Can I take my dog on the Appalachian Trail?

But when 31-year-old Will Ransom, of Unadilla, Ga. When completed the Appalachian National Scenic Trail hike last month with his courageous 6-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Rhetta, he admitted, “It was a bit more than I bargained for.” ”.

Their trek began in late April in Springer Mountain, Ga. , which began in sunny 70 degree weather and ended 204 days later in Bennington, Vermont with temperatures in the 20s, wind blowing in their faces, and snow, freezing rain, and Because of the bad weather, Ransom and his hiking companion Gunsmoke (Louis Goldsmith of Crested Butte, Colorado) had to abandon the trail. , with whom he had been paired in Virginia), completed a thru-hike by doing a “flip hike,” which involved driving to the official trail’s end in Maine, climbing Mount Katahdin (5,267 feet), the main feature of Baxter State Park, and then returning to Bennington to finish the hike. ).

Some shelters and trail sections had to be closed due to icy conditions. “We definitely made the right call in flipping,” Ransom says. The rocky areas we were walking through appeared more like waterfalls than a trail because of the torrential rain. We had to bushwhack through some areas due to fallen trees as well. ”.

Along the 2,190-mile trail that runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia, wooden walkways are common. , to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Ransom emphasizes that the hardest part of the entire journey was “constantly searching for and reminding myself of the reason why I chose to take on this challenge.” The same monotonous schedule applied every day as you made your way step-by-step toward your destination over mountain after mountain, shelter after shelter, tent up, and down. The physical and mental challenges go hand-in-hand. A difficult day affects your physical health, which hinders your progress and productivity. ”.

And adding a four-legged partner boosts that intensity and focus. He continues, “I had to consider her needs all the time, too.” She loves the water, so whenever we came across one, we would take extra time to let her swim and play in the water. I made an effort to constantly compliment Rhetta and turn any natural barriers she had to overcome into an enjoyable experience that she would be praised for. This allowed her to stay mentally and physically stimulated. ”.

Rhetta’s inclusion brought with it a great deal of responsibility that was far greater than typical dog ownership. “I’m glad I took Rhetta,” Ransom says. “Having her finishing the trail was an accomplishment. Very few dogs have thru-hiked the trail. However, I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to hike the trail with a dog. Rhetta didn’t choose to accompany me. I decided to bring her along, so I had to consider her welfare constantly and make accommodations to put her needs first.

Ransom and Rhetta on the Appalachian Trail are taking a break. The 600 in the dirt represents mile 600 of the trail running north to south.

“She was a source of companionship and helped me get through some difficult times, even though I had to make sacrifices,” We had a very special relationship before the hike, and it’s even closer now that we’ve been dependent on one another for six months. ”.

Sometimes Ransom carried the dog back to the dirt trail over the rocky, abrupt terrain and up the steel steps built on the enormous boulders. And then there was the unexpected encounter with a bear in Virginia’s Shenandoah Park. “When it saw us, it trotted away,” Ransom recalls. However, as it was departing, I heard a loud thud beside me and turned to see another sizable bear nearby, which I could have touched with my walking stick. He appeared to be assessing us as he stood there looking at me. At the end of the leash, Rhetta was barking and growling angrily in an effort to scare it away. I beat the trees around it in an attempt to scare it away because it wasn’t moving voluntarily. I had no choice but to resort to throwing rocks at it, and eventually it lumbered off.

This was concerning because bears typically flee when they see people on the trail. Later, I discovered that the area had a problem bear that was charging hikers. And rangers agreed that this was probably the same one. ”.

Ironically, it was hikers’ unleashed, frequently unruly dogs that posed the biggest challenges for Ransom along the route. “Those encounters were frustrating and dangerous,” he emphasizes. We had several close calls with dog fights when dogs would charge directly at her around blind corners even though Rhetta was leashed the entire way for her safety and politeness. ”.

The pair found that Southern Maine and Northern New Hampshire’s challenging terrain, boulders, and rocky footing were the most taxing for them. Ransom says, “We were told this would be the hardest.” There were times when I had to lift her over ledges and other obstacles because they were too challenging for her to negotiate. Adding her weight to my pack was pretty challenging. She made it through this part of the hike thanks to being a tough, resilient breed with a tenacious and determined temperament. ”.

After a strenuous day of hiking, Ransom and Rhetta, on the right, rest at a campsite with another hiker and his dog. The length of each day on the trail was determined by the weather, the difficulty of the trail, and the amount of daylight, especially in the later stages of the journey in October and November.

Their daily routine was as follows: They would wake up around six in the m. eat breakfast (oatmeal, protein bars, and coffee for Ransom), and then start hiking shortly after. They would travel about four miles and stop, depending on the terrain. Ransom and Rhetta typically shared a lunch of cheese and cured meat. They would keep moving until just before dusk, at which point they would stop, set up camp, and eat dinner (either homemade dehydrated food or pre-made dehydrated meals).

Throughout the journey, Ransom fed Rhetta a premium dehydrated dog food that he had brought from home in resupply boxes that were dropped off at designated mail stations along the trail. Sometimes the shipments were delayed, and he was left scrambling to find the best dog food in a nearby town. Prior to the pair’s departure, Rhetta had a full veterinary examination; at that time, she weighed 44 pounds; at the end of the trip, she weighed 38 pounds.

During our journey, we visited two veterinarians, and both of them were astounded by her condition, recalls Ransom. She was tough because neither of her pads ever cracked nor got hurt. Ransom noticed swelling on Rhetta’s neck in New York State and immediately left the trail in search of veterinary care. This was Rhetta’s only physical issue. Ransom had to spend the night in a hotel, give her warm compresses, and give her antibiotics after being treated for an abscess in White Plains. The next day, he had to go back to the veterinary clinic to get the all-clear to take her back out on the trail. Rhetta healed quickly, with no complications.

If someone were considering hiking the Appalachian Trail with their dog, Ransom’s advice is to first go on a lengthy (possibly two-week) hike. Head out 12-to-15 miles a day. That will enable you to fine-tune your gear while assessing your endurance and ability to recover from a series of challenging days on the trail.

You must be ready to keep your dog on a leash almost constantly. You must also be prepared to carry additional weight for your dog’s food, as well as the inconvenience of having to stay elsewhere because you have a dog in some hotels and hostels along the way. ”.

Many times, Rhetta needed a little assistance from his friend to climb boulders on rocky ridges. This day it was in Maine.

Ransom continues, “Your dog needs to be well socialized because you’ll be interacting with a lot of hikers, some for a short while and some for a few hours.” When Ransom and Goldsmith started dating, Rhetta welcomed him into the family. “Gunsmoke (Goldsmith) made for a good hiking companion because we kept the same easy pace,” He was amiable, had a similar personality to mine, and had a good sense of humor. He also loved Rhetta, and Rhetta adored him. While we were hiking, Rhetta constantly monitored him and his location in relation to us. In other words, the three of us had a pack mentality. ”.

Ransom claims that completing the hike was the most difficult but rewarding experience of his life. “It was a learning experience and a journey of self-discovery. I was able to confront my feelings and thoughts without being distracted, which helped me determine the course I want to take with my life. It forced my body and mind to the limit while doing so, revealing to me their resiliency and strength.

The Appalachian Trail inspires and depends on the sense of community that Rhetta and I experienced for our survival, as well as the general goodness of people. The adventure’s simplicity and purity were highly rewarding and addictive, and they will stick with me for the rest of my life. ”.

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Tips for taking four-legged friends on your next Appalachian Trail adventure.

Top by Steven Yocom. Originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of A. T. Journeys Magazine.

My husband and I were traveling from the Trail just north of Damascus to Saunders Shelter for a short overnight hike with our two terriers. Our more senior dog, Tali, warned us of something ahead as we got closer to the Trail junction leading to Taylors Valley. She slowly backed away while growling and barking, her hackles raised, and she refused to move forward. We could see the road ahead just as clearly as Tali because it was a sunny day, but neither my husband nor I noticed any signs of danger. She refused to move forward despite our best efforts and kept barking and sulking. Now that I was certain my dog had spotted a threat that I was unable to see, I could feel my own adrenaline starting to rise. We eventually discovered that she was sounding the alarm in response to a burned and blackened tree stump next to the Trail, which she might have mistaken for a bear. In order for us to continue hiking, my husband ultimately had to carry her past the “bear.”

Being able to hike with your dog is one of the best things about the Appalachian Trail for dog lovers. Our dogs obviously enjoy being outside and spending time with us. Our lives have been made richer by the many special Trail moments we’ve experienced with our dogs over the past four decades.

The most crucial step you should take to ensure you and your dog have a positive hiking experience is training. Basic etiquette for dogs includes sitting, staying, not jumping on other hikers, and not stealing food. A good place to start getting ready for hikes with your dog is by enrolling in a dog training course.

On the Trail, you are responsible for your dog. This includes maintaining control. In accordance with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s pet policy, dogs should always be on a leash. Having to keep your dog on a leash is a small price to pay to be able to go on hikes with them.

Making sure your dog is comfortable and healthy while hiking is part of your duty to them. There are numerous options available for controlling fleas and ticks, which is essential. Vaccinations, including rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus-2 are also essential. (It’s also a good idea to travel with evidence of your dog’s most recent vaccinations. Always give your dog water when you stop for a drink. If you are thirsty, your dog will be, too. Dogs burn more calories while hiking, just like humans, so they require more food. Even on day hikes, we give our dogs a lunch break, especially if they are toting a pack. Town or Trail, remember food and water for your companion.

When hiking with your dog, a harness is, in my opinion, preferable to a collar. A harness is easier on a dog’s body. A sturdy six-foot leash is a good choice. Use the belt version of a retractable leash rather than the cord one if you decide to do so. While hiking in some places, such as Shenandoah National Park, where the maximum length of a dog’s leash is six feet, you must lock your retractable leash at that length.

Hiking with Dogs in Mt. Rogers-Grayson Highlands A sturdy leash and harness will help ensure that your dog is safe and comfortable during your hike.

Keep in mind that not everyone you encounter on the Trail will share your love for your dog. When another hiker approaches, one thing we’ve learned to do is to move our dogs to the side of the Trail. We instruct our dogs to wait while the hiker passes by. Some hikers express gratitude, but the majority stop to talk and pet our dogs.

Finally, we must talk about poop. Because your dog is not a local, carry poop bags, pick up the waste, and take it outside. Take your trowel and bury your dog’s waste while backpacking in the same manner that you would your own. Hikers who follow will thank you.

While most Trail sections are dog-friendly, there are some limitations and common sense exceptions. Three A. T. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bear Mountain State Park, Trailside Museum and Zoo, and Baxter State Park are prohibited areas. Because they are rocky and steep, the White Mountains in parts of Maine and New Hampshire may not be comfortable for your dog. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s infamous rocks could cause your dog just as much discomfort as they do you. Before asking your dog to perform too many tasks, consider their physical condition. Before deciding to take your dog on a hike, check the weather. A breed with a thick coat may find summer heat to be too much, while a breed with a smooth coat may find winter cold to be harmful.

It’s not nearly as difficult to find lodging that welcomes pets along the Trail as it once was. Many hotels and motels tout their pet-friendliness, and you may have to pay a small fee to keep your dog in your room. Additionally, it’s polite to be ready to tent camp rather than use a shelter when spending the night on the Trail with your dog.

Luann Mack-Drinkard is an A. T. 2000-miler and a licensed veterinary technician specializing in physical rehabilitation. She travels as frequently as she can with her husband Dee (also a 2000-miler), their two Airedale Terriers, Airen and Peri, to take advantage of the soul-stirring pleasures and beauty that the Appalachian Trail has to offer. They all abide in Danville, Virginia.

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We hope this was helpful for those planning their hike. We didn’t mean to put you off from bringing your dog; rather, we were trying to be honest about how difficult it is to hike for 8 to 10 hours every day and how much more work it is to bring a dog. Despite the fact that we have been living and hiking on the AT with our dog for more than 2000 miles and three years, even we have experienced days when we wish he hadn’t been there. It’s just the reality of it.

If you missed Hiking with a Dog Part 1, you can read it by clicking here. We covered diet, paws, ticks and gear. This time, we wanted to discuss some factors to take into account before hiking with your dog.

The second time you’ll need to plan for your dog is at Baxter State Park. Asking someone to pick you up or drop you off and staying an extra day to watch your dog might be the best option since it’s either the end or the beginning of the trail for most hikers. There are boarding facilities there, but we can’t personally attest to their quality. We haven’t encountered a dog in Baxter because we didn’t have Rooney and our section hike ended in New York when Serial thru-hiked.

Rooney was never physically pushed past his limits, but we frequently felt as though we were prioritizing his needs over our own. And that can take a toll on a hiker. So pause a moment and really think it through. Don’t feel bad if you don’t want to bring your dog. And it’s awesome if you still want to bring your dog along on the hike. We’ll do everything we can to help you prepare!.

Pet policies on the trail. The Smoky Mountains and Baxter State Park are two locations where you cannot bring your dog on the AT and will require additional preparation. Unless you have a service dog, you should expect your dog to miss 5-7 days of hiking when you arrive in the Smokies. There are two main ways to prepare for this section if your dog is not a service dog: either skip it or board your dog. We do not advise skipping the Smokies because they are incredible, but it is your decision. The Smokies, where we boarded our dog, provided both of us and him with a welcome break. It takes a lot of effort to care for a dog on a trail. It was wonderful to have a week off to just hike without worrying about Rooney’s needs. Rooney was picked up by the place we boarded him after they met us in Fontana. We hiked to Rooney who was staying at their hostel at the end of the Smokies. Rooney was rested and waiting for us when we left the Smokies. He was overjoyed to see us and get hiking once more. Send us an email at jill at atraillife dot com if you want to know the specifics of how much it cost or which hostel we stayed at.

Are Dogs Allowed On The Appalachian Trail?

For the most part – yes. For those who require one, you may still bring a service dog into the prohibited areas. When hiking with dogs, there are certain rules that must be followed, as well as common sense at all times. For example, be courteous to other hikers and dogs, protect the flora and fauna, and make sure your dog is up to the task.

Keep in mind that the Appalachian Trail is difficult, especially if you’re a novice hiker. This is true whether it’s hiked in sections or as a multi-month thru hike. There are many considerations, such as climate, terrain and wildlife. Discover where dogs are not permitted on the AT by reading on.


Can you hike the Appalachian with a dog?

On the 40% of the Trail that uses National Park Service-managed lands, dogs must be on leashes; however, we strongly advise that you do so, in part to protect you and your dog in the event of an unplanned encounter with wildlife. PACK ANIMALS: Pack animals are NOT allowed on the trail.

How many miles can a dog hike in a day?

An average-sized dog in good shape should be able to easily complete a 5–10 mile hike, according to Pawsitively Intrepid. He can probably increase that total to 20 or more miles in a day after receiving the proper conditioning. Dedicated 4-legged hikers in excellent condition can appear to cover 25 to 30 miles quickly.

What can you not take on the Appalachian Trail?

Top 10 Mishaps to Avoid When Hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • Bringing too much food. …
  • Carrying too much water. …
  • Carrying too many (or too few) clothes. …
  • Not practicing with gear before starting. …
  • Carrying a pack weighing 50 pounds or more. …
  • Making someone’s day turn to crap. …
  • Sleeping with food in tents and shelters.

Can my dog hike 30 miles?

If trained, dogs can hike up to 30 miles in a day. The typical dog could walk 5 to 10 miles per day, but not consistently every day because this could result in fatigue and injuries.