NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following is a guest post from Alicia Baker (@girlonahike). Alicia is owner of Girl on a Hike, a blog that follows Alicia and her hiking companion—her Golden Lab Charlie—on their outdoor adventures. Each year, Charlie and she hike and backpack an average of 700 miles. “Girl on a Hike” has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Outdoor & Hiking Blogs from 2016 through 2020. She is also the author of Salt Lake City’s Best 52 Hikes. She has lived in Utah for 7 years and loves exploring everything from the High Uintas to the San Rafael Swell and desert.

A portrait of Alicia Baker, from the blog Girl on a Hike, with her Labrador Retriever  Charlie

How to Day Hike With Your Dog Safely

Day hiking is one of my absolute favorite activities with my dog Charlie. We love hiking everywhere from slot canyons, to arches, to deep canyons where the walls tower over us, and to even the mountains above 10,000ft! We love exploring new trails together and sometimes the only thing that can ruin a day hike is not being prepared. Here are five tips for day hiking with your dog!

Carry plenty of water

Normally, a 50lb. dog needs between 1–2.5 liters of water per day. While hiking in the summer, you can expect that your dogs will drink more towards the higher end. When my dog and I hike, he carries 2 liters of water in his own backpack, then I carry 3 liters for myself, leaving extra for him just in case. We also carry a Sawyer Mini Water Filter as back up in case we run out. It stays in my pack year-round, so I don’t forget to bring it along.

If we are running short on water and see a decent, clear pond, we will stop to filter. It only takes a few minutes, and you can be worry-free the rest of your hike.

Hike early in the morning and off-season

Summer is just too hot to hike sometimes. The nights are cool, but the days can be unbearable. If the temperatures are going to be above 80°F that day, we start hiking by 6AM at the latest. Yes, it’s “ruff” to get up really early, but it’s so worth the effort. Not only will you get out of the heat, but the mornings are very peaceful. Not many other dog owners will be up, so you’ll have the trails to yourself, and the sunrises are hard to beat in the desert.

Also, try to hike in the off-season. My favorite time of year to hike is actually April and October. Temperatures are cooler. Not as many people are able to get out and the spring bloom and fall leaves are so pretty and fun to enjoy with a dog by your side. Winter is a good time to hike in the desert as well, but sometimes harsh winds can take away the fun of hiking.

Bring dog booties and a first aid kit

The only times my dog has burned his paws are in the desert on slick rock and sand. Thankfully it’s never been so bad he’s worn down his pads. But when he sits there and picks up one paw, then the other, he’s letting me know it’s too hot.

On these rare occasions that his paws get too hot, we carry dog booties as a backup. This is another item I keep in my pack year-round for him—you never know when you’ll need them. Dog boots are also an item to keep in case of a paw injury like bleeding or a ripped nail. Keeping the paw clean is a priority when hiking back to the car. Always carry a small first aid kit for your dog too.

Pick dog-friendly trails away from ATVs and bikes

Some dogs don’t do well around ATVs and bikes, and it can lead to frustration on both the owners' and riders’ part. Choose a trail where there are known to be fewer bikes and motorized vehicles.

Another good way to avoid issues with bikes is to, once again, hike a trail off-season when tourists aren’t around. Make sure to check trail regulations before heading out, so you know what the rules are for dogs on that trail.

Take frequent shade breaks

Be creative with where to find shade and take frequent breaks. It can be on the side or under a boulder, away from the sun, under a ledge, or even just sitting down with a long sleeve shirt over your head providing shade for your dog. Just like people need a break in the shade, so do dogs.

Know your dog’s limits, and, when they start to slow down, take a break. There’s no hurry to complete a hike. It allows you to take in the scenery, have a snack, and provide some treats or a hug for your dog to let them know what a good job they are doing!

Alicia Baker is the owner of Girl on a Hike and author of Salt Lake City’s Best 52 Hikes. She and her Golden Lab Charlie live in Utah. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook at @girlonahike.