You are here

Elle Ossello | 07.04.2017

If you haven’t yet garnered as much from our previous posts (like this one, this one, and this one), we’ll say it outright: We’re dog people. And along with that self-assigned designation comes a lot of scheming, planning, and dreaming up more ways to thrill our dogs with adventure. A serious dream: echo John Steinbeck’s famous footsteps (or tire treads) during his Travels with Charlie
In our contemporary age, for us weekend warrior types, this looks a bit more like a well-planned weekend away in the woods than a get-up-and-go cross-country road trip. Not sayin’ one is better than the other, but this post will focus on the latter. Whether you’re tossing your pup and a tent in your car or you’re hitting the road with a dog-friendly camper, there are nearly endless opportunities for camping with your pets. 
Our general, overarching suggestions are to choose backpacking trips or campgrounds with plenty of natural shade, bring more food than you think you’ll need, and be sure you’re well aware of your dog’s physical and behavioral limitations. For more on this, check out our post: Dog Etiquette on the Trail. And (almost) above all: Practice the principles of Leave No Trace. There’s hardly a greater buzzkill than stepping around green plastic baggies on a pristine backcountry trail.

Car Camping on Public Lands 

If you and your pup are new to spending the night outside together, try it out at an established campground in a nearby state park, national forest, or other public recreational land. By sticking to designated campgrounds, you’ll all but ensure that there will be plenty of resources and amenities for you and your pup like potable water, trash cans for tossing poo, and other campers that might have some insider knowledge about swimming holes or nearby trails. And by staying close to home, you’ll allow for the chance to bail if something goes wrong. 
Though, on the whole, campgrounds on public lands are dog friendly, always take care to research or ask about particular sites’ rules and regulations. And, in busy campgrounds, it’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a leash. More often than not, it’s a requirement.
If you’re looking to snag a bit more solitude for you and your dog, dispersed camping on public land is a good option. Again, take special care to thoroughly research the rules and regulations before you embark. Then, grab a detailed topographic map and explore an innocuous spur road. Sometimes you’ll find an incredible view and no one else around. 
As a general rule, only pitch a tent where you’re sure someone has done it before, and never build a new fire ring. Trust us, these are all too easy to come by. Then, you and your fuzzy +1 can enjoy some off-leash time (as long as he or she stays well within your field of vision) and some high-quality bonding time.


You probably already know to steer clear of national parks when searching for a dog-friendly backpacking trip (bummer, but true), but there are enough jaw-dropping trails to explore to keep you and your pup occupied for a lifetime. Five of our top favorites are:

  1. Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range, Wyoming
  2. The Wallowas in Eastern Oregon
  3. Chicago Basin in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado
  4. The East Rim Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
  5. The Lost Coast in Northern California

As we mentioned earlier, knowing the particular limitations of your dog is paramount in choosing a backcountry trip. Older and heavier dogs would disagree with the scree and elevation found on Cirque of the Towers, the Wallowas, and the Chicago Basin trip as an example. If your dog is small, plan on having a system in place to carry them when the mileage gets to be too burdensome, and be sure you have a plan to bail at any point. Always carry a dog-specific first aid kit with you in case the going gets tough on their legs or paws. 
If you ask any dog owner about their experience on an overnight in the backcountry with their dog, they’ll tell you that it requires quite a bit of planning that pays off in spades. And truly, what’s better than having a stellar mountain, lake, or ocean view out your tent door and a pup that’s absolutely dying to go explore with you? 


I have three small house dogs and a 14 month old lab puppy (with boundless amounts of energy). I live in the country so it's perfect for them. I recently purchased a sport utility RV which is perfect for taking the little dogs on every RV trip. I live close to Curt Gowdy State Park, Southeast, Wyoming. It's perfect because I can have my husband run to the house to pick up my lab and take her on hikes (she is too big and hyper to stay in the RV). The trails at Curt Gowdy are perfect. I can take a short easy trail for the little dogs and a longer more advanced trail for my lab. There is water that my mini pom and my lab puppy love. Recently I hiked to the hidden falls with my lab puppy and she had the time of her life. I've never seen a happier dog. It has rock formations and pools and a waterfall. She flew in and out of the water and over rocks...I laughed so hard. I went in the water with her and I'm sure she loved that. I also took my mini pom on the lake on my kayak 3 times. She loved it :) Hiking, biking trails(easy to advanced), fishing, boating, kayaking, archery, etc. Fun for the whole family, including pets. A trip worth taking.
Hey, love this! Wanted to add that while the Lost Coast allows dogs, it's really, really hard on them; dogs (and humans) on the trail need to be really fit for the rocky beaches, and pups must wear foot coverings to prevent sand friction burn, nail loss, etc. It's a rugged trail! Not to mention the changing tides and conditions on the rugged north coast. Most guides say "dogs allowed, but not recommended!" It'd be really tough to get your pup to safety if something went wrong.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.