Amy Potter, visitor center manager at Green Mountain Club (GMC) and avid hiker, thru-hiked the 273-mile Long Trail with her two dogs in 2015. Potter shared her tips for hiking with dogs and some of her favorite places to hike with her dogs in central Vermont. "Hiking with dogs can be fun and rewarding for both hiker and pup,” she said.
“It is important to know the rules and regulations surrounding the trails you will be visiting,” she said. “Dogs are permitted on all trails managed by GMC but be sure to check in with other land managers before heading out with your dog. Your dog should be under control at all times by voice command or by leash. Keep in mind that not all hikers love being approached by dogs, so please respect any requests to leash your dog. Leashes are required in alpine zones, found above 2,500 feet on peaks like Camel's Hump, Mt. Mansfield and Mt. Abraham.”
“Start slow until you get a sense of what your dog can handle,” she said. “Look for wide, well-maintained trails with plenty of room for your dog and other hikers. Avoid trails that are particularly steep or contain obstacles like ladders, rock scrambles or steep drop-offs. If you're interested in taking your dog on overnight or long-distance hikes, they need training and preparation just like a person would.”
She also said it’s important to keep in mind the habitats where you’re hiking and how dogs may impact natural resources. “Dogs can trample the fragile alpine plants that live here, so they should stick close by you on the marked trail,” she said. “Practice Leave No Trace and clean up after your dog. If the trail is open to multiple uses, including hunting, take precautions to keep your dog safe."
Potter suggests these day hikes as starting points for hiking with dogs:
1) Smuggler’s Notch via Route 108, Stowe – EASY
3.0 mi round trip, approximately 400-foot elevation gain. “Closed to vehicle traffic in the winter, Route 108 through Smuggler’s Notch provides a beautiful and easy snowshoe or ski option. Most people choose the Visitor Center at the height of land as their destination, but those feeling more adventurous can extend the hike up to Sterling Pond.”
2) Beane Trail to Birch Glen Shelter, Huntington – EASY
2.8-mile round trip, approximately 600-foot elevation gain. “From the parking area, walk past the iron gate and follow a farm road through open woods until an intersection where the Beane Trail transitions to a more traditional hiking trail. From here, the Beane Trail ascends at a gentle, steady pitch to Birch Glen Shelter.”
3) Duxbury Window Trail on the Long Trail -- MODERATE
3.2-mile round trip, approximately 800-foot elevation gain. “A great option on a clear day. From the parking area, hike 1.6 miles south on the Long Trail to a beautiful lookout with a bench. Note: Most of the hike is a gradual incline, but the trail is fairly steep for a short stretch just before the Window.”
There are many other trails and areas to hike with dogs throughout the Mad River Valley, from the rolling hills of the Enchanted Forest in Camel’s Hump State Park to the challenging pitches on Burnt Rock Mountain.