Want to take your dog onto the trails with you, but chafing under the restrictions in place at many National Parks? No worries—we’ve got you covered.
Katy Trail State Park, MO
Affectionately known to locals as simply “The Katy,” this state park stretches 240 miles along the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (or MKT) railroad corridor. Its primary feature? 237.7 miles of rail trail running from Clinton to Machens. With 26 different trailheads and four fully restored railway depots along the route, you and your leashed pup will have plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and soak in the sights of the Missouri River and its bluffs. Combine an easy day hike from the St. Charles trailhead with a picnic at scenic riverside Frontier Park, or pad around the historic district and learn about state’s original capitol.
Olympic National Forest, WA
The Olympic National Park might have rules for would-be Bark Rangers, but the national forest has far fewer restrictions: dogs are welcome throughout the forest, including all trails, wilderness areas and camp sites, as long as they are under your control. Take your bloodhound sniffing for vampires in the Forks region and camp along the Sol Duc river, or head into the Buckhorn Wilderness toward the Silver Lakes along the Mt. Townsend Trail for a moderately tough trail through conifer forest and rugged mountain topography. With over 250 miles of trail and more than 88,000 acres of wilderness through the wilds of the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, nothing but happy tails await!
Chugach National Forest, AK
5.4 million acres of natural wonderland encompassing portions of Prince William Sound, the Kenai peninsula, and the Copper River delta—and all of it open to you and your leashed dogs, no permits or trails required. If the thought of just heading off into the wild blue yonder of grizzly country seems unreasonably risky, there are plenty of developed trails you can explore. Try the Byron Glacier Trail near the Beich-Boggs Visitor Center in Portage Valley for an easy day hike alongside a rushing creek right up to the toe of a mountainside glacier, or give your dog the chance to walk in the pawprints of superstars along sections of the Iditarod National Historic Trail like the challenging Crow Pass—which, at 21 miles point-to-point, is often recommended as a multiday.
Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, CA
557 miles of hiking trails, including 176 miles of the mighty famous Pacific Crest Trail, right in Los Angelenos’ backyard? Sign us up! You might not be able to complete a pure thru-hike of the PCT with your pooch, but if you want to be able to say that you’ve done some miles with man’s best friend, here’s your chance. Dispersed camping is available throughout the forest, too, so stuff that backpack (and consider one for your canine companion—unless you’d rather pack out their poo in your bag!) before you hit the road to extend your trip. Just remember that everyone with four feet needs to remain on a leash no greater than six feet long and you’re good to explore!
The Appalachian Trail
If you just so happen to have your heart set on a nice, long thru-hike, the Appalachian Trail is the way to go. With only three regions into which your pup can’t follow you (that’d be Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in Bear Mountain State Park, and Baxter State Park), that still leaves about 2,000 glorious miles of wag-worthy trail for you to enjoy together. And you don’t have to do it all at once! If you’d rather spend a day strolling, try moderately rated Blackrock trail just outside of Harrisonburg, VA for an easy two-miler, or Mount Greylock State Reservation’s trail The Cobbles for just over two miles of out-and-back wildflower viewing near Cheshire, MA.