One of the many great things about living in Charlotte is there are a variety of dog-friendly hiking trails within a couple hours drive. On the weekends, I love grabbing Isabella, Penelope, and my husband, loading up the car and exploring the North Carolina mountains.
With trails throughout the state ranging in difficulty level, we’ve never at a loss for finding a trail nearby where we can adventure and explore the NC landscape.
That said, hiking with dogs is not an activity to pick up without preparation. Just like people, strenuous trails and different altitudes can take effect on dogs. Not to mention, hikers need to bring safety gear and staples for pups just as they would for themselves.
Well, this guide covers all your bases. Read on to discover some of my favorite dog-friendly hiking trails throughout North Carolina, including the difficulty level and distance from Charlotte. Then, catch three vital tips to keep in mind while hiking with your pup.
When selecting a trail, be sure to keep your dog’s fitness level in mind - not just your own. Be honest regarding what your dog is capable of.
For instance, Isabella is incredibly fit and is always up for an adventure. I can take her on any of the trails below and she’ll flourish. On the other hand, Penelope has short, stumpy legs keeping her low to the ground. And while she is very active and capable for a dog her size, some of the more difficult trails listed below would be too much for her.
You don’t want to end up having to carry your dog back down a trail if they get too tuckered out, and the last thing you want/need is an injury while out on a trail. Your dog is counting on you to look out for him. When in doubt, start small.
Just as you would pack a backpack for yourself when you hit the trails, you need to pack one for your pup as well. Regardless of whether you’re carrying items for your dog in your pack or you get a dog backpack for your pup to wear, select safety and first aid items should not be forgotten.
A well-packed pet first aid kit carries emergency items that come in handy should your dog get injured out on the trail and you cannot immediately get him to the vet.
I really like this one from L.L. Bean. It’s packed with gauze pads, towels, iodine solution, alcohol prep pads, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, forceps, eye wash, a skin staple gun, a tourniquet, vinyl gloves, and more. It truly has everything you need for your dog in an emergency - just make sure you know how to use/administer all the items prior to hitting the trails.
In addition to a dog first aid kit, you’ll want to pack the following items:
When it comes to packing water, err on the side of bringing too much H2O. Dogs drink a lot of water when partaking in strenuous activities - especially in the warmer months. When you’re out on the trail, you never want to be limiting your dog’s water intake.
Pack plenty of water, and as mentioned before, a water bowl to allow him to drink it easily.
Leash laws are still prevalent on hiking trails and it’s important you’re adhering to them. Remember even if your dog is friendly, other dogs might not be or could have had bad encounters on a leash (Isabella is one of those). Not to mention, there is a variety of wildlife on hiking trails.
That said, it’s so important your dog is wearing necessary tags on its collar just in case. Accidents happen, leashes break, squirrels run by. What if you went hiking with your dog, he got loose and became lost. At least by having the proper name tag, microchip tag, and rabies tag, you’d have a better shot at getting him home.
If you’re looking for added security, I highly recommend a collar GPS tracking device. There are many lightweight options to choose with a long battery life. I know when it comes to my girls, I’ll take any extra precautions necessary to keep them safe and sound - a GPS is that added security when you’re out hiking.
So, there you have it! The best dog-friendly hiking trails in North Carolina and three vital tips for taking your dog hiking - all combined into The Dog-Friendly Guide to Hiking in NC!
As always, if you have any questions about the information above, please leave a comment.
And if you’re looking for other dog-friendly hiking trails nearby or in other states, be sure to check out the AllTrails app. AllTrails holds over 50,000 hand-curated trail maps plus reviews and photos from millions of hikers, bikers and trail runners nationwide. It’s a great way to discover more dog-friendly hiking trails and also find the starting point for some of the more remote trails.