The PCT Is Calling – My Dog, That Is

What About Fido? 

I am helpless and ridiculously in love with my rescued, and slightly feral, puppy dawned Dingo. She is a one-year-old German Shepherd – Aussie Cattle mix who spent the first four months of her life under a wine shipping crate with a pack of wild dogs. After interviews with the rescue organization and a trepidation-filled meet and greet, my family welcomed Dingo into the fold. She truly fits right into our instant family since my daughter is foster adopted and my son is foster turned ward of our legal guardianship. Yes, the official term is ward and yes my sarcastic dry humor truly embraces that moniker. It’s is a chain gang kind of family over here, I suppose you can say. 

Dog on leash

Dingo loves the outdoors. She easily puts in 20-mile days with so much pep and enjoyment. In her opinion, the more snow, the more fun. The more mountains to summit, the higher her tail will wag. Dingo is my best trail mate—so much so I even created her own Instagram account. Yes, I am that dog mom and yes I will not be shamed. But back to the topic; when it came to my choice to trek the Pacific Crest Trail alone it actually became alone except for my furry friend. I mean, how could I go on this trail trash dream adventure and not bring my, will eat trash if allowed, trail buddy?

But Can Dingo Legally Hike the PCT? 

According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association:

The regulations affecting you and your dog vary depending on the agency that manages the stretch of the trail. There are no PCT-specific dog regulations. There are different rules for different places (national parks, wilderness areas, state parks, etc) and you’ll cross many jurisdictional boundaries.

The short answer is my puppy can in fact hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The long answer is that she can not join me in certain national parks or trail portions. If you do not regularly hike with a dog you may not realize that almost all national parks ban dogs in the backcountry and on all trails. The PCT crosses through seven national parks, and those rules will be highly enforced on those sections. But there are so many wonderful miles that Dingo can join me on and will. 

Dog in color water

Here is a partial list of places dogs are not allowed: 

  • Anza-Borrego State Park
  • San Jacinto State Park
  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • The rim trail alternate in Crater Lake National Park 

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

A common question I have received myself and have heard other thru-hikers say they receive is: “What about bears? And similar to people, dogs also must be aware of the impact they have on wildlife. A puppy that likes to bark, chase, intimidate animals in the wild, most likely will need extra precautions if joining on the PCT. Obviously, a leash can be the best defense against chasing wildlife but if your dog simply cannot contain its barking, then the solitude of nature for all is jeopardized. Plus, wildlife may be more dangerous to your furry friend. A coyote is much more confident to attack a dog then it will ever be to a two-legged traveler. 

What do you do? Training and having an honest knowledge of your dog’s personality is key. Also keep in mind that humans as well as pets should remain at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from other large mammals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes.

What About the Poop? 

Leave No Trace is a beautiful principle that is for humans and dogs. The first obstacle that comes to mind is, well, the glamorous poop one. What about Fido’s poop? Did you know that Dog poop can contain fecal coliform bacteria, Giardia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and more? Me neither. But Google is my best friend. Another thing I learned is that if you do not keep your dog up to date on vaccines or go the extra mile to regularly deworm your pet that these bacteria and parasites can remain in the soil for years. Toxins will eventually get into the water and our bodies and infect wildlife. Just gross right? 

What is the poop solution? Easy enough is a day hike will mean just bagging up those chocolate gems and disposing of them properly off trail. But the longer overnight strolls are similar to what you do with your own business. Dig a deep cathole, push it in, and cover it well to avoid any missteps.

Puppy Training 

Now I am trying my hardest to keep my pack as light as my body can muster. I am not an ultralight genius and am more a “I am old and my back hurts so less is more” philosophical creature. That being said, I fully expect my four-legged friend to fully carry her own weight. For example, Dingo will need her own supplies, food, and water. 

Here are a few items:

  • Water bowl
  • Boots for sketch areas like lava flow 
  • Dog pack carrier

Since Dingo is a heeler breed mix I am much less concerned about cold weather. Her full coat has kept her happy and bouncing in negative Canadian temperatures. But not all dogs are made the same and other considerations are clothing and sleeping blankets for your companion. 

As I have been gearing up to climb mountains in preparation, Dingo has been right alongside me. I plot out what she will do in the desert landscape and dehydration. I push her to see how she handles steep elevation gain and long distances. And what I have learned in the wild with my number one fur baby is she will in fact outhike me, as she whines that I hurry my slow butt up the trail. 

What About Fido? 

I am so very excited to get to start this monumental journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. It will test my limits yet fill my very soul with wonderment. I understand the limitations with bringing my Dingo along with me for portions. But I know having her tag-wagging, stick-chewing, lovely furry self by my side is very much worth the extra preparation and planning. 

Come on, Dingo! Let’s get this!


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Comments 4

  • Jeff Fuchs : Feb 26th

    So have you found shuttle services to get Dingo around the off limit areas, or do you have someone supporting you along the way?

    • Kaitlin Musser : Feb 26th

      That would be a great service but sadly I did not find a puppy shuttle. I am fortunate to live full time in a short school bus with my family. They will be driving along as trail angels and be able to grab dingo at different meet ups.

  • Sarah : May 21st

    Hello! I’m currently training with my two dogs towards tackling the Appalachian Trail. Assuming that goes successfully, I’d like to try to finish the Triple Crown! About how many miles of this trail are off limits to dogs? Would it be reasonable to walk around these parts (take a different route and then head back to the trail once past the “forbidden zone”)? TIA!

  • Rosie Lutz : Sep 10th

    do you have an instagram or anything to update us with your journey? i am considering doing the PCT with my dog as well and a lot of people discourage it so i am looking to see people who have done it/are able!


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