Hiking with Pets

A woman and leashed dog run on a dirt trail
Always keep your pets on a leash when enjoying the outdoors

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Siegle-Gaither

Hitting the trail with your furry friend? Some national parks welcome pets on trails, but there are rules and things to consider. Before you go, get some tips on hiking with pets in parks.

  1. Know your park. Many parks do not allow pets on hiking trails or boardwalks. Always check with your park before bringing your pet.
  2. Know your pet. Before you head to a national park, make sure your pet is fit for the trail. Are they in good enough shape to meet the physical demands of the hike? Older dogs may not have the endurance they used to. Be mindful of their limits and make sure to choose a trail that’s appropriate for your pet. If you have concerns, check with your vet.
  3. Visit the vet. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations before you hit the trail. Fleas, ticks, and waterborne pathogens can cause serious illnesses. Talk to your vet about the activities you have planned to come up with a plan.
  4. Teach trail manners. A busy trail can be overwhelming for a young or untrained dog. You’re bound to pass other hikers on the trail, so make sure your pet is used to seeing other people and dogs while out and about. Always keep your dog on a 6 foot leash. Be mindful of aggressive behavior. If your animal is reactive in new spaces, with new people, or on a leash, consider leaving your pet at home. Do your part to keep yourself, your animal, and other hikers safe.
  5. Be prepared. Bring extra water! Like you, your pet will be thirsty and hungry during the hike. Pack a light snack for your furry friend, too. They’ll enjoy having a treat with you at a resting point on the trail. Remember, dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so they’re at higher risk of overheating. Check on your dog throughout your hike and take frequent water breaks. Notice signs of overheating—if your dog is excessively panting, drooling, or vomiting, move to a cooler area and give your dog water. For longer hikes, consider booties to keep his paws safe.
  6. Pick up after your pet. No one wants to hike on a trail littered with dog poop. Use Leave No Trace principles and pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste.
  7. Stay safe around wildlife. You are responsible for your pet’s safety. Keep your pets away from wildlife. They could startle or provoke animals, resulting in injury. Our domestic pets also are also at risk of getting or giving diseases to wildlife. There are many examples of wildlife in parks dying from diseases given to them by pets and humans. For example, heartworm from dogs and cats can kill wildlife such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. Black-footed ferrets die from the flu if humans are sick and get too close. Wolves can be infected by canine parvovirus from dogs. Pro tip: Keeping your pets vaccinated can keep them and wildlife safe.
  8. Pack your (and your dog’s!) bag. For experienced hiking dogs, you may consider a dog pack and let Fido pack his own water bowls and food! Dog packs should fit snug and secure - check with pack guidelines before you buy one.

Last updated: July 25, 2018