Dogs along for the hike


Sep 30, 2014
Just about everywhere that dogs are allowed in the wilderness they are required to be on a leash. In California's national parks, they are not allowed on trails at all--in fact, the rule in most national parks is that dogs are allowed only on paved areas--anywhere you can take your car, you can take your dog.

That doesn't include any trails that aren't paved.

But we'd estimate that of the fifty dogs we've seen in the backcountry this year, about three of them have been on leashes. It's the single most frequently broken regulation that we see in the wilderness.

On our last trip to Caribou Wilderness, we ran into quite a few dogs, and only one of them was on a leash. But that dog was within a mile of the trailhead, just starting out, and we wonder how long he stayed on that leash. We don't say that because the owners looked untrustworthy--but the trails the Caribou Wilderness are rife with deadfall trees. We had to climb up and over, or around more than 75 trees on our hike there. And we can't image what you would do with a dog on a leash in that scenario. Our guess is that you would get pretty darn tired of the tangles.

Of course, some dogs we've met are extremely well trained and behaved. But not all are. And we worry not only about dogs interacting with other hikers. More of a concern is how they might interact with the local wildlife--chasing squirrels or deer, or even worse, fighting with something that might fight back.


Mar 28, 2012
I live near the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in SLC and here too, almost everyone ignores the leash laws. It's 97% not a problem but also I've had a half dozen off-leash dogs act very aggressively towards myself or one of my kids. Not cool. The owners always say the same thing: "He never acts like that!" It's poor training, often compounded by poor choice of dog for city life.

And also the shit. There's an epidemic of little black plastic bags, mostly but not always picked up.


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
I love hiking with my dog, but also accept that she doesn't get to come a lot of places. This has meant not visiting National Parks as much for the past few years.


Aug 9, 2007
Just about everywhere that dogs are allowed in the wilderness they are required to be on a leash.

This statement is not accurate, at least not for many of the Utah/Wyoming wilderness areas that aren't in National Parks. They don't have to be on a leash in most places but they have to be 'under control' and not be allowed to harass wildlife.

Wyatt Carson

Desert Vagabond
Apr 15, 2015
We have a National Park in Arizona that does allow dogs in the backcountry. We used to take our Cairn Terrier backpacking in there quite often. It is the most southerly Park on the Colorado Plateau and the only Park on Route 66 and the Park with the least visited backcountry for over nights. They are required to be on leash but I never did let him off leash anywhere...because he is a terrier. I even met the park superintendent in a remote area of the backcountry once. He told me that it was his predecessor who made the allowance for dogs in the backcountry and he just kept in in place.

Here he is in Petrified Forest National Park on a great backpacking trip watching the food prep, very closely. He was a good boy and never tried to snatch anything but did know the most important rule, if it hits the ground it goes to the hound...


We never did come across another Park that allowed dogs in the backcountry. The only place he was not allowed was inside the ranger station buildings.


Jul 5, 2014
We never did come across another Park that allowed dogs in the backcountry. The only place he was not allowed was inside the ranger station buildings.

Acadia National Park in Maine is also dog friendly. Spent a week hiking there with my dog in August.
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