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A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking with Your Dog

A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking with Your Dog

Hiking with your dog can be an incredibly joyful and fulfilling experience, both for you and your furry companion. One of the greatest joys is witnessing the sheer excitement and enthusiasm that radiates from your dog as they embark on the adventure. Their wagging tail, prancing paws, and eager eyes serve as a constant reminder of their sheer joy and love for the outdoors. 

Whether it's exploring new trails, sniffing various scents, or simply enjoying the fresh air, dogs have an uncanny ability to find bliss in the simplest of things, and their contagious energy can lift your spirits and make every hike an unforgettable experience.

Another joy of hiking with your dog is the deepened bond and strengthened relationship that develops along the trails. Spending quality time outdoors together allows for meaningful connections and shared experiences. Dogs are loyal companions who thrive on companionship, and they relish the opportunity to be by your side on new adventures. 

The trust and reliance they place in you as their leader can deepen as you navigate challenging terrains together, reinforcing your bond of mutual trust and respect. Hiking becomes a shared journey filled with moments of shared triumph, laughter, and exploration, further cementing the special bond between you and your dog.

Things You Should Consider When Hiking With Your Dog

Planning and preparing for a hike with your dog is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience for both of you. Here are a few reasons why it's important:

1) Safety

Dogs rely on their human companions for guidance and protection. Planning and preparing for a hike involves considering the safety of your dog in various aspects. This includes researching the trail to ensure it is dog-friendly, checking for any potential hazards such as steep cliffs or dangerous wildlife, and assessing the difficulty level of the hike to ensure it matches your dog's abilities. 

Additionally, bringing essential items like a leash, collar with identification tags, first aid kit, extra water, and dog-friendly snacks will help you handle any unexpected situations and keep your dog safe throughout the hike.

2) Environmental Considerations

Responsible hiking with your dog also involves being mindful of the environment. Researching the trail regulations beforehand will ensure that dogs are allowed and what specific rules may be in place, such as leash requirements or restricted areas. 

It is important to respect wildlife and other hikers by keeping your dog under control and cleaning up after them. Some ecosystems may be sensitive, and keeping your dog on the designated trail can help minimize any potential negative impacts.

It pays to practice the National Parks B.A.R.K. rule wherever you hike with your dog. B.A.R.K. stands for:

  • Bag your pet’s waste
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect wildlife
  • Know where you can go

3) Physical Preparedness

Just like humans, dogs need to be physically prepared for a hike. Before embarking on a long or challenging hike, assess your dog's fitness level and gradually build up their endurance through regular exercise. This will help prevent injuries and ensure that your dog can handle the physical demands of the hike. 

You will also want to consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, protected against parasites, and in overall good health before taking them on outdoor adventures.

4) Proper Training

Having a well-behaved and thoroughly socialized dog is crucial for hiking safety and etiquette. Make sure your dog at least understands the fundamental commands "come," "sit," and "stay." Another crucial behavior is courteous walking on a leash. 

Although it's not necessary for your dog to heel along the trail, hiking is not intended to be dragged along the trail. You should have a solid verbal recall ready in case you drop the leash or your dog's collar breaks. If you can't keep your dog in sight, you can't keep him safe.

"Leave it," and a "quiet" command to stop barking are two other behaviors to work on. There are several hazards on the trail that could cause serious harm to your dog, including poison ivy, animal excrement, and the rubbish left behind by other hikers. A firm "leave it" cue will prevent your dog from eating or tampering with anything dangerous. 

Additionally, reducing any excessive barking can assist in maintaining the quietest environment possible in your natural area.

Hiking in Asheville

Hiking lovers will find Asheville to be a haven. You and your dog could easily spend weeks meandering around the Blue Ridge Mountains and making up your own adventures with the more than 1,600 miles of trails available. Just be sure to keep your dog on a leash and pack plenty of water and snacks for both of you. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Big Butt Trail: One of the best dog-friendly walks in Asheville is this high-elevation hike, which is also a fantastic way to explore the surrounding Pisgah National Forest.
  • Bearwallow Mountain Trail: The scenic Bearwallow Mountain Trail is a favorite. It's a short, 1.7-mile loop that's close to town, making it perfect for a quick outing that guarantees you'll return in time for dinner at one of Asheville's fantastic restaurants.
  • Mount Mitchell: Even in the height of summer, the high-elevation forest of Mount Mitchell delivers milder temperatures. And a small waterfall on the Old Mitchell Trail Loop near the peak makes for a wonderful place to cool off after a fantastic day on the mountain.
  • Crabtree Falls: The trail is shaded by many tall, leafy trees, making it ideal for cool summertime excursions. There are little pools at the base of Crabtree Falls, which are a nice place to cool off in the middle of a hike. This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail passes through a stunningly picturesque woodland.
  • Bridal Veil Falls: A favorite trail in the DuPont State Forest due to the moderate elevation, a mid-hike swim in the sparkling waters of Lake Julia, and an abundance of refreshing water at the falls. The trail passes through some of the park's most picturesque areas, and Bridal Veil Falls' towering cascades are breathtaking. 
  • Rattlesnake Lodge: This is a part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, about seven miles east of Weaverville. There are two trails that lead to the site of the ruins of a lodge, built in the 1900s: a 1.4 mile gradual climb from Ox Creek Road and a 1/2 mile steep climb from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Catawba Falls: There are several opportunities for your fur baby to get all four feet wet along the walk to Catawba Falls, which follows the Catawba River's cascading waterfalls. The swimming hole beneath the falls is also a ton of fun. The base of the multi-tiered falls is a terrific place to unwind and take in the scenery, and the shaded, mossy woodland is especially lovely.

Barkwells - Book Your Hiking Adventure Today 

If you are looking to hike with your dog in the Asheville area, we would love to have you stay at one of our Barkwells locations. At Barkells, we create happy vacation memories for dogs with people who love them by providing exceptional vacation accommodations, fun, and freedom for dogs and their families. That means more to us than just allowing pets to stay in the room with you.

We have properties in both Asheville and Brevard. Both areas are the perfect home base for a western North Carolina adventure.

If you are ready to book your memorable vacation with your dog, we would love to answer your questions and tell you more about how you and your dog(s) will be welcomed guests. Contact us for more information, or reserve your place now on our website!