to-home options when you’re adding new distances, gear or skills to your dog-friendly adventures.
If this is your first time heading out on the trails with a new pup you’ll have a chance to learn each others tendencies without any pressure to perform. You will learn how much water your dog needs and how they react to wildlife while your dog will learn how to bribe treats out of you and get used to a leash on single track [or get used to being off leash].
The nearby trails are also a great place to get your dog used to new gear. Hiking with a dog can be as simple as taking a leash, or you can make your dog more self-sufficient with their own backpack or safe from extreme elements with booties or goggles. If you’re opting to add gear to your dog’s adventures you’ll want to hit the close-to-home trails first so you both have time to get used to the new swag. Your dog will be able to go into the adventure without any new trail jitters and it’ll be easy to bail out if things don’t quite work.
Once you’re both comfortable exploring your “backyard” trails it is time to set your sights on bigger adventures…such as state [or county] parks. These areas are usually semi-developed so you’ll have easy access to your car while still getting out onto new trails that’ll keep you both interested in adventures. State and county parks are generally known for having well marked trails, greatly reducing the risk of getting lost.
If you’re headed out for a longer day hike be sure to pack along extra food, snacks and water for your dog. You’ll both being putting forth extra effort to be out on the trails in whatever weather conditions Mother Nature has to offer. Your dog will likely put in many more miles than you, especially if the trails are off-leash as every dog will want to sniff every tree along the way. Plan and pack accordingly so you can both enjoy your time out there.
Beyond just trails many state and county parks also have campground, which will give you an opportunity to take on tent-life with your dog. For us, we learned something the hard way…we cannot leave our dog in the tent, even if we’re just running to the restroom. He ripped his way out of the tent, leaving a gaping whole behind him as he came loping after us. Lucky for us, it was a dry night of camping, but if it weren’t we were steps from our car so it would have all worked out. This is just one example of how you and your dog will learn to adventure together.
Backcountry Camping and Hiking
The US has millions of acres of public land…land you can explore on foot, with or without a tent tucked into your backpack. These wild and free areas are excellent places to adventure with your dog once you are both comfortable out on the trail for a day or more.
If you’re headed out to camp be sure to pack along extra food/snacks for camp as your dog will be spending the entire day active…even at camp, because they are always curious about their surroundings. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to test out your sleeping arrangements prior to this trip, but if not you may want to pack an extra sleeping pad and sleeping bag for your dog. This might sound an little “extra” but your dog cannot communicate with you if he gets cold, so you’ll want to be ready for anything. Our 75 pound lab has a lot of surface area to loose heat and we are regularly checking the temperature of his ears so we can mitigate any chills before shivering sets in. He’s too big to fit into our sleeping bag with us, so he gets his own as well as a folded ‘egg-carton’ sleeping pad [it doubles as a sitting area, so we don’t mind the extra space/weight in our packs].
When it comes to exploring public land there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Public land can fall into a lot of different categories from national forest land to BLM land to wilderness areas. Each designation of land has its own regulations around hiking, camping and dogs. Generally speaking dogs are allowed in all of these areas [unless otherwise posted at the trailhead or online] but the leash/off-leash rules vary greatly. Each national forest and BLM area will have its own rules while wilderness areas will always require dogs to be on-leash. Please respect the land and the wildlife [as well as other trail users!] but following these rules!
National parks are a big draw, for obvious and beautiful reasons. if you want to do all of your traveling with your furry friend you’ll probably end up stopping by at least one national park along the way. Generally speaking, dogs are not allowed beyond parking lots/paved trails in national parks. This can really limit how much exploring you can do. However, don’t let this be the reason you drive on by. Instead, chat up the park ranger for insight on exactly where you can go with your dog. Better yet, find national parks that allow dogs to explore a bit…such as Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve!
We stopped by Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve for an overnight and short hike in the middle of our road trip thru Colorado. This is one of very few national parks that really allow dogs out of the car…we even got to hike up the sand dunes with our dog. Of course, we needed to plan for this by making sure we got out onto the dunes before they got too hot for his paws and we packed extra water [although next time, we’re bringing Rex Specs for the sand blowing in the wind!].
When you do start planning your adventures to national parks with dogs get in touch with the park rangers with a quick phone call. You’re definitely not the only one looking for dog-friendly options! You may also want to plan your national park visits around the cooler time of year so you can leave your dog in the car for short treks to overlooks during your drive through the park [always an option with dogs!].
If you have a dog you’d love to adventure with…but you’re not sure how where to start with the planning…let us help you! We regularly travel with our dog [Max, the black lab in all the photos!] so we know a thing or two about the best ways to plot, plan and prepare for adventures with a furry friend. Hit us up for a simple consultation [let’s chat] or a full itinerary [let’s plan] with a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org.