Best Hikes with Dogs North Carolina  by Karen Chavez

Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina Guide Book

by Karen Chavez (The Mountaineers Books)
Best Hikes with Dogs North Carolina  by Karen Chavez
North Carolina is a paradise for canine hikers and their owners: from the rolling meadows and countless streams, lakes, and waterfalls, to the cool, lush forests filled with sights and scents. This guide has everything you need to know to plan a safe fun-filled outing with your dog. Includes: hikes located in and around Asheville, Winston-Salem, Piedmont, Uwharrie National Forest, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail; info on doggy first aid and the 10 Canine Essentials; paw-friendly terrain; trails appropriate for dogs of all ages and fitness levels; and a handy trail-finder chart to help you choose just the hike you're looking for.

© 2007 Karen Chavez/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 51.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 51.

The Bartram Trail is one of North Carolina’s long-distance trails and one of the state’s great hiking treasures. The trail stretches 100 miles starting in South Carolina, passing into Georgia, and ending in the Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina. The many access points can help you slice up the trail into perfect day-hike portions. Built in honor of Philadelphia naturalist William Bartram, who traveled through the region from 1773 to 1777 chronicling local plants and wildlife, the trail was conceived and is maintained by the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society. A moderate hike with a couple of spur trails that lead to summit views is the section of the Bartram that starts at Jones Gap and travels northwest to Whiterock Mountain for an out-and-back hike.
Scaly Mountain, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
The Beady Loop Trail is a nice little surprise for dogs and their people who are camping in the Neuse River Recreation Area (known locally as Flanner Beach), which is part of the Croatan National Forest. Hiking trails suitable for dogs here make for especially nice outdoor activity in spring and fall when the weather is cooler and less humid and fewer annoying insects are present. If you are camping at the 42-site Neuse River Recreation Area, or in the New Bern area in the cooler months, the Beady Loop Trail is a nice woodland stroll for the dogs.
Havelock, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.75
Once you get past the name of the trail, you and your dog will thoroughly enjoy this lovely, remote hike. Some steep, strenuous climbing sections mean you should make sure the pooch is fit and up for the challenge. Also bring plenty of water because you will find no reliable streams or springs along the way. This trail is best hiked from spring through fall; winter is uncomfortably cold at this altitude and is often inaccessible because the Blue Ridge Parkway is frequently closed then. The trail is at its prettiest in spring, starting in mid-April when it is bursting with wildflowers.
Dillingham, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Fall is a great time of year to hike with dogs in Eno River State Park. The leaves of hardwood trees are turning Thanksgiving colors, and while surrounding game lands allow hunting, it is prohibited in this state park, so you can hike the woods worry free with your dogs, although they must be on a leash at all times. The park, a 3900-acre natural area northwest of Durham, surrounds 14 miles of the 33-mile Eno River as it flows through woods and wilderness and past historic home and mill sites, eventually running with the Little and Flat Rivers to form the Neuse. The park offers camping, picnicking, canoeing, fishing, and 24 miles of hiking trails.
Hillsborough, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
The 434-acre outdoor wonderland contains elaborately planned and manicured gardens and greenhouses, but it also sits within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest, just a few miles south of Asheville, and has miles of woodland trails, which are also meticulously maintained. The arboretum trails offer a lovely hiking experience for those people and their dogs looking for more of a casual walk through the woods than a rugged mountain adventure. Several short trails are rated from easy to difficult by the arboretum staff. The Carolina Mountain Trail is considered easy and is suitable for dogs in any season. It starts behind the Education Center, a great starting point for gathering information on the trails, gardens, trees, flowers, birds, and other local wildlife.
Enka, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
With a name like “Cat Gap,” this is a trail you just have to hike with your dog. Though cats are actually not likely to cross this path, the Cat Gap Loop is riddled with water in the form of rivers, streams, cascades, and puddles, and in spring and summer the many fragrant and colorful wildflowers that come to life along the trail are things that dogs will appreciate maybe just as much as chasing cats. The slightly easier way to hike the loop is in a clockwise direction to avoid a very steep climb at the outset—although there will be climbing either way you go. While the cooler air of fall and winter is more comfortable for hiking with dogs, the trail passes through game lands, so hunting is permitted. Put a blaze orange vest on your dog during hunting season.
Ducktown, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The DuPont State Forest, which was purchased by the state in 1996 and opened to the public in 1997, is still acquiring more land. With trails still being built and a visitor center slated to open in fall 2007, it is a scenic work in progress. Situated on the border of Henderson and Transylvania Counties, the forest is home to some of the prettiest country, riddled with waterfalls, lakes, trout streams, rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas. Unlike a state park, the forest is used for timber management, fishing, and hunting, as well as hiking and mountain biking. Some of the forest’s most popular hiker highlights are the waterfall trails, and more than 10,000 acres of land with more than 80 miles of roads and trails to be explored. The views from the Cedar Rock Trail are some of the best to be savored. To get there, hike a loop formed by combining parts of several trails.
Cedar Mountain, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.75
Cold Mountain—the legendary namesake of the fictional novel and Hollywood movie—is a real place. It is one of the highest peaks in the eastern United States and juts majestically out of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest. Cold Mountain is not your typical tourist attraction. The 6030-foot summit is accessible only by foot by way of several trails, the “easiest” of which is the nearly 11-mile round-trip hike described here. Forest rangers say that even though interest in the hike has increased, many who attempt the feat are not properly prepared and turn back halfway, discouraged by its difficulty. If you and your dog are experienced and in-shape hikers, this is a trail worth seeing to the end.
Canton, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.6
If you have more time to spend exploring William B. Umstead State Park with the dogs than the short, 20-minute trip around the Inspiration Trail the Company Mill Trail is a good choice. Starting at the same trailhead as the Inspiration Trail, this loop extends nearly 6 miles and takes at least three leisurely hours to complete as it winds through deep woods and crosses scenic creeks, to every dog’s delight. Bicycles and horses are prohibited on the park’s hiking trails, making the trails safer for hiking with dogs.
Cary, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.8
This is a lovely loop trail for people and their dogs throughout the year. However, it is a trail shared with mountain bikers from October 15 through April 15, so skip hiking it during that time if you want to avoid bikes on the sometimes steep and narrow trails. If hiking during fall (an exceptionally pretty time when the hardwoods turn a variety of brilliant shades), dogs should wear blaze orange vests to distinguish themselves from game animals since hunting is allowed in the forest. Early spring is actually a great time here because it has warmed up enough for you to enjoy being out on the trail, but it is still cool enough for comfortable hiking. Since the leaves then have not yet filled in this mostly hardwood forest, great ridge-top views are visible through the trees. Dog-friendly between April 1 and August 15. Mountain Biking between October 15 and April 15.
Brevard, NC - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 3.7
The picturesque Crabtree Falls Campground has an honor payment system for tent and RV camping, but there is no parking fee for day hiking. The campground and the Crabtree Falls Loop Trail are part of the popular, 250-acre Crabtree Meadows Recreation Area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which also includes a picnic area, restaurant, and gift shop. The main attraction here is the waterfall. The best times of year to hike with dogs are late spring, summer, and fall. The parkway at this high elevation is intermittently closed during winter due to snowy or icy road conditions, and the road to the campground is closed from the end of October through May. If the parkway is open you can still access the trail in the off-season by parking at the gate and walking 0.3 mile from the parkway to the trailhead.
Spruce Pine, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
The best time of year to hike in the Craggy Gardens area is mid to late June, simply for the magnificent show of the pinkish-purple Catawba rhododendron blooms. But the scenic views from the summit of Craggy Pinnacle make this a worthy hike any time of year that the Blue Ridge Parkway is accessible to this point. Due to the high elevation (close to 5900 feet), the winter months can bring hazardous driving conditions with snow, ice, and slick roads, forcing the Park Service to close off access. Always call the parkway’s automated road and weather condition phone number before heading out.
Dillingham, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
Most of the trails in Crowders Mountain State Park are steep, rugged, rough workouts for human and canine hikers. For those looking for a less strenuous way to enjoy nature and get away from the city—the park sits just to the west of Gastonia and Charlotte—the park offers picnic areas, a campground, canoe rentals, and fishing. For the dogs’ enjoyment, two hiking trails are shorter, more laid-back, and easier on the paws. Both the Fern Trail, a 0.8-mile nature walk through the woods, and the 1-mile Crowders Lake Trail are appropriate for almost any breeds, as long as they are on a leash.
Kings Mountain, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
The Densons Creek Nature Trail is one of the shorter, easier trails in the Uwharrie National Forest, which sits in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina about an hour east of Charlotte. This 53,000-acre forest is the smallest of the state’s four national forests, but its lakes, rivers, and shaded trails offer a great recreational outlet close to the more urban areas of North Carolina. The trail offers a great, wooded way to stretch your dog’s legs if you are traveling across the state, as well as an education in nature studies for the people on the trip.
Troy, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
According to Cherokee legend, Devils Courthouse is the home of the giant Judaculla, who sat in judgment over the morals of mortals. From the parking lot you can look up at this imposing, impressive rock face, with a summit elevation of 5760 feet, and imagine from its stern, rugged features all sorts of mythical tales.
Balsam Grove, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
The Falls Lake State Recreation Area encircles 12,000-acre Falls Lake, which lies about 10 miles north of Raleigh. Actually made up of seven individual parks, the Falls Lake area offers boating and fishing, beaches for swimming, campgrounds and picnic areas, and trails for mountain biking and hiking. One of the mini-parks, Sandling Beach State Recreation Area, contains a small hiking loop. The Falls Lake Trail is divided into ten sections, numbered from east to west, starting at the dam and ending near the park office on NC 50. These sections can be hiked individually as out-and-back trails, using the road crossings as trailheads. The good news about the Falls Lake Trail is that it is only open to foot traffic, so you will encounter no mountain bikes or horses. However, the trail runs through North Carolina state game land, so hunting is allowed in season, September through May.
Creedmoor, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
New River State Park sits in a fertile, low-lying valley and is well-known for its canoe trails down the winding river, but the lush woods that hug the riverbanks offer great, shady trails for dogs and their people to hike. A short, 1.2-mile round-trip loop on the Fern Nature Trail gets you up close with the river. If combined with another short, scenic hike at nearby Mount Jefferson State Park (about 8 miles to the west), it is a great way to explore this northwestern part of the state with your dog.
Jefferson, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
If you happen to be camping in one of the loveliest spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway—the Mount Pisgah Campground—then this hike is a must-do for you and the dogs. The hike starts right at the campground entrance but, strangely, only attracts moderate use. Most visitors head down the road to the better known and hugely popular Mount Pisgah Trail. Although no biblically named mountaintop peak awaits on this trail, it is a wonderful walk in the woods to another summit area with great views. Spring, summer, and fall are all nice times of year to explore Fryingpan Mountain because of the abundance of wildflowers that grow along the trail edges. Winter can also be a good time to hike because the fallen leaves open up sweeping views as you walk along the ridgeline, but often in winter the parkway at this elevation is closed to motor traffic.
Canton, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
Its gruesome name notwithstanding, Graveyard Fields is an enormously popular and much beloved trail. The area was named for devastating forest fires that swept through in 1925, burning 25,000 acres, and in 1942, burning an equal amount, leaving the high-elevation valley with blackened tree stumps that looked like tombstones. The popularity both for hikers and their dogs is understandable. Graveyard Fields boasts a well-marked, easy-to-follow trail, two waterfalls, riverside viewing, blueberry picking in late summer, and, at this high elevation, cool temperatures throughout the summer.
Canton, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
Since the road up to the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens is only open April through November, there is limited time to hike here. The best time to visit has an even smaller window—during the Catawba rhododendron blooms. The bright, fluffy pinkish-purple flowers of these evergreen trees usually reach their peak bloom from mid- to late-June and are not to be missed if hiking in this high-country region of western North Carolina. Several hiking options range from the strenuous trek across the heath balds of the Appalachian Trail to Roan High Knob, to a short jaunt to Roan High Bluff with a side loop through the Rhododendron Gardens, which is the hike described here.
Bakersville, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.5