With some preparation, you can snake your way safely down the river with your best pal by your side. Just know before you go…
Find out where pets are and aren’t allowed. National parks have strict rules about where dogs can roam so know the rules before you pack your furry friend along for the ride.
At the Snake River headwaters in Yellowstone, pets can travel within your car and stay at a front-country campground, but must remain within 100 feet of roads and parking lots. Six-foot-long leashes are required.
Grand Teton National Park is leash-only in and outside all visitor centers and indoor facilities. Teton’s rule of thumb: Pets may go anywhere cars go — roads, road shoulders, campgrounds, picnic areas or parking lots.
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Climb a hill for practice
Unless you and your furry friend are dedicated hikers, you both may need a tune-up before hiking five or more miles on a whim. Before you embark, ensure you’re both physically fit for the adventure, especially if your canine (and you) tend to be couch surfers.
When hiking with older dogs, you can’t always tell when they’re hurting or in distress because they may have a high pain tolerance. Senior dogs will benefit from joint health supplements, but always be sure to consult with your vet before you take a hike.
Frisky young dogs may seem to have boundless energy, but they can injure easily on unfamiliar terrain. Puppies’ bones can be fragile, and their paw pads need time to develop calluses so go slow. Practice on smoother nature paths before taking your pup on extreme hiking endeavors.
While Grand Teton and Yellowstone don’t permit dogs on unpaved trails within the parks, you can take your four-legged pal on dog-friendly walks in nearby Jackson Hole.
Devil’s Staircase — Start hiking at the Teton Canyon, east of Driggs, ID. Park in the bottom lot and head up the South Teton Canyon trail. The trail runs along South Teton Creek, so your pup will have plenty of chances to take a water break. The climb is strenuous at the start, with switchbacks for about a mile before the trail flattens out and ends at the Teton Crest Trail. It’s a 14-mile hike round trip so be sure you and your canine are healthy enough for that long of a walk. Of course, you don’t have to do the entire hike.
Sleeping Indian — Jackson Peak is one of the most well-known peaks outside the Tetons. It’s a demanding, 14-mile hike, but the views at the end are worth the work. Pack plenty of water for you and your pup because there are no fountains along the way.
Be prepared to bug off
In addition to your sunscreen and bug spray, be sure your furry family member has had his flea, tick and heartworm medication before you go. After hikes and long hours spent outdoors, give your pup a brush and check behind his ears and under his collar and leg pits where ticks like to hitch a ride. Remember there are other four-legged creatures besides your dog. Bears, deer and other wildlife can loiter in your campground or along hiking paths. Be sure all human and dog food and water are secured in a safe, animal-proof place.
Happy tails, happy trails
Adventurous bonding trips require the right gear for you and your pal. Always include doggy essentials, like premeasured food in air-tight containers, food and water bowls, a canine first aid kit, grooming tools, poop bags, extra collar and leash, ID tags and bedding. You may even want to outfit your pooch with a doggie backpack. If so, do a dress rehearsal first to be sure he’s comfortable wearing it.
- LED collar lights
- Retrieving toy (e.g., ball, Frisbee)
- A high-visibility vest or jacket
- A life vest
Whether you follow the Snake River for the adventure of a lifetime, or simply camp in one spot along the way, preparation is key to safe, happy trails for you and your dog.