If you love the outdoors and love dogs, then you probably like to take them, well, outdoors.  And, while the front country is very dog friendly, the backcountry adds many challenges for man’s and woman’s best friend.  The majority of our favorite places to hike and backpack do not allow dogs on the trails or backcountry. This includes Yosemite, Olympic and Grand Canyon National Parks.  Also, there are a string of factors to consider when taking a dog in the backcountry – especially when going out in the wilderness for a multi day backpacking trip.


  • Feces must be carried out! No exceptions. Yes, it is nature. Yes, other animals “go” outside. But your dog is not an indigenous creature in these places, and its doo-doo can carry parasites and diseases that can harm the animals that call the backcountry home.  And even though you may not like to have to do your business in the wilderness, your dog is not going to “hold it” for 4 days because the thought of pooping in a hole is just gross!
  • Dogs must be leashed and under total control of the owner at all times. You love your dog. That doesn’t mean other hikers will. No one is a huge fan of hiking around a bend to a barking dog that the owner swears “is friendly.” And many times they are, but I am not partial to having my crotched sniffed by your friendly dog while I am out on my hike trying to enjoy nature – call me crazy and I may be totally alone on this.
  • Many critters in the backcountry would cause dogs to bark or chase them. Animals that call the wilderness their home have enough predators to worry about.
  • Dogs are natural predators but can be prey to some larger and more skillful predators in the backcountry – mountain lions, coyotes and cougar, for example.  Oh, and get your dog tangled up with a skunk or a cactus and your outdoor adventure becomes fun for all!
  • You would be responsible for carrying additional food and water for your dog (unless it is a good sized, healthy dog that has a doggy pack). More weight for you = less fun on the trail.
  • There are a lot of places your dog is more than welcome to hike with you, and when you do, follow these tips from Leave No Trace.  If you follow these, you will be happy, your dog will be happy, the fuzzy bunnies will be happy and other hikers will be happy!

So while loving your dog and loving to hike with your dog are two splendid reasons to take your dog in the backcounty, there are are reasons not to. 

  • Your dog is safer at home. There is nothing worse than waking up at camp and Fido is no where to be found.
  • Native animals in any area you visit have priority.  If your pooch harms an indigenous animal in a park, guess who gets fined?
  • Diseases are passed both ways. While you may not care much if your dog gives a disease to some smelly skunk, I am sure you would be heart broken if your dog came back with something it caught from a wild critter.  And don’t forget, those wild critters are not required to have rabies shots and they will bite if they feel threatened.
  • Extreme hot and cold can be deadly.
  • Not every one likes dogs and they do not have the same rights as your fellow biped hikers.  So don’t get angry when another hiker gets on your case for not controlling your barking dog that is also off its leash sniffing crotches.
  • Going to the wilderness to see wildlife? Not with your dog in tow!

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs – I have one myself that loves her walks in the neighborhood and could care less where she is, as long as it includes a leash and some fresh air (and a dog butt or two to sniff)!