There’s just something about exploring the great outdoors with Hiker Dog that makes the great outdoors extra great. Everything is new to her. She loves everyone and never met a trail she didn’t take to immediately. But I learned a long time ago that when it comes to hiking with my dog, not all trails are created equal.
In fact, Hiker Dude has noted more than once that if we’re planning to hike inside national park boundaries, we can get into big trouble if we’re not observing park rules regarding where and how we can take Hiker Dog.
Most national parks have pretty strict rules about how and where you can take your dog. Trail options are usually pretty limited. Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are no exceptions.
Bag your pet’s poop
Always wear a leash
Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
Pets can harass or harm wildlife by making noise or scaring wildlife away.
Know where you can go
Pets are allowed on these trails inside Olympic National Park:
Peabody Creek Trail
Rialto Beach parking lot to Ellen Creek (1/2 mile)
The beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations
Madison Falls Trail
Spruce Railroad Trail
Pets are also welcome in campgrounds and picnic areas in Olympic National Park. But they aren’t allowed in public buildings, on interpretive walks, or in the wilderness. Certified guide animals excepted.
Mount Rainier National Park welcomes pets as long as they and their owners adhere to the following:
- Pets must be on a leash at all times or in a crate. Leashes may not exceed six feet in length.
- Pets must be with and under the control of their owners at all times.
- Owners must pick up and dispose of all fecal matter.
With the exception of service animals, pets are NOT allowed in the following areas at Mount Rainier:
- On trails (The Pacific Crest Trail is an exception. Make sure your dog is on a leash no longer than 6 feet.)
- In wilderness and/or off-trail areas
- Inside buildings
- In amphitheaters
- On snow covered roads closed for winter, except designated snowmobile routes
Pets are permitted in parking lots, campgrounds, and on paved roads. While in these areas, pets must be leashed or crated and with their owners.
Incidentally, if you’re a dog owner and think these rules don’t apply to you, think again. If you’re think you can sneak Lassie or Marmaduke onto a verboten trail and no one’ll notice, think again, again (that’s not a typo.). This is especially true if the trails are muddy or Lassie has just had breakfast. You’re not fooling anyone, and you make the rest of us look bad. So kindly knock it off.
Bottom Line: Fido, Fifi or Fluffy can’t join you on most trails in these parks. And you’re not allowed to leave them in a vehicle or anywhere else unattended. So either plan your visit around picnicking or hanging out at the campground, or make sure your furry friends are well looked after at home.
And not to restate the obvious here or anything, but when selecting your next hiking adventure to share with your canine, remember to factor in your dog’s age and physical agility and ability. Also the weather, altitude, and terrain. As always, be sure to carry extra food and water for your dog. Ditto protection from ticks and chiggers and the like.
My top recommendation for a great dog-friendly hike near Mount Rainier National Park? Sheep Lake, hands down. Just outside park boundaries at Chinook Pass, near Naches Peak.
A little over 4 miles RT, the trail to Sheep Lake has it all: stunning vistas, a dense forest, gentle uphill grade, and a beautiful, clear-as-glass lake ringed by towering mountains. In season, the wildflowers at the lake are outrageous! There are also camping spaces at the lake.
Part of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Sheep Lake Trail is one of the most popular in the area. Get an early start if you prefer solitude.