I get comments fairly often on pictures of my dogs out hiking like “Oh, I wish I had trails close to home.” Or “We don’t have many options for hiking in our town.” Let me fill you in on a little secret. You do! I promise, there are more options than you think. Believe me, I’ve lived in a crazy assortment of places, many of which are not exactly known for being a hiking destination. Florida, Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and now North Carolina… in small rural towns and big cities.
Right now, we’re 2-3 hours from the mountains and about the same from the beach. We don’t have epic trails out our back door like people out West. Nor do we live in the mountains. But, what we do have, we take full advantage of. There is ALWAYS a cute little patch of green space where you can get some fresh air and time outside in nature with your dog. You just have to look hard enough to find it.
Of all the questions that I get asked regarding my adventures with my lovely pack of mutts, there is one that I seem to get asked quite regularly. That is: “How do you find so many places to hike with your dogs?” There are honestly a million different answers to this question, none of which are wrong, but I thought I would share what works for me. It’s not fancy. I don’t belong to some super secret insider hiking club. I just do a lot of research.
How to find places to hike with your dog, anywhere:
1. Google Maps!
A lot of the time, I honestly just open Google Maps on my phone or my computer, and scroll around the area near where I live looking for green. Green areas are usually public land of some sort, often parks. It’s a really easy way to find places to hike. Except when they’re golf courses or cemeteries… that’s always a buzz kill. I start close to my house and work my way out, clicking on green areas and then checking out the pictures and reviews that people have posted. Often times in the reviews, people will talk about the trails or mention that it’s a great place for X, Y, or Z. If the pictures look decent but there isn’t a lot of info, I’ll then google the park, preserve, etc. You can often find for more specific info that way regarding the trails like length, difficulty, and the like.
2. State and County Websites
For example, I live in Mecklenburg County in NC. So, I’ll simply Google “Mecklenburg County parks” or “NC state parks” to find places to check out. This will usually lead to the state park website for your state, as well as the Parks & Rec page for your county. Keep in mind that there are often really good hiking trails in little preserves and county parks. They’re also usually a lot less busy than trails at more popular state parks, especially on the weekends. They may not be as scenic or have great overlooks, but I will often trade grandeur for a quiet walk in nature with my dogs, away from the crowds.
3. AllTrails – www.alltrails.com
AllTrails is great for finding new places to hike as well. I don’t pay for the “Pro” version, but even the free site is a great resource for finding new trails. You can search by city, state, park, or trail name. There you can find a lot of user data about the trails including ratings, pictures, distances, difficulty, etc.
4. Hiking Blogs
With a quick google search, you can easily find countless blogs written by hikers in your area for an in-depth look at the trails near you. Here you can find detailed descriptions about the terrain, difficulty, flora and fauna, wildlife, even the history of the area. If I’m tackling a new, longer hike, especially one far from home, I will often read a few trail reports from local bloggers. You can find some really pertinent information that you won’t find anywhere else. Details like tricky trail intersections that aren’t well marked, if there are bathrooms at the trailhead or not, where to park, etc.
4. Think outside the box
If you’ve done all the traditional trails, checked out all the local parks, why not try something a little different? If you live in a city, think about Greenways and rail trails. Some sports complexes and playgrounds even have hiking and walking trails perfect for a quick walk. We have also surprisingly found a lot of botanical gardens that are dog-friendly.
Remember that in the end, your dog really doesn’t care where you hike. Frankly, they don’t give a crap about the scenery. Wherever you go, there are still scents to sniff and fresh air. PLUS quality time with their favorite person in the whole world… you! Don’t overlook the smaller, less flashy places and stay home because you don’t live in a hiker’s paradise. There are always weekends and vacation days for bigger, better trails!
Have you lived in a place in the middle of nowhere, or in a big city, and found it hard to find places to hike? Do you have any other resources we should add to this list? Leave us a message in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
Debbie & THE MUTTS