It’s a whole other ballgame when hiking the Appalachian Trail with a dog, so when you’re planning for your trek, remember to take these tips, hints and rules into consideration.
You’ll both be happier on your journey together when basic comfort, preparedness and adherence to the laws are maintained.
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Are Dogs Allowed On The Appalachian Trail?
For the most part – yes. In the restricted areas you can still bring a service dog for those who have the need. There are rules that must be observed and common sense should be employed at all times when hiking with dogs, such as courtesy to other hikers and dogs, protecting the flora and fauna and making sure your dog is up to it.
Remember that, especially if you’re a newbie hiker, the Appalachian Trail is arduous – whether taken in sections or as a multi-month long thru hike. There are many considerations, such as climate, terrain and wildlife. Read on to learn about where dogs are not allowed on the AT.
Sections Where Dogs Are Not Allowed
Three areas where dogs on the Appalachian Trail are not allowed include:
- Maine: Baxter State Park
- New York: Bear Mountain State Park Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center (alternate road available.)
- Tennessee and North Carolina: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Once you hit the Great Smoky Mountains, there will be between 5 – 7 days where your dog will not be able to travel with you. You’ll need to make other arrangements during these three sections.
Sections Where Dogs Are Allowed
All other locations on the AT not mentioned in the previous section, from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. States involved are: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Keep in mind that dogs must be leashed on more than 40% of the AT, which includes over 500 miles administered by the National Parks Service.
Other areas where leashes are required include the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the entire state of Maryland, the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia. It’s best to touch base with local trail clubs for rules governing dogs on any particular section.
Here are a few trail clubs, one from each region, that you can contact:
- Maine Appalachian Trail Club
- New York-New Jersey Trail
- Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club
- Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club
It is preferred that dogs are kept leashed for the whole of the trail, in order to ensure the safety of the wildlife as well as your dog, other hikers and their dogs. Remember to clean up after your dog and keep them away from sources of water, due to issues with spreading disease.
Here is a video on Hiking the Appalachian Trail With Your Dog by Homemade Wanderlust:
Dogs Good For Hiking
Apart from the dog breeds considered good for hiking the Appalachian Trail, there are a few things to remember before planning your trek, in order to ensure a great experience for both you and your pet, such as:
- How long you’ll be hiking for: this will affect what you pack (for you and your dog) and how long your dog can handle continuous hiking. They need a break just like you do.
- How old your dog is: don’t expect a young pup under the age of one to keep up or you’ll risk permanent damage to their joints. The same goes for older dogs. If they already have joint problems then hiking might be out of the question. Of course, it depends on the length of your hike.
- How well-behaved your dog is: even if they heel when told and come running back when you call them, there’s no telling what might excite or aggravate them. Keeping them leashed provides peace of mind.
- How appropriate the breed is for a particular climate: educate yourself about the breed of your dog and figure out if they can withstand extreme temperatures and terrains.
The following list of what are considered the best breeds for hiking the AT might give you an idea:
- The Australian Cattle Dog: protective, expert heeling skills, sturdy, energetic, intelligent, adaptable to various terrains, adventurous, loyal.
- The Siberian Husky: powerful, enduring stamina, intelligent, good in colder climates, (watch for overheating in warmer climates), can carry your backpack, friendly but can be destructive.
- The Bernese Mountain Dog: calm, sturdy, loyal, obedient, active, intelligent, able to carry gear, good in colder climates, (watch for overheating in warmer climates), good with kids.
- The Hungarian Vizsla: energetic, intelligent, good stamina, eager to please, great retrieving skills, protective, good eyesight, easy maintenance of their coat, gentle.
- The Doberman Pinscher: strong, active, speedy, loyal, agile, but can be destructive if not allowed to exercise. Fearless, low maintenance, obedient.
- The Australian Shepherd: loyal, long lasting stamina, eager to please, adventurous, adaptable over varying terrains and through harsh weather (especially heat), alert, tough, intelligent, protective.
There are other breeds considered great for hiking, but it all depends on you, your goals, and the expected terrain.
Hiking Accessories For Dogs
You don’t need to go all out and spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary or vanity products when looking for accessories for your four-legged friend, but there are a few essentials you need to keep in mind before setting out on the trail. Here is a list of accessories that will keep your dog happy, healthy and safe during your trek:
Standard 4 – 6 feet length made of strong and durable materials or use climbing rope. A waist leash is great for hiking, which allows the hiker to travel hands free. Look for waist leashes made from flexible materials that don’t allow the dog to stray too far.
The Dog Backpack
Great for long distances. Your dog can wear their backpack and carry their own water, food and medical supplies. Some have the added bonus of protecting them in extreme weather.
This depends on how well your dog behaves on a normal leash. If excitable, you might consider a harness for more control which has the added benefit of protecting their throats if they pull ahead too much. We recommend a harness that doesn't contribute to chest restriction, like this one here.
For Food and Drink
The Poop Bag
Unless you plan to bury their refuse, you might want to consider a poop bag holder.
This depends on your dog and their fur. For short-haired and smaller dogs in the colder weather, you might need a jacket that provides warmth over the dog’s back, chest and sides. Lightweight jackets which are water and wind resistant are good for rainy days.
You might also consider dog boots – even though most dogs don’t like wearing them, so you’ll have to break them in before heading out on the trail. Good for extreme terrains and temperatures. Alternatively, there are waxes you can apply on their paws – especially for protection in colder weather.
Now you should have a clear understanding about what is required before you set off on your hike with your four-legged friend. If you keep all these things in mind - when preparing as well as when you're on the trail - you'll both be sure to have an adventure to remember.