One of the best ways to take in the splendor of Mother Nature is to meet her head-on in the great outdoors with a hike on a trail. Hiking has been a favorite pastime for many people dating back centuries. Where else can you become one with the environment and view the majesty of mountains, bodies of water and nature?
But just because you have a dog in your life doesn't mean you have to miss out on a good hike. There are many trails across the U.S. that allow dogs, so go ahead and bring Maestro along. In fact, dogs can be great companions for hiking as long as they are in good physical shape and you, as the owner, take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe hike.
So where should you and Maestro go after you've taken a trip to a sporting goods store for all the latest hiking gear? We've found 10 dog-friendly hiking trails that you're sure to love. The fact that you can bring your leashed dog is not the only thing that makes these trails dog-friendly; it's also the sights you two can experience together. Read on to find out where to go on your next journey up the mountain. Happy trails!
10: Acadia National Park (Bar Harbor, Maine)
If you want to see gorgeous fall foliage, head over to Acadia National Park in Maine. Your dog can hike with you on his leash on most of the park trails. He'll be even welcome in the campgrounds and picnic areas, so you'll you have the opportunity to break bread together.
You and Captain have 100 miles (160 kilometers) of hiking trails and 45 miles (72 kilometers) of carriage roads (flat roads) to choose from. Canines are not allowed on the beaches and on some of the steeper hiking trails (for their own safety) or in public buildings. However, they are allowed in the Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds, so you can make it a weekend trip.
Pick up a trail map from the Park headquarters and head on out. You'll find a hidden gem here: Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the East Coast of the U.S. According to the park's Web site, during certain times of the year it is the first place in the U.S. to see the sun rise. Ah, bliss -- you and Captain watching the sun rise together.
9: Inspiration Trail (Raleigh, N.C.)
If you are trying to introduce your dog to the sport of hiking, the best thing to do is to start with a shorter trail. That's why places like Inspiration Trail, located inside the 5,579-acre (2,258-hectare) William B. Umstead State Park, are ideal for the two of you. The park, located in Raleigh, N.C., is divided into two sections: Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek. Inspiration Trail is found in Reedy Creek.
The trail itself is less than one mile -- three-tenths of a mile (482 meters) to be exact -- and both of you can complete it in about 20 minutes. It's a great practice run to get your pup ready for stomping with the big dogs on larger trails like the ones featured later in this article.
This trail even offers benches where dogs and owners can relax and get a drink of water before setting out again.
8: Gatlinburg Trail (Gatlinburg, Tenn.)
Your dog won't be able to hike with you in most of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which offers more than 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) of trails between North Carolina and Tennessee. But that's OK. Poopsi can still get a taste of the park's history and flavor because she is allowed to trot along the Gatlinburg Trail in Tennessee as long as she remains on a leash that's no longer than six feet (1.8 meters). The Gatlinburg Trail is one of the few trails in this national park that allows dogs.
Start your journey at the Sugarlands Visitor Center inside the main entrance of the Smoky Mountains Park, then hoof (or, rather, paw) it to the foot of the town of Gatlinburg and back for a round trip of 3.8 miles (6.11 kilometers). Along the way, you'll be treated to the view of the Little Pigeon River.
7: Red Rock Canyon (Las Vegas, Nev.)
If you want to get a break from the slot machines, Elvis look-a-likes and 1,001 Motown revues, take the short 30-minute car ride from Sin City and head over to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. You'll find that the real stars are the plants and wild animals found along the hiking trails. Just steer clear of going during the hottest times of the year, or, if you can't, go in the morning or evening to avoid the desert sun.
Since your pup already loves riding in the car, just pay the $7 fee to drive the 13-mile (20.9 kilometers) scenic drive and enjoy nature at its best. The drive will take about 45 minutes or more, particularly if you stop along the way to take pictures and visit trails like the Keystone Thrust, where you'll get a breathtaking view of the Sierra Mountains. While on his leash, your dog might spot a desert tortoise, a hummingbird or even a Joshua tree. But be on high alert: You also might run into a lizard like the Gila monster or a Mojave green rattlesnake. That can turn the hiking trip sour very quickly.
6: The Appalachian Trail (Southern and Eastern U.S.)
Nothing beats hiking a trail that spans about 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers). It doesn't get bigger than the Appalachian Trail, which runs through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. It's a hiker's dream because it passes through several state and national parks, forests and public lands.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, leashed dogs are allowed to hike with you on most of the trail, but as the owner you are responsible for making sure your dog is controlled. Also, park officials strongly recommend that both you and your pooch wear blaze orange at all times so you won't be mistaken for deer and be accidentally hurt or killed by hunters. Since parts of the trail call for rugged hiking and challenging weather conditions while other areas are flat and smooth, you will need to choose the part of the trail that's the best fit for your dog's health and overall endurance.
You won't find bikers and horse riders here because the trail was specifically built for hikers. Just as with other trails, you need to make sure you have enough food, water and shelter (if necessary) before you set out.
5: Fairmount Park (Philadelphia)
Fairmount Park is located in one of America's most historic cities, Philadelphia, and is one of the largest urban parks in America. It has more than 9,200 acres (3,723 hectares) for you and your beloved dog to enjoy and is the largest landscaped park in the country.
There are more than 215 miles (346 kilometers) of trails, so a hike is certainly in order. The park houses 63 neighborhood and regional parks, so it's perfect for a day trip for you and your dog. For example, the Wissahickon Valley Park has more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) of rugged trails that aren't for the faint at heart. However, there are other hills and flatlands to explore, so you won't be disappointed. There's much to see in Fairmont Park between the cherry blossoms, an azalea garden, statues, monuments and outdoor concert venues.
4: Runyon Canyon Park (Los Angeles)
A 160-acre (64.7 hectare) city park near Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills in the Golden State, Runyon Canyon Park is a dog's and dog lover's dream. What makes Runyon Canyon Park so doggone great is that your canine can run free from his leash on certain trails (posted signs indicate which trails are off-leash and which ones are leashed). The park gets a lot of traffic from both two-legged and four-legged friends, so it's a great place to connect with fellow dog owners and even spot some celebrities.
The park is located on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains. There is a 1.65-mile (2.65 kilometer) hike that goes up 500 feet (152 meters), and a 2.65-mile (4.26 kilometer) hike that goes as high as 700 feet (213 meters). Hiking in Runyon Canyon Park will provide you and your dog a panorama of famous viewpoints like the Hollywood sign, downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. Another bonus is that you won't be "hounded" by the paparazzi while you're there.
3: Monrovia Canyon Park (Monrovia, Calif.)
Hiking is a beautiful way to see all that nature has to offer, but sometimes you hike to get to what's at the end of the road. We've found a 30-foot example of this in Monrovia Canyon Park, Calif. Your family and leashed pup will enjoy trekking to the 30-foot (9.14 meter) Monrovia Falls, a waterfall found in the San Gabriel Mountains.
For a $5 per car entry fee you can go to the park's entrance and head out on the Waterfall trail (except on Tuesdays when the park is closed). This is rated an easy hike because of the short distance of 1.7 miles (2.73 kilometers) each way to the falls. Or, if you're feeling a little more adventurous, take the 7-mile (11-kilometer) hike winding through canyons up 2,000 feet (609 meters) to the Ben Overturff Trail. You need to allow three to five hours to complete this hike. Part of the trek includes about 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) of undisturbed wilderness in the San Gabriel Mountains.
2: Little Spar Lake Trail (Troy, Mont.)
In the Kootenai National Forest found in the Northwest corner of Montana, there's an 8-mile (12-kilometer) roundtrip hike to the Little Spar Lake. You will hike by cliffs and meadows up to higher elevations, past Spar Peak to the lake that sits in the basin of Scotchman Peak. On the journey you'll see towering cliffs, meadows and giant cedars. Dogs are allowed to swim in the lake, but it's not recommended because the water is extremely frigid throughout the year, according to park officials. In fact, the park is only open to visitors when the snow has cleared.
There's overnight camping and plenty to explore with just a backpack and a dog. But be cautious because bears, wolves, coyotes and cougars do roam the area: After all, it's their home. Because of heavy snows, the lake is only open during the summer months.
1: Grand Canyon National Park (Ariz.)
No list of hiking trails would be complete without the Grand Canyon National Park. The size of the Grand Canyon -- 277 miles (446 kilometers) long down the river, up to 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide and a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep -- is what attracts 5 million tourists to this majestic and historical park every year. Located in the northwest corner of Arizona, the grandeur of this historic site is indescribable.
Your dog won't be able to hike below the rim, which is known as the Inner Canyon, for everyone's safety. That area's reserved for hikers and mule riders. Pets are also not allowed in park lodging or on park buses. But we did find places where Tito is allowed to hike with you and the fam. On his leash, your dog is allowed on trails above the South Rim of the canyon and in the Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, and Trailer Village. That's OK, because the views are breathtaking enough from the top.