Best Day Hikes with Your Dog in Texas Hill Country

Summer Fun with Fido

Should You Take Your Dog On A Hike?

That really depends. Where do you want to walk? Are dogs allowed on those trails? Do you have absolute control of your dog off lead, or do you plan to keep him on lead? Is he healthy enough to hike with you? Are you going with other hikers and their dogs, or just you two? These questions are important considerations when deciding when and where to take your dog hiking with you.

Dogs love the outdoors. They notice everything, not only with their eyes, but with their whole bodies. Watch Fido, and you’ll see him sniff, move his ears, cock his head, wag his tail, raise his hackles, paw at things, maybe even dig. And if he finds something really, really stinky, watch out! Chances are, he’ll want to roll in it.

Walking with your dog makes you much more aware of your environment, and so it should be. You’ll need to keep your eyes out for hazards that might affect not only you, but your dog as well. Don’t let him drink from puddles, ponds, or streams, because he can get leptosporosis or giardia (which is sometimes called Beaver Fever). Both of these bacterial infections can make your fout-legged buddy extremely sick. In many states, a dog in a pasture with livestock can legally be shot, just for being there, so keep Fido close at all times.

Not everyone appreciates dogs, and you must be sure that your dog has good manners before exposing the world to him. Don’t let him approach anyone uninvited.

Preparing for Your Hike

Be sure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar with a proper license. Today it is easy to have your dog microchipped, and many veterinarians and shelters have scanners to read them. This will facilitate getting Fido back to you if he should get lost.

You never know what you might run into on trails. Other dogs and animals are possible, so be sure your buddy is current on all his vaccines. Even if your state does not require rabies vaccine, if you are going to hike with him, it’s a good idea to vaccinate against rabies anyway.

Watch for poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, etc. If you’re not sure what they look like, find out before you go. If in doubt, keep him out!

Especially in areas where there is  a lot of undergrowth or high grass and weeds, your dog may pick up ticks and fleas. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, so if that’s a risk in your area, consider vaccinating Fido against it.


Musts
•    Keep your dog close
•    Clean up after him
•    Bring plenty of clean water and a bowl
•    Bring a spray bottle of water
•    Be aware of trailside hazards
•    Bring along a first aid kit, and check paws often


Must Nots
•    Don’t let your dog run around loose
•    Don’t let Fido enter private property (even through wire fences)
•    Don’t let him drink any water but what you bring for him
•    Don’t let your dog approach strangers
•    Don’t let your dog bark excessively
•    Don’t let him eat anything off the ground

Three Best Hikes in Texas Hill Country

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Echo Canyon Trail
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Hiking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate – dogs should be big and agile
High point: 1600 feet
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must be on leash and are not allowed to swim in any water; scoop and pack out waste
Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Contact: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 325-247-3903
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/enchanted_rock

This park is one of the most popular in Texas. When it reaches capacity, it closes; therefore, plan ahead and walk early. Hot summer days are best, or try midweek.

Colorado Bend State Park, Spicewood Springs Trail
Distance: 5.2 mile loop
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
High Point: 1300 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must be on leash and are not allowed in the creek
Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife Colorado Bend State Park
Contact: Colorado Bend State Park, 325-628-3240
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/colorado_bend

Colorado Bend State Park is popular for bird-watching (more than 155 species have been identified in the park) and for fishing the white bass run.

South Llano State Park, Fawn Trail
Distance: 3 mile loop
Time: 1.75 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
High point: 1968 feet
Elevation Gain: 188 feet
Best hiking season: Spring through fall
Regulations: Dogs must remain on leash
Map: Texas Parks and Wildlife South Llano River State Park
Contact: South Llano River State Park, 325-446-3994
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/south_llano_river

Resources for hiking and backpacking with your dog
http://www.dogplay.com/Activities/hike.html
http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/showarticle.cfm?id=199
http://traildog.hypermart.net
http://www.dogscouts.com/backpacking.shtml
http://hikewithyourdog.com./
http://www.wolfpacks.com/guide.htm
http://uberpest.50megs.com/trailhead.html
http://www.lovetheoutdoors.com/camping/Act/Hiking/Hikedog.htm

Books and Videos
A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog by Charlene G. LaBelle
The Canine Hiker's Bible
Hiking With Dogs


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Brigitte Thompson profile image

Brigitte Thompson 5 years ago from Austin, TX

Great hub! Good information thank you!

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