IDEA #1: ThE 5 BEST NATIONAL PARKS FOr DOGS
The welcome mat in our National Park System rolls up when we drive in with our dogs. Very few national parks allow dogs on hiking trails. In Yellowstone National Park dogs are not allowed more than 100 feet from roads, parking areas and campgrounds. In Yosemite National Park dogs can walk the paved paths of the Valley floor but are not permitted on any trail or slope. At the Grand Canyon dogs can walk along the South Rim in developed areas but can not go on any trail below the rim. At Zion National Park dogs are permitted on one mild trail.
And on and on. So, while most of America is making plans to visit our national natural treasures, we dog owners must be a bit more creative. Here are the 5 best national parks to take your dog...
1. Acadia National Park (Maine)
Acadia National Park is certainly one of the crown jewels in the National Park Service and dogs will not bark in dissent - this is the best national park to bring your dog for outdoor adventure. Except for the swimming beaches and ladder hiking trails like the Precipice Trail, dogs are allowed throughout the park.
Much of your time with your dog in Acadia will be spent on its intricate network of carriage roads. Mount Desert Island, named by French explorer Samuel Champlain in 1604, was once the summer playground of America’s rich and famous. When John D. Rockefeller, Jr., no great fan of the horseless carriage, visited the Maine coast he enjoyed outings with his team of horses and open coaches. He painstakingly directed the construction of wide, motor-free carriage roads twisting through the island mountains. Forty-five miles of rustic broken stone roads were eventually built between 1913 and 1940 and the hand- built byways are the best examples of the construction technique still in use in America. In addition to the stone roads and stone guardrails, irregularly spaced granite slabs known locally as “Rockefeller’s Teeth,” there are 16 stone-faced bridges - each unique in design.
One of the wealthy elite, George B. Dorr, devoted 43 years and much of his family fortune to preserving the island. He offered more than 6,000 acres to the federal government and in 1916, Woodrow Wilson established the Sieur de Monts National Monument. Three years later Lafayette National Park became the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Honoring its Acadian heritage, the park became Acadia National Park in 1929. Several park highlights come with little purchase for your dog. The Jordan Pond Nature Trail is a mile-long loop leading to views of glacial mountains reflecting in the pond waters. The rounded mountains, known as the Bubbles, can be climbed on short trails. Other easy hikes include the Ocean Trail to Otter Cliffs that clings to the edge of lands’ end over the Atlantic surf and exploratory walks atop Cadillac Mountain. The 1530-foot summit is the highest point on the Atlantic Ocean north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and sunrise hikes here will be the first to be illuminated in America. The Great Head Trail loops across Sand Beach and most people go right at the head of the loop. But going left into the maritime forest saves the spectacular coastal views from one of America’s highest headlands until the end. All these trails are easily accessed from the Park Loop Road and can get busy. Seek out trails across Somes Sound - America’s only fjord - in the western reaches of the park to find fewer paw prints.
2. Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)
“Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House,” President Calvin Coolidge said. Coolidge himself had at least 12 dogs. Future office holders have taken the 29th American President’s words to heart - every single one has shared the Oval Office with a canine friend - and one of President-elect Barrack Obama’s first orders of business was to get a family dog.
How would you like to hike with your dog where Presidents hike with their dogs? When an American President leaves the White House for the presidential retreat of Camp David, there is almost always an eager dog in tow. Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish Terrier, Fala, was the first in a steady procession of Presidential pups to romp in the woods of Camp David. Ronald Reagan once complained that when he took a break at Camp David, his dog Rex would beat him to the window seat in the helicopter.
Everyone has heard of Camp David but where exactly it is? Surprisingly
it is located deep inside a national park called Catoctin Mountain Park. When you take your dog there, you will never see Camp David or any evidence that the presidential compound is hidden among the trees but the trails you can hike on are of Presidential quality nonetheless. Just don’t expect to see any First Dogs. You could fill up a day of canine hiking at Catoctin Mountain Park just by checking off the many easy self-guiding interpretive trails as you learn about mountain culture and forest ecology. There is plenty of more challenging fare in the park as well. Three of the best vistas - Wolf Rock, Chimney Rock and Cat Rock - are connected by a roller-coaster trail on the eastern edge of the mountain. There is little understory in the woods and views are long. Many of the mountain slope trails are rocky and footing can be uncertain under paw on climbs to 1,500 feet.
In the western region of Catoctin Mountain, near the Owens Creek campground, are wide horse trails ideal for contemplative canine hiking. The grades are gentler for long hikes through mixed hardwoods of chestnut oak, hickory, black birch and yellow poplar. Dogs are allowed in the campground and on all national park trails but not across the road in popular Cunningham Falls State Park.
The forests deep in the rugged Catoctin Mountains provided ideal cover for a moonshining still, made illegal by the onset of Prohibition in 1919. On a steaming July day in 1929 Federal agents raided the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still and confiscated more than 25,000 gallons of mash. Today the airy, wooded Blue Blazes Whiskey Trail along Distillery Run leads to a recreated working still and interprets the history of whiskey making in the backwoods of Appalachia.
3. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Raise your hand if you knew that America’s first national park of the 21st Century was created in..............Cleveland? To the first people who came here 12,000 years ago the Cuyahoga was the “crooked river.” Its steep valley walls inhibited settlement as easterners poked into the region in the late 1700s. But a navigable water link between Lake Erie and the Ohio River was a priority in the early American Canal Age and in 1832 the Ohio & Erie Canal became a reality. Ohio boomed and settlers poured into the area. The canal was put out of business by the Great Flood of 1913 and the Cuyahoga Valley was left to recreational purposes. The 33,000 acres along the banks of the Cuyahoga River were protected as a national recreation area so the heavy lifting for creating the park was done before its designation as a national park in 2000.
As befits its history as a recreation destination, Cuyahoga is a national park that permits dogs on its trails. It doesn’t have the feel of the grand American national parks but instead evokes an intimate feel on the trails that are squeezed between highways, farmlands and neighborhoods.
The main trail through the park is the nearly 20 miles of the Towpath Trail along the route of the historic canal. Ten trailheads make it easy to hike the crushed limestone path in biscuit-size chunks. The trail is a mix of meadows and forests and the remnants of locks and villages. Another long distance adventure through the park is the Buckeye Trail that circles the entire state of Ohio for over 1200 miles. About 33 miles of the blue-blazed pathway cover the ravines and ridges of the valley.
Some of the best outings with your dog in the park are in the north end of the Cuyahoga Valley, in the Bradford Reservation. A five-mile all-purpose trail traverses the Tinkers Creek Gorge area, exploring Ohio’s most spectacular canyon. The gorge is a National Natural Landmark, noted for its virgin hemlock forests. Short detours off the main trail include an easy walk to Bridal Veil Falls and the Hemlock Creek Loop Trail.
Other highlights include the dark and mysterious 2.2-mile ramble around the Ledges (from the Happy Day camp) and a short 1.25-mile loop through the Brandywine Gorge that takes your dog to the lip of Brandywine Falls and 160 feet down to the water level.
4. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
The water that bubbles to the ground at 143 degrees Farenheit fell to earth 4,000 years ago, percolating deep into the earth and heating four degrees every 300 feet before seeping out of the lower west slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Spanish explorers and French trappers visited the springs for centuries. In 1832 the Federal Government reserved land around the springs - the first “national park” to protect a natural resource. There was little done to administer the reserve, however, and private bathhouses sprung up to cater to tourists visiting to relax in the “healing” waters. Finally in 1921, Hot Springs became a true National Park, a unique blend of a highly developed small city set in low-lying, rounded mountains.
There are over 30 miles of top-notch hiking trails available in Hot Springs, mostly on short, inter-connecting jogs on Hot Springs Mountain and West Mountain that flank the city. Many of these paths were carved for visitors who were encouraged to walk daily in addition to their baths as part of an all-encompassing healthy routine at the spas. Most were constructed wide enough to handle carriages and are still roomy today. Although the mountains only top out at little more than 1,000 feet expect to find some climbs that will leave you and your dog panting. Also, there aren’t many streams so make sure you carry plenty of cooling water for your dog on a summer afternoon’s outing.
For extended canine hiking head out on the Sunset Trail that leaves West Mountain and tags Music Mountain at 1,405 feet (the highest spot in the park) before doubling back onto Sugarloaf Mountain. This trail doesn’t loop and is a good candidate for a car shuttle. Back in town you can take your dog on a tour of Bathhouse Row with a half-mile saunter down the Promenade, visiting several of the 47 springs that flow at an average rate of 850,000 gallons a day.
The one place you can’t take your dog in Hot Springs are the centerpiece bathhouses but across from Bathhouse Row you can catch a ride on a Duck Boat, an amphibious vehicle that drives south of town for a cruise on Lake Hamilton. Dogs are allowed to ride on the top deck.
5. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
The Blue Ridge Mountains that host Shenandoah National Park are the oldest rocks on earth. A billion years ago these mountains were higher than the Rockies when they were created. Time has weathered and rounded the peaks and valley that we see today. But what we see in Shenandoah has not been left to the hand of nature, as we have come to expect in our national parks.
Shenandoah is very much a planned national park. Herbert Hoover established a Summer White House on the Rapidan River (the park is only 75 miles from Washington DC) helping to trigger wilderness development. During the Great Depression Shenandoah was officially designated a national park and Franklin Roosevelt’s “Tree Army” planted hundreds of thousands of trees on today the only public road in Shenandoah National Park. Your dog is welcome at just about every stop along the way - only 20 of the more than 500 miles of hiking trails are off-limits for dogs. These are some trails involving awkward passages and rock climbs but for the most part these routes are suitable for any level of canine hiker. Unfortunately one such trail that can’t be on your favorite trail companion’s “to-do” list is on Old Rag Mountain, a climb so fine that it is considered by many to be the best hike on the East Coast. But generally your dog will be able to visit the best views and waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park.
IDEA #9: 10 GrEAT GrEAT LAkES BEAChES TO TAkE yOUr DOG
Your dog might not agree they are “great lakes” when she discovers that dogs are not allowed on Michigan state beaches and most county and town beaches. In-season, the jurisdictions of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin are even more restrictive. But all is not lost for the outdoor canine adventurer when visiting the Great Lakes. Here are the 10 best places to take your dog when vacationing around these inland seas, moving east to west...
1. Point Gratiot Park (Lake Erie, New York)
Although its shores are the most densely populated of any of the Great Lakes, there is plenty of opportunity for a dog to explore Lake Erie. The smallest of the five lakes, Lake Erie waters average only about 62 feet in depth and warm rapidly in the summer for happy dog paddling. The headlands here contain Dunkirk Beach, a U.S. Coast Guard Naval Reserve Station and an historic lighthouse. Around the west side of the headlands are low bluffs fronted by a wide, sandy beach. Dogs are welcome, there is plenty of easy parking - and it’s free.
2. Presque Isle State Park (Lake Erie, Pennsylvania)
Pennsylvania’s most popular state park is believed to have formed 11,000 years ago from the deposits of sand carried by wind and water across Lake Erie. This “flying spit” of sand is the largest in the Great Lakes region and the only one in Pennsylvania. Presque Isle State Park is estimated to be moving eastward at the rate of one-half mile per century. Although Presque Isle is French for “almost an island,” the area has often been completely surrounded by water. One such breech in the sand peninsula, designated a National Natural Landmark, lasted 32 years.
During the War of 1812 Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry used a harbor on the east side of Presque Isle as a base of operations for the critical Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. After the clash with the British fleet, Perry returned to Presque Isle for the winter, using a shallow pond to bury American dead. The harbor was named Misery Bay in light of the hardships suffered that winter. Today the Perry monument on Crystal Point remembers the American exploits here. Dogs are welcome on all trails but ticks are heavy so avoid the trail fringes.
Dogs are not allowed on the swimming beaches but you can hike a little ways up the peninsula past the supervised beaches where dogs can freely enjoy the frisky waves of Lake Erie.
3. Lakeshore Reservation (Lake Erie, Ohio)
Of Ohio’s 262 miles of Lake Erie shoreline it is estimated that only about 40 are open for access by the public - and a lot fewer than that are open to your dog so that makes this a very special place indeed for dog owners. The highlight in the 84-acre park for your dog is the driftwood-littered sandy beach that can be hiked between staircases that drop you off the bluffs. Strong swimming dogs will love the challenge of Lake Erie waves crashing onto shore.
Back on top of the bluffs the short, groomed trails in Lakeshore Reservation have a garden-like feel. The principal private landowner, Charles Irish, was a pioneering arborist who spotted non-native ornamental trees and shrubs around his home amidst the typical Ohio beeches and maples. The park is oriented east- west and each side contains its own loop that mirror each other. The beach stroll can be used to create a canine hiking loop from side to side.
4. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Lake Michigan, Indiana)
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a park of striking contrasts. More than 1,400 plant species have been identified within park boundaries, ranking it 7th among national parks in native plant diversity. Growing zones clash here at the southern base of Lake Michigan so southern dogwood mixes with arctic bearberry and northern conifer forests thrive alongside cacti. The park itself stands in stark relief from the industrial surroundings of Gary, Indiana and Chicago. The national lakeshore was designated in 1966 and preserves 25 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.
Canine hikers will also find the dog-friendly trails, with dips and climbs, to be of a different style than the generally flat northern Indiana area. The high point on the dunes is 123-foot Mt. Baldy at the extreme eastern point of the park. Dogs are allowed across the park and fantastic doggie dips await in Lake Michigan. Dogs are not allowed on the Ly-Co-Ki-We Trail but can spend the night in
the Dunewood Campground. More superb canine hiking can be found in Indiana Dunes State Park, entombed by the national lakeshore. There are many numbered trails - some quite challenging - that ascend high vista points such as Mt. Tom. The best trails on the lake’s edge can be found in the state park.
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Lake Michigan, Michigan)
Long ago, according to Ojibway Indian legend, a forest fire ravaged the Wisconsin shoreline driving a mother bear and her two cubs into the waters of Lake Michigan. The three bears swam for safety across the entire lake but the two cubs tired in the crossing. The mother bear continued to the shore and climbed a high bluff to wait for her cubs who couldn’t make it and drowned within sight of shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear. The national lakeshore, established in 1970, protects 35 miles of dunes - the highest 480 feet above the lake - that are the product of several glacial advances and retreats that ended 11,000 years ago.
Your dog isn’t allowed to make the Dune Climb up a mountain of sand but she may thank you for that. Otherwise dogs are welcome on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore trails. The best canine hike is the Cottonwood Trail off the popular Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The loop leads out into dunes speckled with the bleached remains of overwhelmed trees and the hardy survivors adapting to their sandy world. The rollicking trail, open May to October, is completely on thick sand that, while soft to the paw, can tire an unfit dog.
In the north section of the park the Good Harbor Bay Trail is a flat, wooded walk. Most of the starch has been taken out of the Lake Michigan waves here for gentle canine swimming. More adventurous dog paddlers will want to test the frisky waves in the southernmost Platte Plains section. You have your choice of trails here to choose how much you want to hike before reaching the surf. The 13 mid-length trails throughout the park are all hiker-only. Dogs are not allowed on North or South Manitou Island, both floating just offshore.
6. Old Mission Peninsula (Lake Michigan, Michigan)
Old Mission Peninsula is an 18-mile appendage that splits Lake Michigan’s Traverse Bay neatly in half. Presbyterian Minister Peter Dougherty arrived in 1838 to establish the missionary for which the peninsula would be named. As settlers arrived they discovered ideal growing conditions on the narrow land moderated by the surrounding waters of Lake Michigan. Getting the crops to market was not so easy as growing them, however, thanks to a series of rocky shoals around the tip of the peninsula. Today Old Mission is still renowned for its cherry harvest.
Congress authorized funds for the building of a lighthouse here in 1859 but the Civil War prevented construction until 1870. The Mission Point Light remains the focal point of the park that was created by the state of Michigan after World War II. The lighthouse sits directly on the 45th parallel - halfway between the equator and the North Pole.
The trail system stitches several paths into a loop of a couple miles around the tip of the peninsula that works through woodlands and along the shore of Lake Michigan. This is easy hiking for your dog on mostly level terrain with plenty of opportunity for your dog to visit the waters of the lake.
7. Lake Michigan Sand Dunes (Lake Michigan, Michigan)
The year 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Mackinac Bridge that connects the lightly populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan to lower Michigan. Traditionally the bridge has attracted hunters and other woods-loving types but that list should also include beach-loving dog owners.
Just across the bridge on the Upper Peninsula head west on Route 2 out of St. Ignace and eight miles past the town of Brevort you will come to an unnamed, unsigned stretch of dune-backed, sandy white beach. You are actually in the East Side Section of the Hiawatha National Forest. Pull off the water-side of the road and park your car. There are miles of beach and not much traffic so there will be plenty of room for your dog to romp in the Lake Michigan waves. If you need facilites, travel a bit further west to the Lake Michigan Picnic Area.
8. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Lake Superior, Michigan)
Possessing the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in the world, there is enough water in Lake Superior to easily fill the other four Great Lakes combined to overflowing. Lake Superior is known for its cold water and rugged shoreline but there are some sandy beaches scattered across its 300 or so miles of southern shores. Other beaches are more of the cobble variety. Most of the shoreline is sparsely populated which bodes well for finding a dog-friendly beach.
The “pictured rocks” on the south shore of Lake Superior were painted by mineral stains on exposed sandstone cliffs scoured by glaciers. The colorful streaks on the cliffs - as high as 200 feet above the water - result from groundwater that seeps out of cracks in the rock. The oozing water contains iron, limonite, copper, and other minerals that brush the cliff face with colors as they trickle down. In 1966, the Pictured Rocks were preserved as America’s first national lakeshore. The park stretches along Lake Superior for 40 miles.
Dogs are not allowed to trot everywhere in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s 72,000 acres (a detailed pet area map is available) but there is plenty of superb canine hiking on tap here. Day hikes lead to clifftops and cobble beaches through hardwood forests and windswept dunes. The best beach for dogs is at the western end of the park where dogs are allowed on Sand Point until the trail begins to climb the cliffs.
9. Apostle Islands National Seashore (Lake Superior, Wisconsin)
Twenty-one jeweled islands in Lake Superior have been rounded up by the National Park Service and herded into Apostle Islands National Seashore. Dogs are not permitted on any of the park service shuttles from the mainland so the emerald forests and pristine beaches of the islands are restricted to travelers on private boats. The National Lakeshore, however, includes 12 miles of Lake Superior frontage on the mainland.
Dog owners will want to steer towards Meyers Beach at the western end of the park. Here your dog will find a lengthy beach of thick sand and frisky waves of crystal clear Lake Superior waters. Driftwood is in abundance for your favorite fetcher. The one hiking trail on the mainland departs from Meyers Beach and pushes east over three miles to a pack-in campground. Unless you’re spending the night, your hike on the Lakeshore Trail will likely end about two miles in at the top of cliffs above sea caves that have been carved into the sandstone bluffs. Be careful when you arrive with your dog to peer into the caves. If you don’t have a boat or kayak another way to explore these magnificent foundations is to visit in February when Meyers Beach is usually covered in thick ice and snow. You can then hike with your dog right along the shore to reach the caves at lake level.
10. Whitefish Dunes State Park (Lake Michigan, Wisconsin)
Door County is a magnet for Lake Michigan recreation. For dog owners it is hit and miss among the parks and forests but one place your dog can enjoy the sandy lake beaches is Whitefish Dunes State Park. Long considered the best sand dunes on the western shore of Lake Michigan, this wilderness was the target of conservationist before World War II. Finally in 1967 the state park was established. Parts of the beach are open for your dog to swim in Lake Michigan.
IDEA #76: DOGGIN’ wESTErN BIG TrEES
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Washington)
Connoisseurs of big trees will eventually make their way to the Pacific Northwest. The State of Washington is estimated to have about three million acres of old growth forests and Oregon nearly five million. This does not mean there are endless stretches of virgin forest - here “old growth” is defined as trees not logged for 150 years - but like in Eastern forests, there are pockets of old trees that survived a century of uncontrolled logging. Unlike in the East, many of these arboreal oldsters reside on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and are still susceptible to logging.
Most of these old growth trees grow in remote areas that can be reached only by long hikes into rugged terrain, if they can be reached by all. Others are on National Park land where your dog is not allowed. But there are also many stands of old growth in Washington and Oregon you can easily enjoy with your dog.
The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest abuts the Canadian border and meanders 140 miles down the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. The best way to penetrate this massive swath of wilderness, about 42% of which has been identified as old growth forest, is by scenic drives that begin off popular I-5. You can reach big trees through long mountain hikes, easy nature trails or just pulling off to the side of the road.
Thirty-three miles east of Bellingham along State Route 542 you will reach the Mount Baker Scenic Byway that leads to Artist’s Point below an active 10,778 foot volcano. Mount Baker is half covered in glaciers and this is one of the snowiest places on earth - in 1999 a world record 1,140 inches fell here. Be aware that dogs are not allowed on every trail and not every public space is federally managed. Drive by the Old Growth Trail in Canyon Lake Creek Community Forest, for instance. There is nothing for your dog here.
The big tees begin appearing in mass at the 43-mile Post, just after powerful Nooksack Falls. This 1,400-acre stand of virgin timber was protected in 1937 and the road dutifully maneuvers between towering Douglas Fir, Western hemlock and Western red cedar. One of the easiest - and busiest - places to experience the lush forest is on the Horseshoe Bend Trail at the Douglas Fir Campground. The route hugs the busy North Fork of the Nooksack River until reaching a turn- around point at a bench one mile in. The path continues roughly after this for another couple of miles along the river before vanishing for extra time with your dog away from the crowds.
The North Cascades Scenic Byway climbs across several passes of the Cascades for 132 miles on State Route 20 from Sedro-Woolley to Winthrop. Stop at Rainy Pass for an easy ramble with your dog that ends at Rainy Lake underneath steep glaciers. The path through dense, mossy woodland is paved the entire way. More traditional canine hiking fare can be had on the frisky Green Mountain Trail that climbs modestly through old-growth timber into large meadows after the first mile. Your dog will enjoy a pair of alpine lakes at 2.5 miles and the end at four miles reaches an historic 75-year old lookout with views to Mount Baker and Puget Sound if you catch a clear day.
The Mountain Loop Highway northeast of Seattle is one of the best day trips you can take with your dog to chase old growth timber. You are never far from big trees and many short, easy leg stretchers bring you in close contact with magnificent Douglas Fir, cedar, and hemlock. The Boulder River Trail is one of the most popular - a languishing four-mile trot for your dog on an old logging road that gains less than 500 feet along the way.
South Whidbey Island State Park (Washington)
Whidbey Island is the largest Island in Washington and the fifth largest island in the contiguous United States. Deception Pass on the north side of the island is the most visited state park in Washington but towards the middle of the island, South Whidbey is a quieter destination, primarily serving as a camping park. Much of the park’s 347 acres is covered in old growth of cedar and spruce and hemlock. You can camp with your dog under the dense canopy of these graceful giants.
The 3.5-mile park trail system snakes easily through these woodland oldsters - this is probably the easiest access to low elevation old growth on the Pacific coast. Several short trails encourage a relaxed discovery of the forest. One “Ancient Cedar” corralled behind a rail fence has been pegged at about 500 years old. Other mossy woodland residents have long ago outlived their decaying nurse logs that encourage trees in soggy Northwest forests to grow in straight lines.
South Whidbey also offers nearly a mile of dog-friendly saltwater beach access on the Puget Sound. Storm damage has threatened the viability of the trail but if you can’t get your dog in the water here try nearby Double Bluff Park and Joseph Whidbey State Park.
Mount Hood National Forest (Oregon)
Located only 20 miles east of Portland and encompassing more than one million acres, including Oregon’s tallest mountain, Mount Hood National Forest is a magnet for big tree hunters. You can find any outing for your dog on the hiking menu here, including some easy journeys into the ancient forests. An ideal jumping off point is the Old Growth Trail in the Hood River District that features interpretive signs to sharpen your eye for centuries-old timber.
In the Clackamas River district the Riverside Trail negotiates an old growth forest between the Rainbow Campground and the Riverside Campground. Designated a National Recreation Trail, this easy trotting path weaves along the Clackamas River and is well-lubricated by streams and wetlands. The highlight of the Zigzag District is the peaceful canine hike along the 2.6 miles of the Old Salmon Trail. Practically flat the entire way, this generous footpath slips quietly beneath 10-foot thick red cedars and towering Douglas firs. Side trails lead to river beaches and deep pools ideal for a doggie dip.
Opal Creek Ancient Forest (Oregon)
When the first settlers arrived in the Opal Creek Valley east of Salem in 1859 it was not the 200-foot trees they were after; it was gold. The mining camps remained in operation until 1992 when the Shiny Rock Mining Company gifted the Friends of Opal Creek 151 acres of land that included woodland with trees estimated to be as old as 700 years. The forest filtered into public ownership and is now enjoyed by 50,000 visitors each year.
Dogs are allowed to hike on the old dirt and gravel mining roads in the hills around the former Jawbone Flats mining camp. In addition to the breathtaking cedar and hemlock oldsters the Little North Fork of the Santiam River and its tributaries serve up a series of cascades and waterfalls. More strenuous hiking options branch into the surrounding mountains that will challenge any trail dog. Pacific Silver Firs, identified by their gray bark, become more abundant at higher elevations.
Nearby is Silver Falls State Park, Oregon’s largest state park. Silver Falls boasts its own collection of huge old growth Douglas Fir trees and its marquee Trail of 10 Falls is a seven-mile hiking loop that leads your dog to - you guessed it - 10 different waterfalls. South Falls, the highest, plunges 176 feet.
Siuslaw National Forest (Oregon)
This national forest hard by the Pacific Ocean is unique for its ocean-forest interface. One of the dominant species in the woodland is the Sitka Spruce that grows in a narrow four-mile band from the sea. Several outstanding Sitka Spruce individuals can be seen in the Siuslaw.
The old-growth forest ecosystem can be explored on the one-mile PAWN Trail, an acronym derived from the four pioneering families in the region beside the North Fork Siuslaw River. This is an easy balloon-style trail for your dog past giant Western hemlocks. A couple of titans have fallen recently enough that they had to be sawed to enable the trail to pass, giving the hike a feel of passing through a canyon pass for your dog.
California Redwoods (California)
There are no more magnificent stands of old growth forest on the planet than the redwoods of California’s northern coast. Sporting bark impervious to insects and having no known diseases, coastal redwoods can live 2,000 years, grow over 350 feet tall and weigh 500 tons. Your dog, unfortunately, can experience the grandeur of the coastal redwoods only in picnic areas, overlooks and campgrounds. Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Redwood National Park or any of the three California state parks created in the 1920s to protect the redwoods: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park or Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. One of the best spots for your dog to get close to monster redwoods is the Templeman Grove along Route 97, hard by the rock-bottomed Smith River.
The closest place to get your dog on the trail under redwoods is the Smith River National Recreation Area, located adjacent to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Established in 1990, the 305,000-acre park was created around Smith River, the last free-flowing river in California without a dam. Smith River is the largest Wild & Scenic River System in the United States - more than 300 miles have been so designated. The star path is the South Kelsey National Recreation Trail, the remnants of an historic transportation link between the Pacific Ocean and the gold mines in the Klamath River region. A walk of nearly two moderate miles on Craig’s Creek Trail finds many redwood trees along the South Fork.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (California)
As long as you are hunting old-growth trees you may as well head for the oldest living trees on earth. Growing at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet, bristlecone pines have been surviving for more than 4,000 years on the harsh slopes of the White mountains, east of Yosemite National Park and north of Death Valley. The cold temperatures, dry soil and short growing season cause the trees, whose dense wood is resistant to invasion by insects, to grow very slowly. The arboreal oldsters have been twisted into tortured shapes by the unforgiving winds and although bleached branches make them appear dead there is often a narrow strip of living tissue connecting the roots to a handful of live branches.
Dogs are welcome in the bristlecone pine forest of the Inyo National Forest and on the trails but don’t expect your top trail companion to sniff out the most ancient specimen. The exact location of the oldest living organism on earth, nicknamed “Methuselah” after the longest living person in the Bible, is kept a secret to protect it from vandalism. Core samples taken in 1957 have led researchers to estimate the age of Methuselah to be 4,789 years old.
The world’s largest bristlecone pine is located in the Patriarch Grove, a 12- mile drive north of the Visitor Center on a good quality dirt road. The isolated Patriarch Tree measures more than 36 feet in circumference.
IDEA #77: DOGGIN’ AmErICA’S CASTLES
Your dog is not welcome to go traipsing through the parlors of America’s spectacular Gilded Age mansions of course but the thing about America’s castles is that they are usually found in the middle of extensive estates. And when the houses are opened to the public, so are the grounds. And often your dog is allowed to roam outside of those private palaces. So pack your dog’s overnight bag to be a welcome house guest...
Biltmore House (North Carolina)
Let’s start this tour with America’s biggest house, the 250-room French Renaissance-style palace was designed by Richard Morris Hunt for George Washington Vanderbilt, grandson of shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. When Cornelius died in 1877 he was the wealthiest man in America and the richest man ever to die. The Biltmore House would open in 1895 amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Outside the exuberant castle is an 8,000-acre estate that includes a forest, a farm, a winery and gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Your dog is permitted to explore just about everywhere that isn’t a building. The garden paths wind gently down a sloping mountainside from the mansion to the Boat House and Bass Pond, passing through formal gardens, natural woodlands and imaginative meadow plantings. Covering these serpentine trails is likely to whet any dog’s hiking appetite but if not you can take off on a paved bike path or bridle trail that wind around the grounds. You can hike for days with your dog at Biltmore and never realize you are in the backyard of America’s largest house.
Gillette Castle (Connecticut)
In 1913, when he was 60 years old and world famous as the stage portrayer of Sherlock Holmes, William Gillette sailed down the Connecticut River and past a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. He docked at the southernmost hill, clambered up to a viewpoint and knew he had found his retirement spot. The actor and playwright designed his castle and its interior himself and over the next six years a team of laborers crafted Gillette’s 24-room vision of native fieldstone in the style of a Norman fortress. Gillette, son of a former United States Senator and direct descendant of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford, would tinker with his masterpiece until his death in 1937. Childless and a widower for half- a-century, Gillette’s will protected the property against any “blithering saphead” who might destroy his creation and the State of Connecticut became its steward in 1943.
The pride and joy of William Gillette’s 184-acre estate was his three-mile narrow gauge railroad that looped through the woods below the castle. Gillette decorated the route with fanciful bridges, a wooden trestle and an arched tunnel blasted through bedrock. The rails are gone but the bed makes a unique pathway for your dog’s travels through the park. The terrain is hilly enough that your dog might wish he could hop a ride on that train but most of the grades work around the hillsides rather than using harsh vertical climbs.
Dogs are not allowed inside the castle walls but the trail does lead to Grand Central Station where you will be able to see Gillette’s unique home. If you get a chance to tour the castle pay attention to the forty-seven doors, no two of which are exactly alike. Each door is adorned with an intricate, hand-carved puzzle- latch.
Fonthill is the home of Henry Chapman Mercer, noted anthropologist, antiquarian, artist, writer, and tile-maker and a leader in the turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts movement in America. The mansion, designed by Mercer in 1908 with 44 rooms illuminated by over 200 windows, is an early example of poured- in-place concrete construction. Mercer built in concrete to avoid the fate of an aunt’s priceless collection of medieval armor that was destroyed in a fire. Fonthill defies any architectural description and is referred to simply as “the Castle.” Mercer also built two other concrete structures in Doylestown; the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works on the same property and the Mercer Museum across town.
Dogs are welcome to roam the park-like grounds that include large swaths of open grass areas and wide dirt trails that crisscross the woodlands. There is about an hour of pleasant dog-walking here. Look for some of Mercer’s decorative tiles embedded in the concrete bridges over the estate’s streams.
Hartwood Acres (Pennsylvania)
William Flinn’s family left Manchester, England for Pittsburgh’s Sixth Ward in 1852 when he was barely one year old. Young William left the Pittsburgh public schools at the age of nine to work the city streets. His father had been a small contractor but William eyed building on a larger scale. Mixing in Republican politics, Flinn won much of the paving and construction business in Pittsburgh during the exploding industrial times of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Flinn’s daughter Mary used her inheritance to create one of the western Pennsylvania’s most magnificent country estates, pivoting around an elegant 16th century Tudor manor house. In 1969, she offered the estate to Allegheny County as a park and just like that the county had a ready-made crown jewel in its park system.
When you bring your dog to Hartwood Acres, you come to walk. There are no recreation or sport facilities on its 629 acres. The manor house, stable and outdoor sculptures are still in place to admire before heading out on the rolling dirt and paved pathways through the wooded countryside. A spiderweb of short and long trails and immaculate bridle paths conspire to provide delightful canine hiking in Hartwood Acres. You can hike with your dog here every day for a month and never take the same route.
For lovers of sunshine begin your dog’s day in the Middle Run Lot and enjoy the macadam paths through manicured fields around the Stage, a concert amphitheater. You’ll leave most of the trail users (many with a dog in tow) behind if you slip off the main paved paths onto the whimsically named natural trails. The Heebie Jeebie Trail utilizes tight switchbacks to climb a short hill. The Perfectly Good Trail is just that - a shady circuit in a remote corner of the park through a junkyard of fallen hemlock trees. Hartwood Acres also offers a large, fenced-in grassy off-leash area for your dog.
Vanderbilt Mansion (New York)
Yet another country estate created for the Vanderbilt family, this one sited on the Hudson River for Frederick William Vanderbilt. Designed in 1898 by America’s foremost architects of the Gilded Age, McKim, Mead & White, the 54-room castle is considered a perfect example of the Beaux-Arts architecture style. The Vanderbilt Mansion is maintained today as a National Historic Site by the National Park Service, which doesn’t often get entangled in the estates of America’s fabulously wealthy. In fact the NPS takes pains to note that the “site was established as a monument to an era rather than a tribute to any one person or family.” The connection to the Federal government here is neighbor Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose lifelong home Springwood is also a National Historic Site. Roosevelt encouraged Vanderbilt’s niece to donate the property to the National Park Service.
Your dog won’t care about all that when she gets a chance to frolic on the manicured Vanderbilt estate grounds which are open free of charge every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. The 211 acres of parkland boast tree plantings back to the 1800s and tail-wagging views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. The Hyde Park Trail leads down the river to Springwood, a more modest affair that also includes The Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library. Roosevelt planted 470,000 trees on his property which your dog can appreciate in boulder-laced Cove Trail Woods.
The Hyde Park Trail also leads to a nearby third National Historic Site and the only one dedicated to a First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill Cottage retreat. If this outstanding troika is not enough to sate your dog’s trail urges, the tiny town of Hyde Park also sports a nature preserve and twin parks behind the village center on both sides of East Market Street.
Hearst Castle (California)
One shouldn’t abandon America’s castles without mention of the hilltop palace of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, perhaps the most famous American castle of them all. Dogs are not allowed at Hearst Castle, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But there plenty of public beaches that allow dogs and several local businesses aware of the ban on pets have sprung up to take care of travelers just like you should you care to visit Heart Castle sans best friend.
IDEA #96: DOGGIN’ wESTErN OUTLAwS
In their time these fellows were tracked and chased by many a dog so you will simply be indulging in a time-honored tradition when you set your dog onto the trail of these outlaw legends...
Billy The Kid
As law and order sorted itself out in 1878 and 1879, the Lincoln County Wars agitated America’s largest county. A central figure in the conflict was a 17- year old hired gun named William Bonney. Imprisoned for extracting revenge on a sheriff ’s posse, Billy the Kid was detained in Lincoln before breaking out of jail and killing two guards. Bonney was soon hunted down and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
The entire town of Lincoln - some 150 strong - is today a National Historic Landmark. You and your dog can walk through the one-street town, several blocks long, and study the historically preserved buildings that include the merchandise store owned by murdered Englishman John Tunstull and the courthouse where Billy the Kid made good his daring escape.
After your walking tour you can pile the dog back in the car and take a driving tour on the 84-mile loop around Lincoln dubbed the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway. It doesn’t have much to do with Bonney’s travels but you will get a healthy dose of the rugged beauty of the American West and plenty of recreation opportunities for your dog in the Lincoln National Forest.
“Jesse James is the only American bandit who is classical, who is to this country what Robin Hood or Dick Turpin is to England, whose exploits are so close to the mythical and apocryphal”...Carl Sandburg
To jump on the trail of Jesse James you will need a vehicle. A driving tour of Jesses James’ outlaw life in Missouri includes such towns as Liberty (the bank where the James gang executed the nation’s first successful daytime bank robbery), Winston (site of the “Great Train Robbery”), St. Joseph (the house where he was shot and killed), Kearney (Jesse James’ grave) and Independence (jail where brother Frank turned himself in after Jesse’s murder).
After all that driving your dog will want to stretch his legs, and the place to do it is in the Mark Twain National Forest that covers 1.5 million acres and stretches across 29 Missouri counties. Although named for Mark Twain, the Missourian most associated with the Ozark hills is not the humorist but outlaw Jesse James. James was reputed to have used the limestone caves as hiding places, including a prominent rock room along the Berryman Trail in the Potosi Ranger District. A national recreation trail, this was created as a horse trail and there are no steep climbs as the undulating path switches back and forth up to craggy ridges from dark, leafy hollows.
The James-Younger gang’s first Missouri train robbery took place in the Frederickstown District near a small town called Gads Hill when five men robbed the Little Rock Express on its way from St. Louis to Little Rock on January 31, 1874. The gang brought with them a pre-written press-release that was left with the crew on the train to relay to the local newspapers.
Tracking Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch is no easier today than it was for “those guys” 100 years ago. If you and your dog sign on with this posse, bring a rugged vehicle and some tough paw pads. The most famous hide-out for the gang - and the most famous hide-out in the Old West - was Hole-in-the-Wall, the only break in a red sandstone escarpment that runs for fifty miles through the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. The area was remote and accessed only by narrow passes that were easily defended by cattle rustlers and outlaws.
Today the Hole-in-the-Wall is on public land administered by the Buffalo Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management. The trailhead is 32 miles from Interstate 25 and any services, mostly on a primitive two-track road that passes through many livestock gates that must be opened and closed. The hike with your dog into the Hole-in-the-Wall traverses uneven terrain for 2.5 miles.
Cassidy, born Robert LeRoy Parker, utilized other equally remote hideouts along what came to be known as “the Outlaw Trail.” Now that you know what is involved in reaching a western outlaw lair you may want to bring your dog to Brown’s Hole, a rugged Green River canyon near the junction of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming and Robbers Roost, a savage stretch of Utah desert sandwiched between the Colorado River, the Green River and the Dirty Devil River.
You can continue on the trail of Butch Cassidy if you wish, although it won’t get any easier. While in Utah you can head over to Circleville, just outside Zion National Park, to check on his boyhood home but the ailing house is unmarked. The San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado where Cassidy pulled his first bank robbery in 1889 burned three years later. It was replaced at the corner of Pine and Main streets by the Mahr Building where a Yorkshire Terrier-sized plaque marks the spot. The Bank of Montpelier (Idaho), which was the first robbery attributed to the Wild Bunch in 1896, has most recently been a print shop. Other Western sites attributed to Butch Cassidy may, instead, be just be marking his legend.
Oh, and if you want your dog to see the spot where Paul Newman and Robert Redford “jumped” off the cliff in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, travel to Durango, Colorado and go 13 miles north to Baker’s Bridge, off CR 250. The shot was created in three separate stages. Newman and Redford run towards the cliff edge above the Animas River; then stuntman are filmed jumping 30 feet into the gorge, while the camera shoots without the water to create the illusion of a much longer drop; and finally Newman and Redford are shot landing in the water back in California.