If you’ve ever tried to hit up all of the fantastic National Parks with Fido, you probably came to realize, much like we did, that this isn’t really possible. When we lived on the road, there wasn’t an option of not having the pooch with us, but did that stop our adventures??? No! We found a ton of amazing alternatives to National Park lands. Some of these feature the same amazing landscapes of the National Parks but are outside of the borders. So, you get just as awesome of an experience as you would inside the park. Another advantage is that these spots are often less crowded (something we hate!) and if you’ve been following us you know our goal is doing things on the cheap so we found no cost adventures all over. Here’s the list:
First, here’s some general rules about finding dog-friendly hikes, trails without crowds, & adventures without cost:
- Wilderness regions – Wilderness areas are all over, free, and amazing! There are seldom restrictions on dogs. These make great places to hike, backpack, & take in the quiet of nature.
- Explore the outskirts of the National Parks – We are known for just taking random roads, so if you’re feeling adventurous and have a 4 wheel drive vehicle just pop down a random forest road. Many parks are surrounded by additional federal lands, such as National Forests and BLM lands. Some of our best stories came from these.
- In 2017, Canadian National Parks are offering free entry! Unlike the general rule that No Dogs can be in parks in the U.S., Canadian National Parks commonly allow dogs.
So, having stated those general rules, here’s our list of the most amazing places to hike, backpack, and camp with your dog:
Glacier View Wilderness, Goat Lake Hike (Mt. Rainier National Park)
This has to be one of the most incredible views of Mt. Rainier and it is not in the park! Take the Goat Lake Trail to Gobblers Knob Lookout tower. It is some uphill but totally worth it. We went up just before sunset so we could get some great shots of Rainier, but since we didn’t camp up there we had to hike down in the dark!
Kearsarge Pass, California (Kings Canyon NP)
Get a view of the beauty of Kings Canyon National Park by hiking a mountain pass on the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. This season the snow will stick around for a while, but when we did the pass in spring it was incredible! There was still snow which made the pathway fun and sometimes hard to find, but not impossible. The reward was huge!
John Muir Trail, California (Yosemite NP)
Most of the John Muir Trail is dog friendly, so plan to do a section. We were camping and hiking all over the eastern Sierras so we found ourselves on random trails and sometimes we stumbled onto the JMT! The trail goes all the way into Yosemite National Park, where dogs are not allowed, of course, but the scenery outside of parks on the JMT is just as rewarding!
Sections of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – Golden Trout Wilderness
We wanted to do a section of the PCT while in California, so we ended up trying this one. It was cool, but some parts were a little lacking in water resources, so just make sure to bring enough. Our loop was about 50 miles long, a couple of days of hiking.
Heart Lake Trail, Mt Shasta, California (Lassen NP)
Hang out with a breath-taking view of an active volcano, in sunny California. The region is surrounded by forest hikes and lakes. One of our favorite short hikes is Heart Lake Trail. Our dog loved swimming in the lakes along the trail and I was in love with the amazing view of Mt. Shasta in the backdrop!
Tonto National Forest, Arizona
We hiked in Arizona on a nice trail in the Tonto National Forest. the entrance was just off the highway. It is trail 260.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
Not a long hike and lots of people on this one, but if you find yourself stopping off in the area this is a classic. There is alot of great geology to explore here and pooch can be by your side.
There is only one spot your dog can be in Zion (Pa’Rus Trail), but there are regions around Zion that are pretty cool. In the northwest corner there is a Kolob Reservoir.
Grand Canyon Rim walk
You can walk your dog around the Grand Canyon. It’s not really a hike, but still a scenic stroll and one of the few places in National Parks that a dog IS allowed to stroll along on.
San Juan National Forest, Colorado
We lived in Colorado and spent most of our time in the western half in the lesser-known but most beautiful San Juan Mountains region. There are tons of hikes in here. If you find yourself traveling into Colorado and want a great experience in the mountains, don’t just stop off at the popular spots (Rocky Mountain NP, Estes Park, Colorado Springs’ Pikes Peak), make a trip west to the San Juans. You won’t regret it. Durango is a fun mountain town, Highway 550 is an incredibly scenic drive, and in the tiny town of Dolores there is a cute coffee shop with a great couple running it.
Dixie National Forest, Utah
We explored back some forest roads in the Dixie National Forest and even found some hoodoo features that make Bryce Canyon National Park so famous.
Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT trail system)
There is an east-west trail running from Glacier National Park, Montana to the Pacific Coast. It does run through some National Parks, which the dogs can’t do, but you could do sections of the trail in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. We have not done the trail yet but we plan to do some sections this year so I’ll update this when we do! It practically runs through our back yard in the National Forest behind us! Check it out here: https://www.pnt.org/
Here’s some great spots in south Canada (B.C., Alberta):
***I’m working on these & will add asap!***
Some ideas: Bella Coola, Stein Valley Provincial Park, Kluane National Park