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14 Dog-Friendly Trails in the U.S.

Dogs make great adventure partners, especially since it’s often their disposition to try new things as long as their human is there alongside them. A dog-friendly trail can mean many things to people depending on fitness level, location, and extras. The most important factors to consider are:

  • Length
  • Elevation gain
  • Difficulty 
  • Trail surface
  • Access to water
  • Shade
  • Leash laws

While trails may be dog-friendly at these locations, some surrounding areas, trails, and park buildings. For that reason, it’s best to know the regulations before you head out, especially leash laws (including leash length). 

We’ve done some of the research for you. If you are looking to head out on your next hike with a four-legged friend, here are 14 dog-friendly trails around the U.S. 

Buckeye Trail – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

dog-friendly-trails-in-the-us
Image by Sam Harmon

With almost 100 miles of hiking trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there is something for everyone, even if that “someone” has a tail. The rugged Buckeye Trail is just enough of a challenge for dogs and people alike. The trail features the 15-foot Blue Hen Falls, and pups will enjoy climbing the rock features. 

  • Distance: 3.5 miles 
  • Location: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 580 feet
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Calico Hills Trail – Red Rocks Canyon, Nevada

dog-friendly-trails-in-the-us
Image by Kris Zhou

Beautiful scenery and rocks to climb make this trail a favorite for dogs and people alike. Pass by the base of Calico Rocks through Calico Basin and turn around at the Sandstone Quarry (or earlier, if you wish). This is a hike best from October to May. Get an early start and bring plenty of water. 

  • Distance: 2-6 miles round trip 
  • Location: Red Rocks Canyon, Nevada
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate 
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet for long route 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Canyon Vista Trail – Worlds End State Park, Pennsylvania

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Image by Donna Reichle

From the instant playground of the Rock Garden to the views of the Loyalsock Creek Gorge, the Canyon Vista Trail is a must-do with Rover. The trail features some steep sections better suited for experienced hikers of the two- and four-legged kind. Wild blackberries provide a yummy treat towards the end of summer. Water crossings may be dry or wet depending on the time of year and recent weather. 

  • Distance: 4-mile loop
  • Location: Worlds End State Park, Pennsylvania
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 780 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash

CCC Trail – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

dog-friendly-trails-in-the-us
Image by Amy Michiales

Even dogs enjoy an intoxicating view, and you both can find that at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Rangers and staff love dogs at this park, and you and your pup will love the scenery at the Palo Duro Canyon rim. The trail starts near the visitors’ center with dramatic views, including Goodnight Peak. 

  • Distance: 2.8 miles round trip 
  • Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 540 feet
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Continental Divide Trail – Homestake Pass, Montana 

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Image by Encyclopedia Brittanica

While the full Continental Divide trail is 3,100 miles, Homestake Pass is a sample of the trek that’s worth tackling with a furry friend. With approximately 1,750 feet in elevation gain, this trail takes you past unusual rock formations—part of a geological formation called the Boulder Batholith. And there’s no need to hike the full route to experience the magical geology. 

  • Distance: 10.4 miles  
  • Location: Butte, Montana  
  • Difficulty: Difficult 
  • Elevation Gain: 1,750 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Elk Mountain – Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

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Image by Shuranda Widener

Who doesn’t smile when traveling through fields of flowers? If you time it correctly by visiting in late spring and summer, that is exactly what you can experience with your furry companion in the Wichita Mountains. If you miss the window for vibrant colors and smells, don’t fret. The rocks also make for some fun play while you enjoy the area. Don’t forget to give your pup some extra love from the summit. 

  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip
  • Location: Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 570 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Garland Ranch Waterfall, Lupine Trail – Garland Ranch Regional Park, California

Image by Jason Blazakis

A hike combined with some time at the dog park is a pup’s dream. You can find that at Garland Ranch Regional Park. This hike is rated “easy” with only 239 feet of elevation gain, leaving plenty of energy for some time to play after. Dogs can be off-leash in areas of the trail and in the park (see rules and regulations). Hopefully, you visit while the waterfall is flowing. 

  • Distance: 2 miles round trip
  • Location: Garland Ranch Regional Park, California
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Elevation Gain: 239 feet 
  • Leash Law: Some off-leash areas 

Indiana Dunes Trail 10 – Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana

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Image by Matthew Feeney

Trail 10 begins at the Nature Center and contains a variety of sights and sounds for both you and your best four-legged friend. The trail takes you over a boardwalk, through a tree graveyard (bet you can find a stick or two there to play fetch), and through white pines and marshland. The beach part of this trail takes you along the shores of Lake Michigan. Be prepared to let your pup do wave dodging or bring a ball for sand play. The loop takes you back to the main parking area. 

  • Distance: 5.5-mile loop 
  • Location: Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash  

Mt. Bierstadt – Mt. Evans Wilderness, Colorado

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Image by NEMPT User

If you are a hiker, a classic bucket-list hike is climbing one of Colorado’s 58 14er (or more) mountains. Mt. Bierstadt is a class 2, one of the easier scrambles, but definitely not easy. You and your pup must be prepared to tackle this trail with 2,736 feet of elevation gain. Have a dog first aid kit, extra water, boots, and a plan if something happens, as Mountain Rescue does not rescue furry friends. June through October is the best time to climb this 14er with your canine companion.

  • Distance: 7.2 miles round trip
  • Location: Mt. Evans Wilderness, Colorado 
  • Difficulty: Difficult 
  • Elevation Gain: 2,736 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Paraners Branch Loop Trail – O’Leno State Park, Florida 

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Image by Amanda Watson

This loop trail can be hiked year-round and takes you and your hiking buddy through several ecosystems, making the trail far more interesting for dogs, thanks to its sites, smells, and sounds. What makes this trail especially dog-friendly is all the shade. (NOTE: As of this writing, the bridge is currently out, so you will need to return on the River Sink Trail.)

  • Distance: 4.4-mile loop
  • Location: O’Leno State Park, Florida 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 42 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Roughlock Falls – Spearfish Canyon Nature Area, South Dakota

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Image by Lindsey Haas

Nestled in the Black Hills, what this hike lacks in difficulty it makes up for in scenery. The cascading 50-foot Roughlock Falls, high canyon walls, and boardwalks all make for a nice hike. You will enjoy the views, and your dog will enjoy splashing in Spearfish Creek’s water pools. 

  • Distance: 2 miles out and back
  • Location: Spearfish Canyon Nature Area, South Dakota
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 242 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

St. Louis Canyon – Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

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Image by Shannon Lenz

With 13 miles of hiking trails, Starved Rock State Park is a favorite location for pup owners to get in some hiking miles. St. Louis Canyon is a 3-mile round-trip hike that begins and ends at one of the main parking lots for the park. Order from the special pup menu at The Veranda to treat your trusty companion after a hike well done. Alternative trails for furry friends, if you are looking for a longer hike, include Ottawa Canyon, which is 8 miles round trip, or the 4-mile LaSalle Canyon. 

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Location: Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 232 feet 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 

Sulphur Springs Trail – Paris Mountain State Park, South Carolina

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Image by Kyle Coop

If you are looking for a great experience with your canine companion, consider a weekend at Paris Mountain State Park. The park is dog-friendly with off-leash areas, including North Lake (Reservoir #3), where you can splash and play after getting in some trail miles. Hardwood forest, steep climbs, and a range of habitats make the Sulphur Springs Trail an adventure for your whole crew. The difficulty makes it less crowded, and no mountain bikers are allowed here. 

  • Distance: 4-mile loop
  • Location: Paris Mountain State Park, South Carolina
  • Difficulty: Moderate  
  • Elevation Gain: 688 feet 
  • Leash Law: Some off-leash areas 

Whiteoak Canyon to Cedar Run Loop – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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Image by Cordelia Calvert

Hikeable year-round, the loop from Whiteoak Canyon to Cedar Run is a waterfall lover’s dream. You and your canine companion will enjoy the top-notch scenery, from lush green fauna to six cascading falls. Water crossings will help your hiking buddy stay cool on the trail.  

  • Distance: 8.3-mile loop 
  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Leash Law: Must be on a leash 
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