Roaming with Rover: Happy Dog Hikes and Tips

June 30, 2015

By Tami Asars

Photo at right: Kirby enjoys a tasty swim at Annette Lake after a morning hike. Photo by Maria Borisov


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Summit, my German Shepherd, was ever-watchful and alert taking in the surrounding peaks and hiking long miles each day on my backpacking adventures.

For 10 years he trotted by my side, exploring hilltops with sweeping views until old age slowed him down. These days, Scout, my new collie pup, is content with treats earned from trying new things, such as bravely hopping over blowdowns or finding his way across trickling creeks.

Having your dog accompany you to mountain vistas, scenic overlooks, along ocean beaches or through deep forests is one of the greatest joys of dog ownership.

Whether they are romping down the trail on backpacking trips, sleeping in a tent soundly at your feet, splashing in babbling creeks, or alerting you to wildlife ahead, pooches make fine hiking companions.

As you set out to roam with Rover this summer, keep a few important tips in mind.

Check on regulations. While the majority of trails are open to dogs, several Northwest trails, and trails in all National Parks, prohibit them.

Maintain control of your pooch at all times and obey leash laws. Some trails allow your dog to be under voice command while others require the dog to be leashed. If your dog has strong prey drives and a tendency to wander, or doesn’t always exhibit good manners when approaching other hikers or other dogs, always err on the side of caution and keep your pooch on a leash.

Be mindful of your pet’s waste. If not properly disposed, doggie doo-doo can contaminate water sources and spread diseases. Pick up not only the dog waste, but also the waste disposal bag should you leave it trailside to take back on the way down. On backpacking trips, follow the same guidelines as for human waste and bury dog droppings in hand-dug holes at least 6 inches deep and 200 feet from waterways.

Bring plenty of dog treats and give lots of praise. Our furry friends work just as hard as we do out there, so be sure to replenish calories with dog-specific snacks, water and lots of well-earned pats.

Make sure your dog is wearing ID. Have a clear identification tag on his collar with your contact information in the event your dog gets lost, and ensure he is microchipped in case his collar falls off.

Carry first-aid supplies and know how to use them. Be prepared to treat your canine companion should he get hurt on your adventure. Have a pair of dog booties handy in case of a sore or cut paw and educate yourself on dog first-aid, such as CPR, bandaging skills and reactions to poisonous plants, insect bites and stings.

Three Doggie Hikes

Now that you have a few tips about hiking with your dog, where should you go? Washington State is teeming with trails to enjoy as your pooch gallops by your side.

Here are a few favorites I’ve enjoyed with my dogs throughout the years.

Franklin Falls (Snoqualmie Pass Area):

Two miles round trip with 400 feet of vertical elevation, May–October, Washington State Discover Pass and leashes required.

Near Snoqualmie Pass is a spectacular 135-foot waterfall with plenty of places along the route for pooches to play in the water and enjoy an icy-cold drink. Because this hike is rather short in length, it is good for puppies, old dogs or any pooches that may not be able to hike long distances.

Directions: From Seattle, follow I-90 east to exit 47 Denny Creek/Tinkham Road. Turn left at the exit’s stop sign and proceed 0.2 miles over the freeway to another stop sign. Turn right and in 0.2 miles turn left onto Denny Creek/Forest Road 58. Proceed roughly 2.5 miles and just beyond Denny Creek Campground turn left onto a paved road. The trailhead will be in 200 feet on the right. Parking is to the left.

Obstruction Pass State Park (Orcas Island/San Juans)

1.5 miles roundtrip with 300 feet of vertical elevation. Year-round. Discover Pass and leashes required. Backcountry camping optional.

Visiting the spectacular archipelago of the San Juan Islands is a great way to enjoy some good bonding time with the pup year-round. Sunny winter days frolicking at the beach can be equally as enjoyable as busy
summer months.

From the parking lot, follow the main trail through the conifers for 0.6 mile to a series of stairs leading down toward a large, picturesque beach. Sniffing, stick throwing and digging opportunities abound for the pooch!

When you are done beachcombing, head back the way you came, or follow alternative trails to make a loop back to the car with your wet, tired pup.

Directions: From the Orcas Island ferry terminal, follow Orcas Road roughly 8 miles and turn right onto Main Street. In 1.2 miles, turn right onto Olga Road. Follow Olga Road for 6.5 miles to the tiny town of Olga and turn left onto Point Lawrence Road. In 0.5 mile stay right and follow Obstruction Pass Road for roughly 1 mile. Turn right at the Obstruction Pass State Park entrance and find the trailhead and parking area in 0.9 mile.

Council Bluff (Mt. Adams/Trout Lake Area)

3.2 miles roundtrip with 890 feet vertical elevation, Mid-July–October, Northwest Forest Pass required. Dogs must be under reliable voice control. Leashes recommended due to steep cliffs.

A defunct forest service road leads the way to a spectacular perch and location of a former fire tower where you and your pooch can picnic. The view of Mt. Adams will delight humans in the group, while the chilly waters of Council Lake, at the start and end of the hike, will give the pooch a place to cool off, doggie paddle and fetch sticks. Consider camping at Council Lake.

Directions: From the town of Randle, turn south onto State Route 131. After approximately 0.9 mile bear left at a junction onto Forest Road 23 and continue 32.6 miles. Turn right toward Council Lake on Forest Road 23 and drive 1.2 miles. Turn right and follow the road to the campground. Park near the gated road and find the hike starting by the camp area on the defunct forest road.

Go ahead and get out there with your pup. Allow the wind to blow through furry coats, the sand to lodge between paw pads, bellies to get caked with mud and tails to wag atop mountain vistas.

Perhaps there is no greater feeling for either of you!

Tami Asars is an outdoors writer, photographer and third generation Washingtonian. She is the author of the book Hiking the Wonderland Trail, and Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks (Mountaineers Books), as well as a Regional Correspondent/ Columnist for WTA Magazine and OutdoorsNW. She’s currently writing a section hiking guide to Washington’s Pacific Crest Trail as well as a day hiking guide to Mount Rainier National Park.

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