Are you and your dog tired of taking the same old route through your neighborhood each morning? This weekend, take your pet on an adventure through the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Our area of Appalachia has some of the most beautiful mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and views in the world—and we don’t think we’re being biased. Best of all, many local trails are dog friendly. That means both you and Fido can enjoy an afternoon of fresh mountain air, local critter sightings, and cool mountain streams. You may even come across a waterfall or two!
Do something fun for yourself and your pet. Here are five popular hiking trails that you and your dog are sure to love!
Graveyard Fields Loop
Length: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 418.8), Graveyard Fields Loop Trail is an easy drive from Asheville, Waynesville, or Brevard. The well-marked trail gives you easy access to two waterfalls, or takes you to the more moderate two-hour loop through the wildflowers and blueberry bushes of Pisgah National Forest. Your dog will love the cool summer temperatures and playing in the waterfalls and river. For your convenience, there is a parking area and restrooms at the start of the loop. Dogs must be on a 6-foot leash on National Park Service property.
Length: 0.25–6.0 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
Mount Mitchell State Park has an extensive trail network, including entry onto the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (see below). We think you and Fido will particularly enjoy Old Mitchell Trail (2.2 miles one way, Strenuous). Used by explorers as early as the 1840s, this was the primary trail for reaching Mount Mitchell well into the 1900s. A small waterfall near the summit is a great place to cool off, but remember to wear appropriate clothing and carry proper gear for yourself and your pet. The high altitude means Mount Mitchell and surrounding areas can be chilly year round.
Length: 5.5–935 miles
Traversing 935 miles, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail consists of footpaths, roads, and state bike routes from the Outer Banks to the Great Smoky Mountains. You can begin your hike at the trailhead at Clingman’s Dome, where the Mountains-to-Sea Trail connects with the Appalachian Trail. Or we recommend the 5.5-mile loop from the popular Devil’s Courthouse overlook to Black Balsam Knob. Along that route, you and Fido will enjoy the incredible sights and sweet scents from several gorgeous (and sometimes steep) rocky overlooks above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sections of the trail are also accessible from Mount Mitchell.
Length: 10 miles available
Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
Covering 434 acres within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, the North Carolina Arboretum is a great place to enjoy a day out with your dog. While pets are not allowed inside the buildings and in some of the gardens, all of the Arboretum’s 10 miles of trails, rated easy to moderate to strenuous, are all dog friendly. Both you and Fido will enjoy exploring the native and cultivated flora, watching birds, and enjoying the peacefulness of the great outdoors. Stop at the Baker Exhibit Center upon arrival to pick up a trail map. Parking fee is $14 per vehicle.
Length: 3.2–3.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Do you and your dog like to explore the past in addition to your natural surroundings? Two trails lead to the remnants of Rattlesnake Lodge, a summer retreat that burned down in 1926. Start your hike from the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (see above) or from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along the way, both you and your pet will enjoy the hardwood trees shading the trail and a stone spring at the ruins of the lodge. Come back in the fall to see the tree canopy in all its colorful glory! Dogs must be on a 6-foot leash on National Park Service property.
Safety Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
Before you head out on the trail, take a moment to assess your dog’s fitness, health, and behavior. While the trails above are all dog-friendly, not every trail is, and not all dogs are fit for hiking. Whatever your dog’s fitness, make sure to bring clean water to keep your dog cool and hydrated. For long hikes, bring nutritionally balanced dog food and snacks, as well. On the trail, watch out for approaching cliffs, do not wander off the trail into the homes of native flora and fauna, and remember to give dog-less hikers the right of way.
Keep the trail fun and enjoyable for everyone—including your dog—by keeping your pet leashed at all times. Make sure your dog is wearing a snug collar with your contact info and his or her rabies tag on it. And please remember to leave no trace.