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The joys and obstacles of hiking with dogs

My dog, Madison on her first hike in the mountains.  (Trail to Kersey Lake in the Beartooths.)
My dog, Madison on her first hike in the mountains. (Trail to Kersey Lake in the Beartooths.)

As a dog owner and outdoor enthusiast, it is hard to match the satisfaction of hiking with my dogs and watching them bound gleefully ahead of me on an open trail. In addition to bonding and having fun, hiking with my dogs provides them with much needed exercise. After a long hike, I love to see the dogs exhausted and snoring in the back of the car.

My dog, Madison, enjoys the view from Storm Castle in Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman.
Photo taken by Jill Lippard

When you hike with your dog, don’t forget to pack supplies for them. Bring water, treats, a leash, and even clothing (rain jacket, sweater, booties) if necessary. If you prefer, you can purchase a pack and have your dog carry their own stuff.

Although hiking is a wonderful way to spend time with your pets, dogs are prohibited from hiking in many areas. National parks and recreation areas, including Yellowstone, Glacier, and Bighorn Canyon, do not allow dogs on hiking trails. In Billings, dogs are banned from most of the city parks. I have found national forests and state parks to be the most pet friendly hiking areas in Montana. Before taking your dog on a hiking trip, research and the pet rules and regulations for the area you are visiting.

When hiking with your dog, be responsible and respect other trail users. Pick up after your pet if waste containers are provided or at least remove droppings from the trail. If your pet is aggressive towards strangers or other dogs or if they do not follow commands consistently, keep them on a leash. It’s also a good idea to leash your pet in crowded areas like high-traffic trailheads. While hiking, you may come across people riding horses or mountain biking. Also, you will likely encounter wildlife on Montana’s hiking trails. Be prepared to control and protect your dog in these situations.

Although it may seem like lots of work to take your pet, the rewards of hiking with your dog are well worth the extra effort involved with taking them along on a trip. Here is a list of some dog friendly hiking areas near Billings:

  1. Zimmerman Park – trails along the rimrocks in Billings.
  2. Norm’s Island – trails along the Yellowstone River in Billings.
  3. Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area – national forest trails near Red Lodge, Nye, Big Timber, and along the Beartooth Highway (Hwy 212).
  4. Gallatin National Forest – national forest trails near Livingston, Bozeman, and Big Sky.
  5. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park – trails in state park near Three Forks, MT.  The park provides outdoor kennels for dog owners to keep their pets in while touring the caverns.


  • Nora 5 years ago

    Loved these pictures with the dogs! What a great life they have!

  • Merle 5 years ago

    Jill, I struggle with taking my dog especially in the spring when animals are so sensitive. They are looking for nutrition and for places to calve, etc. I really try to exercise her, but keep her close (even if I need to leash her). Great article because I hate taking my dog somewhere and then finding out she can't come on the hike. Thanks for the info.

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