Best State Parks for Hiking With Your Dog

Posted by Lauren Barker

State parks across the country offer outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and adventure-seekers a plethora of opportunities to explore, learn, and recreate. From campgrounds to cabins, fenced dog runs to swimming holes, state protected lands are full of activities for humans and canines to enjoy together. However, at these pet-friendly state parks, it’s all about hiking with your hound.

LaPine State Park

La Pine, OR
“Can I go for a paddle?” Photo by @kitsutheshibashiba

Situated among a subalpine forest along the Deschutes River in central Oregon, LaPine State Park takes tail-wagging trekkers on 12 miles of hiking trails. Start your adventure on the 3.5-mile Deschutes Loop which follows the river and takes you by the fenced pet exercise area where Fido can run free. The easy-rated 4.4-mile Fall River Loop and 3.2-mile Cougar Woods Loop offer solitude and are excellent for bird and nature watching. From Cougar Woods Loop, you won’t want to miss the spur off to the Big Tree Loop. At just under a mile, this trail leads to the Heritage Tree, Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine, estimated to be over 500 years old.

Once everyone is dog-tired, set up camp or stay in a pet-friendly cabin at LaPine State Park Campground. Or, let Fido put his paws up at Riviera de Chutes, a two-bedroom cabin with a large deck overlooking the Little Deschutes River.

Makoshika State Park

Glendive, MT
“Which way to the dinosaurs?” Photo by BringFido/Jeff

At more than 11,000 acres, Makoshika State Park is Montana’s largest state park. Here you’ll find unbelievable views of the badlands, dinosaur fossils, and 11 designated hiking trails varying in length and difficulty. The nearly one-mile moderately difficult Diane Gabriel Trail takes visitors to Sunset Overlook and past a hadrosaur fossil. Bring your camera along for epic viewpoints along the one-mile Kinney Coulee Trail and the Bluebird Trail which leads to Birdseye Overlook. Experienced hikers on two legs and four can take on the moderately difficult 5.8-mile Artists Trail to extraordinary lookouts over the badlands and Montana wilderness.

After all that hiking, Fido will have worked up an appetite, so take him to dinner on the patio of Gust Hauf in downtown Glendive. Once his belly’s full, unwind for the night at Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Glendive where he’ll have easy access to the property’s pet area.

Oak Mountain State Park

Pelham, AL
“Decisions, decisions.” Photo by BringFido/Adrienne

Whether your pooch wants to take a leisurely stroll or get his heart rate up on a rocky climb, the 25 miles of hiking trails at Oak Mountain State Park are the perfect spot for him. Little legs will enjoy exploring the 0.3-mile Treetop Nature Trail, an elevated boardwalk that allows visitors a close-up view of birds of prey that have been injured and are being rehabilitated. Pups looking for a challenge can climb the 12.8-mile roundtrip White Trail which leads to Shackleford Point, the highest point in the park at an elevation of 1,260 feet. If you’re not feeling up for the full trail, take the turn-off to Maggie’s Glen, a popular spot to sit and relax while watching the stream. Other trails in the park lead to scenic viewpoints of Peavine Falls and Double Oak Lake.

Pitch your tent or park your RV at the Oak Mountain State Park Campground and you’ll be in the middle of all the adventure. Or, rest up for the night at La Quinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham Birmingham Hoover. You and your pup can refuel on the dog-friendly patio of nearby Ragtime Cafe.

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Franktown, CO
“Just “pawsing” for a moment.” Photo by @darbystroud

Located between Denver and Colorado Springs, Castlewood Canyon State Park is home to a variety of pet-friendly trails ranging from mild to moderate in difficulty. For an easy trek and epic canyon views, walk with Fido along the paved 1.2-mile Canyon View Nature Trail. Or, take a .35-mile jaunt to the ruins of the Castlewood Dam which burst in 1933, sending a 15-foot wave of water barreling into Denver. Adventurous hounds can explore the canyon on the nearly four-mile Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch Trails. Stop at rest points along the way and enjoy the views of winding Cherry Creek. If he’s feeling extra energized, continue with your pooch along the two-mile Rimrock Trail and admire the excellent vistas from above.

After a day of exploring, bring Fido to Best Western Inn & Suites of Castle Rock to get his beauty rest. The hotel is conveniently located on Interstate 25, making a great homebase for exploring all the pet-friendly hiking trails in Colorado Springs and Denver.

Mount Mitchell State Park

Burnsville, NC
“Good thing we’re not afraid of heights.” Photo by BringFido/Jennifer

While Western North Carolina boasts an abundance of pet-friendly state parks for hiking, Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville is hard to top. Bring your canine climber to ascend the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and revel in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Avid hikers on two legs and four can ascend the six-mile Mount Mitchell Trail to get in a good workout and likely spot wildlife like deer along the way. However, you don’t have to be a mountaineer to reach astonishing viewpoints. In fact, even furry little legs can reach the peak by taking the short, paved Summit Trail from the upper summit parking lot to the observation platform overlooking the Pisgah National Forest. On a clear day, you and your pooch can see up to 85 miles. Numerous other trails ranging from easy to difficult also welcome canine hikers.

Kick back on the deck overlooking Neil’s Creek at this Serene Cabin at the foot of Mount Mitchell. Many hiking trails including the Mount Mitchell Trail are within walking distance from this cozy getaway.

Highlands Hammock State Park

Sebring, FL
“I think I heard something.” Photo by BringFido/Wendy

Let Fido walk in the pawprints of the elusive Florida panther at Highlands Hammock State Park. Located in the central part of the Sunshine State, this park is also home to black bears, alligators, and deer. Keep your pup on the eight pet-friendly trails to avoid unwanted encounters, and marvel at the ancient towering oaks and a variety of birds overhead. The trails lead through hydric hammock, cypress and hardwood swamps, and pine flatwoods, giving you and your pooch an array of ecosystems to observe. Take a quick stroll on the Alexander Blair Big Oak Trail which leads to the 36-foot gnarled lower trunk of a live oak, then continue on the Hickory Trail via a narrow boardwalk through a live oak canopy. Highlands Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida.

Spend the night at one of the 159 pet-friendly campsites at Highlands Hammock State Park Campground, or rest up at nearby Inn on the Lakes. The hotel’s on-site restaurant features a pet menu so Fido can fill his belly before exploring the park a second day.

Lake Bemidji State Park

Bemidji, MN
Photo by BringFido/Melissa Halliburton

Hike with your Husky on 11 miles of easy to moderate trails at Lake Bemidji State Park in Minnesota. Weave your way through towering canopies of old-growth pine, aspen, and hardwood forests, and explore the spruce-tamarack bog and Lake Bemidji shoreline from the boardwalk. Visit the bog from late May through mid-July for the peak blooming season of orchids, including showy lady slippers. Follow grass footpaths along the Homestead and Balsam Trails or learn about the plant and animal life within the park on the Rocky Point Interpretive Trail. Paths within the park also connect to the 115-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail, the longest continuously paved trail in the country. While you’re exploring Lake Bemidji, stop by the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue for a photo op with Fido.

Stay close to nature at nearby Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge. Pets are welcome in cottages, cabins, and Cedar Lodge, and you can enjoy beautiful views of Lake Bemidji from your room.

Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Amherst, MA
“One peak down, six to go.” Photo by @benfromjersey

Fido is welcome on all of the more than 30 miles of trails at Mount Holyoke Range State Park in Amherst. The park is known for its seven-mile mountain ridge line and a variety of ecosystems like wetlands, streams, and thickets. Beginner hikers can explore the .75-mile Laurel Loop through open and mixed woodlands, and if feeling up for more, can tack on the Trolley Bed Trail to Brook Bank. The 3.2-mile difficult hike along Mt. Norwottuck & Horse Caves trails takes you and your pooch through sedimentary rock overhangs believed to have been used as a shelter by rebels during Shay's Rebellion in 1786. However, the most popular trek in the park, The New England Trail, crosses the Seven Sisters and takes experienced hikers on an eight-mile journey through a series of summits and lookouts. The trail is very rugged and steep in places, so make sure your canine is up for the challenge before setting out.

If you need more than a day to explore Mount Holyoke, book Greens Treat in nearby Northampton. You’ll also be just a few minutes from 22 miles of additional hiking trails at Mount Tom State Reservation.

Do you have a favorite state park to hike in with Fido? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by BringFido/Wendy.