Appalachian Trail Highlights for Outbound Hounds

Posted by Billy Francis

Spanning over 2,180 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) winds its way through the Appalachian Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth. It’s a bucket-list activity for thru-hikers and outbound hounds alike. For Fido to complete the feat and be crowned a 2,000 Miler, it typically takes between five and seven months. This may not be possible for every courageous canine, which is why we’ve dug out the best pet-friendly stops along the A.T.

Gathland State Park

Jefferson, MD
Office dog Charley tackles the A.T. Photo by Jessica Chipriano

As featured in the latest edition of our book, Ruff Guide to the United States, you can take a fantastic day hike with your pup along a 10-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Crampton’s Gap in Maryland to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. Start your adventure by staying overnight at The Treehouse Camp, located just a quarter of a mile from the trailhead in Gathland State Park. Spend some time learning about the Civil War Battle of the South Mountain and admire the War Correspondents Arch before heading south toward Harpers Ferry. The mild elevation change along this portion of the A.T. makes the trek appropriate for both skilled and novice hikers. Stop for a picnic lunch before crossing the banks of the Potomac River into West Virginia. Don’t worry about the hike back once you’ve reached Harpers Ferry. River & Trail Outfitters will shuttle you to your accommodations for a small charge. Dogs must remain leashed on the trail and during the shuttle ride.

Located just a stone’s throw from the Appalachian Trail, The Treehouse Camp in Rohrersville features 18 elevated tree cottages and treehouses that welcome Fido. Cottages are insulated for year-round use and come furnished with tables, mattresses, and wood stoves. Treehouses are rustic, screened-in structures without stoves or mattresses. Campground amenities include fire pits, charcoal grills, picnic areas, and private bathrooms. Remember to bring your own bedding and a lantern.

McAfee Knob

Catawba, VA
“I’m the king of the world.” Photo by @timberthewonderdogg

Located in beautiful Roanoke Valley, McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed destinations on the Appalachian Trail. From a parking lot near the top of Catawba Mountain, you and your pooch will trek more than 3,000 feet to the famous overhanging rock. When you reach the unique geological formation, you’ll be greeted by 270-degree views of the valley and a picture-perfect spot to cherish forever. This moderate trail is nearly 9 miles in length and takes at least four hours to complete. Due to its popularity, we recommend hiking during off-peak times.

Take the winding road back down the mountain to Salem, toast the trail at Parkway Brewing Company, then rest up at Amelia’s Corner.

Lover’s Leap Loop Trail and Max Patch

Hot Springs, NC
A drool-worthy view. Photo by @tazz_and_bowser

North Carolina’s stretch of the Appalachian Trail takes hikers through Pisgah National Forest. Covering over half a million acres of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls and heavily forested slopes, Pisgah’s natural beauty will last long in your mutt’s memory. Lover’s Leap Loop Trail provides panoramic views of the forest and the French Broad River. This moderate hike is under 2 miles and can be completed in an hour. Dogs who still have gas in the tank can enjoy more of Pisgah National Forest on the popular Max Patch Trail. With no trees to block the view from the top, the mountains stretch for miles all around. This moderately easy 3.5-mile hike takes about an hour to complete.

Hot Springs is an oasis for thru-hikers to take a break. Enjoy a hot meal at Spring Creek Tavern before falling asleep to the sound of Spring Creek babbling by your bedroom at Musical Waters.

Anthony’s Nose

Garrison, NY
"This isn’t the first nose I’ve stood on.” Photo by @blairv41

If your dog isn’t used to climbing stairs, you may not want to pick Anthony’s Nose. This rocky ramble in the Hudson Highlands has a “pawfect” payoff at the top, offering epic views of the Hudson River. Start your journey on a stretch of the A.T., then veer off to the much talked-about snout. When your sniffer reaches the big sniffer, snap a picture next to the Star-Spangled Banner with Bear Mountain Bridge in the background. This moderate 2.6-mile hike takes around 2.5 hours to complete.

Experience even more Hudson River views from The Garrison, a shabby chic farmhouse in Phillipstown, NY.

Clarendon Gorge

Shrewsbury, VT
“I guess I’ll go first, then.” Photo by @fischerluddy

Fido will have to suspend his disbelief on the suspension bridge that overlooks Clarendon Gorge. Clarendon Gorge to Greenwall Shelter via Long Trail is a difficult 14.6-mile trail that can take 5 hours to complete. Fortunately it’s an out-and-back trail, which means your pooch can choose to hike as much or as little as she wants. The white markers along the way keep hiking hounds from straying from the path. Dogs who don’t want to hike all day but still want to brave the bridge will be pleased to know it’s just a short walk from the trailhead parking area. Whenever you decide to call it quits and turn back, grab a bite to eat on the lovely lawn at the Rustic Rooster.

Downsize with your dog at this secluded tiny house resort in Shrewsbury.

Sunrise Mountain

Sussex, NJ
“That was great, can we have some water now?” Photo by @elevated_k9

Sunrise Mountain is one of the most popular stops along the 74-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. Get up with your pup and hike to the summit to enjoy panoramic views of the break of day over the northern part of the state, as well as an abundance of native flora and fauna along the way. Despite the hike being rated easy, it’s a little over 7 miles out-and-back and takes up to four hours to complete. Dogs who prefer scenic drives can join you on Sunrise Mountain Road. When you reach the parking lot, it’s just a short hike to the summit.

Cross the border into Pennsylvania and enjoy a calm and comfortable night at this cozy cabin. If you want to keep hiking, there are waterfalls within walking distance.

Preachers Rock

Dahlonega, GA
“Shall we pray for treats?” Photo by @chasingadventureswithbiscuit

Preachers Rock is a short and sweet Appalachian Trail hike in North Georgia’s Woody Gap. Ramblers are treated to incredible views across tree-covered peaks and valleys. During spring and summer, wildflowers paint the pathway. The biggest payoff is Preachers Rock itself, which offers views to Big Cedar Mountain and beyond. This beautiful hike is also one of the easier stretches of the A.T. in the Peach State at just 2 miles roundtrip. The hike takes 1-2 hours to complete.

Gather around the crackling fire pit and tell tales of your A.T. adventures at the Blue Moon Cabin in the middle of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Gulf Hagas: Rim Trail and Pleasant River Tote

Stacyville, ME
"Water fall-ing in love with the A.T.” Photo by @winstonsworldnyc

Described as the Grand Canyon of Maine, Gulf Hagas is a stunning slate gorge made up of epic rock formations that stretch for 3 miles along Pleasant River. You and your pooch can enjoy the sights at this 500-foot-high natural rock formation on Gulf Hagas: Rim Trail and Pleasant River Tote. Highlights of this varied slice of the A.T. include tumbling waterfalls, idyllic swimming holes for hot dogs to cool off in, and plenty of pretty lookouts. The whole hike is just over 8 miles, takes around 4-5 hours to complete, and is rated moderate.

Spend the night in a pet-friendly cabin in nearby Gantners Landing.

Ready for a Road Trip?

Photo by Linda Segerfeldt

The editors at BringFido have dedicated themselves to digging up the best dog-friendly things to do across the country. And we've assembled it all in our new book, Ruff Guide to the United States.

Now in its second edition, the book features over 365 of the best places to stay and play with your dog in all 50 states. Order your copy today and save 50% off the retail price when you use the discount code TRAIL.

Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail with your dog? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by @hfarrellll.