Hiking the Appalachian Trail with a dog would certainly be more fun and interesting than doing it on your own! But is it a good idea? Guest blogger Trisha Penrod shares her experience to help you decide if your furry hiking partner should join you on this epic adventure.
To hike the Appalachian Trail is a dream for many people. And the only thing that could make it better is if they could take their dog, too. I never thought that it would be possible for me. But, in the fall of 2018, I embarked on what would become the most rewarding walk of my life.
After discovering that the Appalachian trail was dog friendly, and doing some research, I decided to take my dog, Toby, with me. Toby is a 70-pound chocolate lab mix, and he’s an experienced hiker. But this would be our biggest adventure to date.
In the end, we walked 900 miles of the Appalachian Trail together, from the Pennsylvania / New Jersey border to Mount Katahdin in the middle of Maine.
You’ll find numerous resources providing advice on gear for your Appalachian Trail hike. This article focuses on deciding whether or not to take your dog along.
Thinking About Hiking The Appalachian Trail With A Dog?
Never in my life did I imagine walking 900 miles — let alone with my pup in tow! But we successfully completed a bit less than half of the Appalachian Trail together. And now I can’t imagine hiking that trail without him.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for Hiking With Dogs
So, why did hiking the Appalachian trail with a dog appeal to me? As a career woman who worked A LOT, I always felt guilty about the time Toby spent alone. Sure, I hired the occasional dog walker. But I felt I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved.
Then I had the idea to hike part of the Appalachian Trail. I immediately thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if I could help my dog hike the Appalachian Trail!?” So, from the beginning, it was less about me and more about us accomplishing this goal together. And I think that’s what made our adventure a success.
When you’re hiking the Appalachian trail with a dog, the days tend to run together. So, you’ll always looking for inspiration. Toby was mine. He was a beast on the trail. We’d spent time training together in Idaho to build our endurance, so I knew he was capable. But I never imagined HOW capable he would be!
Together we built up our trail mileage from 5 miles to 15 miles a day. Though, even at 15 miles per day, he could easily have hiked twice as far.
Seeing the pure joy and excitement on his face kept me positive. No matter how sore, unmotivated, or annoyed by the weather I felt, Toby’s positive energy was infectious. He helped me get through those days, which often ended with a hot shower at a pet friendly hotel.
Having Toby along benefited me in another way. The Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia, but we jumped in just past the half way mark. Most of the hikers we met along the way had been hiking for a while and had gotten to know each other. So, in a way, we were outsiders.
Toby broke that ice immediately. He became an instant trail icon. We’d roll into towns together and other hikers would recognize us both. Thanks to Toby, we were welcomed into a “trail family” of about 8 hikers. This meant we were constantly surrounded by friends, with Toby as the mascot, motivating and bringing joy to everyone along for the journey.
Caring For A Dog Hiking The Appalachian Trail
Keeping Toby healthy was my first priority. There’s a saying that when you hike long distances with a dog, you are hiking “their hike,” meaning you’ve made the decision to put your dog’s needs above your own. And, for the most part, Toby remained healthy the entire trip.
A big part of taking care of Toby each day was making sure he ate enough food to maintain weight. Toby is a lean 65 pounds, so I was always adding olive oil to his food, and it worked!
The only issue we ran into was at Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were both able to summit the mountain, which is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. However, the descent was brutal. For about 5 miles the trail passes over very steep, rough rocks. By the end of the day, Toby’s paws were showing signs of hot spots.
Thankfully, Toby carried dog booties in his backpack, and we got them on as I discovered the hot spots. Those booties saved his paws, which was lucky, because we still had 5 miles to hike that day!
The next day, we took an Uber into Gorham, New Hampshire and Toby stayed with a pet sitter for a week while I continued on the trail without him.
When his paws had healed completely, I went back and picked him up. We were both ecstatic to be back on the trail together! I needed the motivation; hiking Maine was difficult because it’s extremely mountainous in the south. Fortunately, Toby was healthy and happy the rest of the trip.
READ MORE ⇒ Which Dog Boots Are Best For Your Dog?
Go adventure together!
Hiking the Appalachian trail with a dog had been my dream since I was a little girl. And having Toby along completely changed the experience. He was my snuggle buddy at night, my muse for the camera during the day, and a constant inspiration to keep me going.
I’d like to say we made the perfect team, but in reality HE made the perfect teammate for me. For anyone thinking of hiking a long distance with your dog, I say go for it! The experience will deepen your relationship more than you can imagine. There’s something magical about watching your dog live their best life.
I hope we see you out on the trail!
About the Author: Trisha Penrod is an Air Force veteran turned marketer. She spends her free time exploring with her fur son, Toby.