In Washington State, where I live, the Washington Trails Association has created one of the most comprehensive online trail guides available.
The site lists every designated trail in Washington and they are accompanied by detailed descriptions, trail stats, and a note about whether they are dog friendly or not. All of the trails have trip reports attached to them and are searchable by map. If you're traveling to Washington State, trail research is easy.
We sometimes travel to other states and have to hunt around to find information about dog friendly trails. For example, my hubby and I are taking the dogs to Jackson, Wyoming in a couple of weeks and we need to find some trails we can hike with the dogs.
My Dog Friendly Trail Search Process
The first thing I do when traveling to a new state is check to see if I can find an comprehensive, online hiking guide like we have in Washington State. This usually takes a bit of searching on Google and I usually come up empty. It's worth the search though because if you can find one it is pure gold. If you can't find a site where you can search all trails in the state by map, it can be hard to find what you are looking for.
The second search I do is for National Parks near where we are going. Most National Parks don't allow dogs on trails but there are a few exceptions, like the Spruce Railroad Trail in Olympic National Park. The reason I focus my search on National Parks though is that they are almost always surrounded by National Forest Service land, or other recreation lands, that do allow dogs on trails. If you are lucky, you can find a trail that stops right at the park boundary, allowing you to appreciate some of the spectacular scenery a National Park has to offer.
State Parks are another great place to find trails. Most State Parks allow dogs on trails and many of them surround beautiful and interesting natural landmarks.
To make sure there isn't some amazing dog friendly trail that I missed, I do an internet search to see if I can find any reports from people who have hiked with their dog. A search for "dog friendly trails and *insert state*" or "*Insert State* trails and dogs" will usually reveal some trip reports or, if you're lucky, a blog or website dedicated to hiking with dogs in the state. If a trail is truly amazing, the chances of SOMEONE writing about it online is good.
Dog Friendly Trail Resources
Washington Trails Association — All trails in Washington State with notes identifying them as dog friendly or not.
YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner.com — Trip reports and stats for several dog friendly trails in the Seattle area.
Portland Hikers — A service of Trailkeepers of Oregon, this site is very similar to the comprehensive trail database for Washington State. The hike description usually includes a note if dogs are not allowed.
National Forest Service — Most Forest Service Trails are dog friendly. Search for National Forest trails by state or name, including those adjacent to National Parks.
Wikipedia List of US State Parks — A list of every State Park, searchable by State.
HikeWithYourDog.com — A basic list of general areas with dog friendly trails by State.
A Word of Caution
Always remember that just because a trial says dogs are allowed, doesn't mean it is a good fit for your dog. Some trails may be littered with large boulders that they would have to scramble over. There might be a river to ford that is too swift for your dog to swim. Be sure to read the trail description thoroughly, and read some trip reports if they are available, to help you gauge whether the terrain is appropriate for your dog.
Be sure to check the area you are traveling to for potential hazards to your pet. If you live on the cool, temperate Northwest coast, your dog may not be used to the dry heat and will need a lot more water and rests while hiking. If you're lucky enough to live in an area where ticks and heartworm are not prevalent, be sure to check to see if they are a big issue where you are going. You might want to give your pet some kind of preventative.
So, what are your favorite resources for finding dog friendly trails? If your state has a similar online resource like the Washington Trails Association, I would love to know. Please leave a comment below.
Editor's Note: Jessica is a regular contributor to the Sierra Social Hub as part of #TeamSierra. Learn more about hiking with dogs on here site: You Did What With Your Weiner.