Do you have a dog who loves backpacking as much as you do? Interested in taking your dog with you on a thru-hike, but frustrated with the many trails with sections that do not allow dogs? If so, then this is the blog post for you!
I found the map below on Backpacker.com. Most people who enjoy backpacking are familiar with the Triple Crown of Hiking – the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail, but there are so many other long trails throughout the United States. While all 3 of the trails included in the Triple Crown of Hiking have sections that prohibit dogs, I searched through all of the trails shown on this map to find the most dog-friendly long trails in the United States.
As you read through the following list of 15 dog-friendly long trails, please keep the following in mind.
Rules and regulations can change and it is not always possible to find up to date information about dog restrictions online. Please do your own research about whether or not dogs are allowed and if they need to be leashed before starting any hike. And if you see any errors in this post, please let me know.
Also, please remember that just because your dog CAN hike with you doesn’t mean that they SHOULD hike with you. Some of these hikes are in remote areas, with rattlesnakes or grizzly bears. Can you keep your dog safe? Can you get them out of the backcountry if they are injured?
And these hikes span a wide spectrum of terrain and climates. Can your dog tolerate the heat or cold? And are they in good enough shape for a thru-hike? And do you truly think your dog will enjoy a thru-hike?
For more information about backpacking with with dogs check out one of the following posts:
- A Veterinarian’s Advice for Backpacking with Your Dog
- Backpacking with Dogs: What to Pack and Who Carries It
Okay, without further ado – here are 15 long distance trails that allow dogs to hike the entire trail.
The Long Trail: 272 miles
The Long Trail is located in Vermont and runs from the border with Massachusetts to the border of Canada. It is the longest continuous footpath in the United States.
Dogs are allowed throughout the trail, including at overnight sites. Leashes are required while hiking in alpine zones, near roads, at overnight sites, near water sources, and at other hikers’ requests.
There are a few areas on the Long Trail that can be a little difficult to navigate with dogs, as there are areas with ladders. If you are interested in reading more about hiking the Long Trail with a dog, check out this article about thru-hiking the Long Trail with two dogs.
Northville-Placid Trail: 125 miles
The Northville- Lake Placid Trail is located in northern New York State. The trail passes through some of the wildest and most remote regions of the Adirondack Park, while also passing through some small settlements and recreational areas.
Dogs are allowed in the Adirondacks as long as they are under control, leashed when others approach, and following good leave no trace practices. This means that your dog can hike the entire Northville Placid Trail with you.
Finger Lakes Trail: 560 miles
The Finger Lakes Trail is also located in New York State and runs from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main Finger Lakes Trail is 580 miles long, but there are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main trail.
Dogs are allowed throughout the trail, but be aware that they will need to be leashed when in Allegany State Park and all State Forests. Dogs should also be leashed when hiking on trail sections that are on private land. Read an official trail policy on dogs here.
Cohos Trail: 162 miles
While listed as 162 miles on the Backpacker map, the official website lists the Cohos Trail as 170 miles. The trail runs from southern Crawford Notch in the White Mountain National Forest through the Great North Woods to the Canadian Border.
Dogs are allowed on the entire trail except for the last couple of miles on the Fourth Connecticut Lake Trail. The official Cohos Trail website doesn’t have much information about hiking with dogs, so I recommend heading over to the trail’s Facebook page to ask questions.
Sheltowee Trace: 323 miles
The Sheltowee Trail was created in 1979 in order to give hikers an opportunity to backpack the entire length of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Per the association websites, the trail runs 333 miles from the northern boundary of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky to the southern boundary of the Big South Fork NRRA in Tennessee.
Daniel Boone National Forest doesn’t have a lot to say about dogs on the trails, except to mention that dogs should be kept under control. Find out more about the trail by visiting the association website (link in photo above) or heading over to the national forest website.
Palmetto Trail: 500 miles
The Palmetto Trail is located in South Carolina and consists of 500 miles of cross-state hiking and bicycling paths. Of these 500 miles, only 365 are finished and named. So you will need to use alternate routes to connect incomplete sections if you would like to hike the full 500 miles.
Dogs appear to be allowed on the entire trail and the website even includes information about Harry and his dog Gabor who hiked the entire trail in sections stretching over 5 months.
Pinhoti Trail: 339 miles
The Pinhoti Trail is located in Alabama and Georgia in the southern Appalachians. Trail building is still underway and hikers should be aware that the trail includes rock fields, water crossings, and road walking.
Dogs are allowed on the entire trail. It is recommended that you have your dog leashed and be aware that you may encounter loose dogs on the road walk portions of the trail. A good overview of the trail can be found at greenbelly.com.
Lone Star Trail: 129 miles
The 129 mile Lone Star Trail is a National Recreation Trail that winds through Sam Houston National Forest in Texas. The terrain is relatively flat and the trail can be thru-hiked in a week or less.
You can find out more about this trail by clicking the image above and heading over to the hiking club website or by reading about the trail on the Forest Service website.
Ouachita Trail: 223 miles
The Ouachita Trail runs 192 miles across the length of the Ouachita National Forest from eastern Oklahoma into Arkansas. Elevations are between 600 to 2,600 feet and the trail passes through forests and across sweeping valleys.
Visit the forest service website by clicking the image above, or head over to Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FOOT) to learn more about his dog-friendly trail.
Ozark Trail: 350 miles
The Ozark Trail is located in Missouri. A thru-hike can begin at Onondaga State Park and proceed southward to the Eleven Point Western trailhead or move in the opposite direction from south to north. From what I can find online, dogs should be able to hike this entire trail, but there are some leash requirements.
Thru-hiking the Ozark Trail can be achieved by hiking the contiguous 230-mile backbone of the Ozark Trail in one trip. But there are spur trails and loops that can add up to the 350 miles listed above.
Superior Hiking Trail: 310 miles
Near and dear to my heart, the Superior Hiking Trail is located in my home state of Minnesota. This trail is entirely dog-friendly, but your dog will need to be on a leash for all 310 miles.
The trail runs from the border with Wisconsin just south of Lake Superior and proceeds north to the border with Canada. Mostly forest hiking, there are some stunning views of Lake Superior and even a section that has you walking right on the rocky shores of the lake.
Head to the official website by clicking the link above, or head over to my overview of hiking the Superior Hiking Trail with your dog for more information about this trail.
Colorado Trail: 567 miles
The Colorado Trail is 567 miles of trail between Denver and Durango, passing through some spectacular scenery in the Colorado Rockies. The average elevation of the trail is 10,300 feet.
Technically there are 6 miles of trail at the northern terminus that you can’t hike with your dog, but when I asked several thru-hikers about dog-friendly thru-hikes the Colorado Trail was mentioned multiple times. You should be able to easily pass these first 6 miles by starting from the Indian Creek alternative trailhead.
Idaho Centennial Trail: 900 miles
If you are looking for a trail that is long and remote consider the Idaho Centennial Trail. The official website lists this trail at over 1100 miles.
The Idaho Centennial Trail was designated the official state trail of Idaho in 1990. The trail begins at 6,000 feet elevation on the Idaho/Nevada border and heads north towards the border with Canada.
The trail leads hikers through three wilderness areas, including a section of trail that hop-scotches along the Idaha-Montana border on the backbone of the Bitterroot Mountains. If you and your dog aren’t up for the remote wildereness, there is an alternate route that skirts the wilderness areas.
Oregon Coast Trail: 382 miles
The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places in the United States. And there is a 362-mile long trail that allows hikers to cross Oregon’s sandy beaches, meander through forest shaded regions, and pass through 28 coastal towns.
Most of the route is on the beach, although some sections wind through state parks or public lands. Approximately 10% of the trail is on the shoulders of roads and city streets. Dogs are allowed to hike this trail for half of the year. Unfortunately, from March 15th to September 15th, dogs are prohibited on the beaches due to nesting plovers.
But if you are willing to hike in the off-season, your dog can enjoy the Oregon Coast Trail right along with you. Find out more about this trail by clicking the image above or heading over to the Oregon State Parks’ overview of the trail.
Tahoe Rim Trail: 165 miles
And finally, last, but certainly not least, is the Tahoe Rim Trail. This trail traverses 165 miles of high alpine lakes, meadows, and stunning vistas in the Sierra Nevadas. The trail is located on the border of California and Nevada and portions of the trail can be found in either state. The trail is a rare loop trail, so you can start and end at the same trailhead.
Dogs are allowed on the entire trail and there is even a great page on the official website dedicated to making sure you know everything you need to know about hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail with a dog.
Time to Pick a Trail
Alright, that’s all 15 that I have picked out for now. I hope they give you some inspiration to get out and hike with your pup, whether you are planning a day hike, a section hike, or a thru hike. These trails are located throughout the United States, so there should be a trail near most everyone.
And again, if you have hiked any of these trails yourself or know of any dog specific regulations on the trails above that I missed, please comment below.