Camping with Dogs at White Sands National Park

Camping with dogs at White Sands National Park is super rad. You’ll get sand everywhere. For all of eternity. It’s worth it. Just go.

Two dogs flank a human sitting on a white sand dune with a purple sunset and mountain in the background while camping with dogs at White Sands National Park

Visiting and Camping with Dogs at White Sands National Park

January 25, 2022 Update – Per the White Sands National Park website: Backcountry camping is currently closed due to rehabilitation of camping sites. No date has been determined for its reopening.

Our trip started with a speeding ticket out in the middle of seemingly nowhere when I was legit trying to follow the speed limit. Somehow, I missed a sign. Herc was NOT pleased with the cop approaching my window. All sorts of ferocious woofs and growls coming from the peanut gallery: “Who the heck do you think you are trying to give things to my mom?! Did I say you could approach the vehicle?? Scram! Skedaddle!”

Beyond that minor incident and the fact the Cool Whip was appalled that she had to carry a pack, we had an incredible adventure. White Sands National Park is a beautiful dog friendly area to explore.

White Sands National Park is just outside Alamogordo and the Holloman Air Force Base. It is about six hours from Phoenix. I considered adding the Organ Mountains to our trip, but I opted for City of Rocks State Park. But whether you add more pit stops or not, this unique desert spot is worth the trip.

The dunes are made of white gypsum, a fair bit different from the classic brown sand of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sunrise and sunset are excellent times to see the dunes as they take on the colors of the sky.

Activities at White Sands include the following and more:

  • Hiking. Dune Life Nature Trail, Playa Trail, Interdune Boardwalk, Alkali Flat Trail, Backcountry Camping Trail
  • Sand Sledding. Bring your plastic snow saucer or purchase one at the visitor center
  • Picnicking. There are shaded tables and grills with nearby restrooms in the parking areas
  • Backcountry Camping. There are no drive-up sites or RV camping options, but you can still spend a night in a tent
Two dogs flank a human sitting on a white sand dune with a sunset and mountain in the background while camping with dogs at White Sands National Park

​Check the Weather and the Missile Launches

Visiting White Sands in February treated us to minimal people and great weather. But, like planning a backpacking trip at Petrified Forest National Park, you’ll want to keep an eye on wind speed and temperature. There will almost always be wind. 10-15 mph is average, but use caution when rates hit 25 mph or greater.

The temperature at White Sands can also get a little extreme. Summer temps average 95 during the day and 55 at night. Winter cools down to 60 as a high and lows down to 23.

And yes, be sure to check for any planned missile range testing. White Sands Missile Range surrounds White Sands National Park. Missile range tests occur about twice a week. The monument and part of highway US 70 may be closed for an hour or two during this time.

A white dog in a blue sweater; the dog has one ear lifted in the wind

​Reservations, Permits, and Cost for Camping with Dogs at White Sands

Camping at White Sands requires a permit. You cannot make a reservation or acquire a permit for a White Sands backcountry campsite until the morning of your overnight adventure. Verify hours of operation before you plan to arrive. Stop at the entrance fee station to obtain your permit.

Rangers assign the ten available camping spots on a first-come-first-served basis. Camping fees are $3.00 per person aged 16+ and $1.50 for those 15 and younger. You’ll pay this fee AND the general entrance fee of $25.00 per vehicle (waived if you have the national park pass) at the entrance station.

You must leave your site by 1:00 pm the next day, and you must request a new permit in person if you wish to stay another night.

A paper showing a map of the backcountry trail and campsite at White Sands National Park and another paper that serves as a permit for backcountry camping with dogs at White Sands National Park

​Poop: Your Dog and YOU

Yes, you have to scoop ALL the poop. Always practice the Leave No Trace principles. Check with a park ranger at the Visitor Center for a Wag Bag if you didn’t bring a waste disposal container. Or, as one crafty ranger recommended to me, you can use the bags they provide at the pet waste stations around the park (one of which happens to be located right in front of the visitor center). These pet waste bags are pretty large and sturdy, by poop bag standards, not skimpy ones that tear if you pick up more than one poop nugget.

A pet waste station with a sign on the garbage can noting a graphic of a snake and the word "Rattlesnakes"

The Backcountry Camping Trail

You checked the weather, acquired a permit, loaded up on poop bags, took one last potty break at the toilets by the trailhead parking lot, and now you’re ready to head out on your adventure—woohoo!

The backcountry camping trail is a 2-mile lollipop loop that goes up, over, down, and around many dunes. With the ever-changing nature of the dunes, there is no regular trail on the ground you’ll follow. Instead, you follow orange trail markers staked into the dunes.

Once you reach your first marker on the trail, do not continue moving forward until you see the next marker. Continue this way for the remainder of the backcountry trail. Remember, you’re in a giant sandbox with no other landmarks to guide you, so it’s easy to become disoriented and lose track of your direction. Additionally, GPS tracks have a hard time displaying accurate readings out here. So, always stay aware of where the next trail or campsite maker is staked.

A White dog standing next to an orange stake sticking into a white sand dune; the stake has graphics depicting the rules and marking the route for the backcountry trail at White Sands National Park
A brown dog with an orange backpack standing next to a wooden trail marker stuck into the white sand dune

Campsites at White Sands

​You’ll eventually see the campsites noted on the trail markers as you’re cruising along the trail. Each campsite is in an open valley among the dunes. Once you find your campsite number on a trail marker, look for another marker at the base of the dunes. This is where you’ll set up camp, keeping your tent within five feet of that stake on the valley floor.

An orange trail marker stake and a wooden trail marker stuck into a white sand dune; between the trail markers you can see a green tent in valley down below; this is a campsite when camping with dogs at White Sands National Park
View of white sand dunes under a cloudy sky, tucked into a valley in the dunes is a barely visible green tent; a great site for camping with dogs at White Sands National Park

Camping With Dogs at White Sands National Park

ALWAYS keep your dog leashed while visiting White Sand National Park, even at the backcountry site. There are plenty of lizards and other animals around that you don’t want your dog to disturb. Additionally, you need to be able to find their poop to pack it out.

What to bring when camping with dogs at White Sands:

  • Water. There is NO water out in the dunes. Not even a stream. Make sure you bring plenty for yourself and your dog. Even if the temperature is cool, hiking across the dunes takes some effort.
  • Water bowl. Cool Whip and Hercules can drink out of my hydration pack spout, but a bowl is a lot easier. Here are some of the travel dogs bowls we’ve used for hiking and backpacking.
  • Poop bags. Yes, I’m mentioning them again. Don’t be THAT person leaving poop around for others to stumble upon. Don’t bury it either. With all the wind blowing things around, it will resurface in no time.
  • Warm gear. The wind can cool you down a lot during the day, and it gets quite a bit cooler at night. Make sure your pup is comfortable. Bring a warm coat and a blanket or sleeping bag for your dog to snuggle into at night. Other than during our hike out to the campsite (mid-afternoon in February), Cool Whip and Hercules wore their fleece jackets the entire time.
  • Dog backpacks. These aren’t totally necessary, but they are helpful. Cool Whip and Hercules carried their own food and fleece sweaters.

Now get on out there and have some fun!

Looking down at two dogs, a white pit bull with a black backpack and a red stripped scarf, and brown pit bull with an orange backpack and teal striped scarf; the dogs are on leashed and standing on white sand

Best Dog Bowls for Hiking and Road Trips

Dog bowls—literally the first thing I pack for any trip. A durable, packable dog bowl is a key part of a successful adventure with your furry friend. And there are plenty of options out there, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which travel dog bowl meets your needs best. Listed here are a few of the best dogs bowls for hiking and travel that work for us. 

A brown dog drinking out of a red fabric dog bowl on a hiking trail
MuttRuk RollOut Travel Bowl

How to Choose a Dog Bowl for Hiking and Road Trips

At home, most dog owners (myself included) use ceramic or metal bowls of some sort. These are great, for home. But they’re a bit heavy and bulky to fit in a back pack for a hike. Less is more for road trips as well. That’s where the dog bowls designed specifically for travel come into play.

What to look in the best dog bowls for hiking and travel:

  • Collapsible or Foldable – A dog bowl that will collapse down to a smaller size saves space in your backpack or car. More room for snacks!
  • Weight – If you’re a backpacker or hiker, you don’t want a heavy bowl in your backpack or your dog’s backpack. This is where the fabric bowls win, without a doubt. But the collapsible silicone bowls are still doable and a great option for road trips and more.
  • Waterproof – Not all travel dog bowls are meant for water. And for those that are, some are more waterproof than others. Many of the fabric-style bowls are only intended for a quick drink on the go; they may only have a light waterproof  or water-resistant seal. Your best bet is a silicone bowl if you’re leaving water out all day. 
  • Capacity – How much water do you need your bowl to hold? Small dogs drink less than large dogs. Whoa, what?! Yeah, wild, I know. 
  • Durable – Many of the collapsible dog bowls are made of silicone, which is quite durable. But also consider any other materials used, such as a plastic top edge that could crack or break over time. And don’t discount those fabric bowls in this category! Most foldable, fabric-type bowls use a 600-denier fabric, which is durable enough to stand up to your backcountry treks or inner-city strolls.

​What is Denier? It’s a unit of measurement to determine the fiber thickness of individual threads used in the creation of fabrics. Fabrics with a high denier count are thicker and more durable. Those with a low denier count are softer and silkier.

A collection of various styles of travel dog bowls.

​Dog Bowls for Travel

​These are the travel dog bowls Hercules and Cool Whip have used over the years. Also the ones they currently use.

Foldable Options

​These are the most compact and packable dog bowls for hiking. They’re typically made of a 600-denier polyester outer layer and a waterproof interior.

MuttRuk: RollOut Travel Bowl ($20) – This is my current go-to travel bowl for outdoor adventures (I have both colors!). MuttRuk has thought of everything for this bowl: flexible, durable, waterproof material that rolls up and secures with a snap; plus, a small carabiner to hook the bowl right to the side of your pack, leash, etc. You don’t even have to take off your backpack to access the bowl—unclip it, unroll it, and fill it with water from your hydration pack.

Ruffwear: Quencher ($15) – I received the small version of the Ruffwear Quencher in a Cairn subscription box several years ago. It was a great win back then and still is. Packable and durable. It also has a loop to attach a carabiner. 

Outward Hound: Port A Bowl ($7) – This was the very first travel bowl I purchased for the dogs. It has an elastic loop to attached a carabiner or, as I use it, to keep the bowl rolled up when not in use. Not quite as waterproof as the other two, but still a solid option—especially for under $10!

Three foldable dog bowls in pink, blue, and gray.
A white dog drinking from a red foldable travel dog bowl
MuttRuk RollOut Travel Bowl
A while dog drinking from a pink Ruffwear travel dog bowl
Ruffwear Quencher Travel Bowl

Collapsible Options

These dog bowls collapse down flat. They aren’t quite as compact and light as the foldable bowls, but they are a bit more sturdy. I prefer these when I know we’ll have a home base, such as when we’re camping or on a road trip. You can leave the bowl full of water all day and it won’t leak out at all.

Kurgo: Collapse A Bowl ($10) – I love these bowls and have one in every color! I leave one in the car for emergency water needs and use the other two during road trips. Because they collapse down flat, they fit right in the dog food container without taking up any extra space. Plus, they have the small carabiners to attach them to a backpack if you take them hiking, etc. 

Ruffwear: Bivy Collapsible Dog Bowl ($25) – I don’t remember how I wound up with this bowl, but it was my first introduction to a collapsible dog bowl not made of silicone. What’s important about that? It’s weighs a lot less.

Three travel dogs bowls
Kurgo Collapse A Bowl on the left, Ruffwear Bivy Collapsible Bowl on the right

​Fixed-form (Silicone) Options

Not the type of bowl you’d toss into your backpack for a hike, but a fixed-form silicone bowl is perfect for road trips and extended camping adventures. The collapsible bowls are pretty durable, but my dogs inadvertently collapse them part way if I leave them out unattended. This is where a fixed-form bowl comes in handy: hotels, campsites, in the car, etc. 

Sleepy Pod: Yummy Travel Bowl ($30) – I received this bowl set in a gift bag at a dog car-safety event. Legit the best thing I’ve ever received in a gift bag! It doesn’t pack down smaller but it is still well designed for travel. The inner bowls are too small to use as food bowls for Cool Whip and Hercules, but the no-spill water is a total significant change for road tripping. Bonus: I accidentally ran it over once and didn’t do it a bit of damage. 

Kurgo is one of the only other companies I’ve seen with a similar bowl suitable for adventure travel. So, if you don’t need the interlocking food bowls, this could be a great alternative for just the no-splash water bowl. (Note: I’ve never actually tried Kurgo’s no-splash bowl.)

A 3-piece set of silicon travel dog bowls
Sleepy Pod Yummy Travel Dog Bowl
A silicon dog bowl survives being run over!
A silicon dog bowl survives being run over!

Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

A little way off the beaten path, down quite a few miles of dirt roads, this national grassland is the perfect place for a pit stop and a hike. Here’s what you need to know about hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland.

Two dogs in sweaters standing in a grassy field with a pink, purple, and blue sunset in the background

Pawnee National Grassland is in Weld County, northeastern Colorado, about 35 miles east of Fort Collins. Eastern Colorado quite unlike the rocky mountain views most expect from this state. In the eastern plains, you’ll experience low, rolling hills and expansive views of flowing grass, cattle, oil rigs, and wind turbines. The Fence Post has an excellent overview of the area’s history. 

We stop here on almost every road trip between Arizona and Minnesota. While national parks aren’t always the most dog-friendly places to visit (but Petrified Forest and White Sands are our favorites!), national forests and national grasslands are some of the BEST places to go with your pup!

Getting to the Pawnee Buttes Trailhead

​From either direction, you’ll turn from a dirt county road onto more of a two-track dirt road. A few signs are pointing the way there. But I usually rely on Google Maps to guide my way to the trailhead. I got decent cell service through most of the grassland unless I was tucked into a dip between the prairie hills. 

A white dog standing on a hill overlooking the trailhead for Pawnee Buttes with grassy fields and buttes in the background

Hiking Pawnee Buttes Trail

Pawnee Buttes Trailhead has several covered picnic tables, grills, toilets, and informational signs. The trail is about 4.5 miles roundtrip and relatively easy for most hikers.

Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leash or under voice control at all times. There are free-range cattle in the area, along with plenty of wildlife: coyote, prairie dog, swift fox, mule deer, burrowing owl, pronghorn, rattlesnakes, and more.

The Pawnee Buttes Trailhead informational sign

​​From the trailhead parking lot, you’ll pass through a gate to begin the trail. After that, you’ll come to a short trail forking off to the right for a lovely view of Lips Bluff. Continuing on the main trail, you’ll cross in front of Lips Bluff. Eventually, you’ll drop down between Lips Bluff and Overlook escarpment. Here you’ll notice a slight change in this semi-arid landscape, with more trees and bushes sprouting up along the washes.

A woman and two dogs hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland trail in a grassy field with buttes in the background
A brown dog overlooking a grassy field and buttes in Pawnee Buttes National Grassland
Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

Along the backside, after your hike up out of the washes, you can hike up onto Lips Bluff. There is a seasonal closure of Lips Bluff and the Overlook from March 1 to June 30 to protect birds nesting in the area. Many visitors come to the buttes for bird watching (prairie falcon, red tail hawk, golden eagle, lark bunting, and more). Even if that area is closed, you can continue on the main Pawnee Buttes Trail to West Pawnee Butte and East Pawnee Butte.

​The second butte, East Pawnee Butte, is on private land. Be sure to leave any gates you pass through as you found them. Additionally, do not climb on the west butte, east butte, or other surrounding mesas. The ground easily erodes, causing damage to the landscape and danger to the hiker. 

A grassy field with buttes in the background and a wooden sign stating "The area behind this sign is closed March 1 - June 30 to prevent disturbance of wildlife
Two dogs on a hiking trail in a grassy field with buttes in the background

Camping at Pawnee National Grassland

Throughout the Pawnee National Grassland, there are options for dispersed camping or staying in a designated campground. Most of the dispersed camping is along the dirt road to Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. If you’re selecting a camping spot along this road, be sure to stay only in a previously used site. For a designated campground, consider the Crow Valley Campground, along the eastern section of the grassland closer to Briggsdale and Greeley, Colorado.

View of a grassy field and buttes under a blue sky at sunrise

Check the Weather and Be Prepared When Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

We’ve camped in the Pawnee Grassland multiple times, and each time there were strong winds and usually a storm right before or during our stay. The county road is typically passable, but the dirt road leading to the trailhead is a bumpy washboard on a good day. After a strong storm, there are large standing puddles, mud, and some severe washouts. Know the capabilities of your vehicle and what to do during a lightning storm.

Additionally, the weather can get quite warm. Be sure to bring plenty of water along during your hiking. Check out these dog bowls for hiking if you need one for your pup!

View of brown dog in a teal sweater in a grass field with buttes and a sunrise sky in the background

Camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

If you’re looking for that quintessential Northwoods camping experience with big trees, lakes, and wildlife, camping in the NHAL State Forest is it. The Northern Highland–American Legion (NHAL) State Forest is a beautiful space in northern Wisconsin.

A brown pit bull in camping themed pajamas sitting among pines trees along the shore of Carol Lake while camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

Camping in the NHAL State Forest

There are many options, so this truly depends on what you’re looking to do and what type of amenities you want. Most of these campgrounds have sites you can reserve.

Modern Campgrounds

Want to be able to shower and use a regular flush toilet? These are the campgrounds you’ll need to check out. There are no electrical hookups, but you can get a free permit to run a generator if that’s your thing.

  • Clear Lake
  • Big Musky
  • Firefly
  • Crystal Lake

Rustic Campgrounds

Just the essentials—hand-pumped water, pit toilets, and no electricity. However, these campgrounds usually offer wider site spacing than the modern campgrounds. This is what we opted for. Six campgrounds in this list (East Star through West Star) were non-reservable as of Fall 2020.

  • Big Lake
  • Buffalo Lake
  • Carrol Lake
  • Cunard Lake
  • Indian Mounds
  • Plum Lake
  • Sandy Beach Lake
  • South Trout
  • East Star Lake
  • North Trout Lake
  • Razorback Lake
  • Starrett Lake
  • Upper Gresham Lake
  • West Star Lake
Two pit bulls in fleece sweaters sitting between two large pine trees on the shore of Carrol Lake while camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

Primitive Campgrounds

Just the basics—tent clearing, fire ring, picnic table, box latrine.

  • Allequash Lake
  • Bittersweet Wild Lakes Area
  • Clear Lake
  • Day Lake
  • Nebish Lake
A view from a wooden dock looking out at a small, tree-filled island on Carrol Lake

Backcountry Camping in the NHAL State Forest

For those looking for even more solitude and adventure, you can request a permit for backcountry camping.

Camping with Dogs at Carrol Lake

While having a shower sounded luxurious while camping, we wanted a small campground—this meant fewer amenities, fewer people, and more seclusion (for the dogs and us). Carrol Lake won partially due to availability when we made our reservation and because it has some tremendous walk-in sites.

Two pit bulls in fleece sweaters sitting between two large pine trees on the shore of Carol Lake while camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

Don’t worry; you’re not going to be hauling gear across a football field. It’s more like walking the length of your house (if you have a small, 1300-sq-ft house like me). Easy peasy.

Our site, 102, had a lot of room and a lovely view of the lake. If all the sites there had been open, I might have chosen 103 because it had a little more grassy space and a more open view. However, it was slightly closer to the boat ramp (not that the boaters were noisy, or at least it didn’t sound like it from 102). Site 101 was a bit uphill from us, so more seclusion, but closer to the road. Even from our site, you could occasionally hear cars (noisy ones).

Two pit bull dogs in fleece sweaters on a dock with trees in the background at Carrol Lake lake in Wisconsin
A tan, orange, and grey 6-person tent surrounded by pine trees at a campsite at Carrol Lake Campground in Wisconsin

There were also regular campsites you could pull right up to and a few other walk-ins at the other end of camp. I don’t think those walk-ins had a great view of the lake. Plus, on our side (101-103), we were closer to the docks and dog-accessible waterfront. The actual beach area farther into camp does not allow dogs.

Carrol Lake is just a few minutes from town (Woodruff) and Clear Lake Campground, which has a ranger station and access to firewood.

Note: Pets must be on a leash. A State Parks and Forest sticker is required for camping (throughout the NHAL State Forest).

Brats cooking in a pan over a campfire, a great meal while camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin
A person sitting along the Carrol Lake lakeshore framed by pine trees and deciduous trees

​Hiking in NHAL State Forest

Our camp host gave us a great local newspaper guide filled with things to do, from local shops to local hikes. The Wisconsin DNR also has a great breakdown of hikes in NHAL State Forest. Try to check in with local guides whenever you can, whether it’s your camp host, a ranger, or some locals in town. They typically have a better grasp of current conditions and what’s accessible, plus they may have some “locals only” trail knowledge they can pass on.

A woman an a hiking trail surrounded by many green leafy trees in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

While we spent part of our trip exploring the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness in Michigan, we did some local hiking as well. We headed up to Escanaba Lake for the first part of our day and then explored Minocqua in the second half. The Escanaba Hiking Trail offers several loops, from 2.36 to 8.48 miles. The trails are well-maintained and relatively wide. There is some logging regrowth you’ll hike through, but most of the time, it’s just beautiful forest views along with an occasional lake sighting.

Also, bring mosquito spray. There were zero bugs at our Carrol Lake campsite, but we encountered quite a few on the Escanaba hike.

Extra also: Don’t forget to bring some local(ish) brewskis!

A golden yellow and orange sunset view of Carrol Lake in Wisconsin
A handing holding a blue can of beer and in the background are two dogs sitting among pine trees with a lake and sunset behind them

Backpacking to Island Lake & Titcomb Basin

Pole Creek Trail started as an easy but steady climb. Climb being a bit of an aggressive term as it was a wide, well-worn path. It felt like we were on a casual stroll through a wooded park, going uphill ever so slightly. Not what I expected as our start to backpacking to Island Lake.

A lake surrounded by mountains covered in clouds, pine trees, and flowers, a regular view when backpacking to Island Lake

I journeyed back to our backpacking trip in Banff the year prior, where the trail was most decisive in its choice to start with some solid elevation gain. No meandering casualness about it. A precursor to the trail and days to come.

Regardless of the start, Banff was epic, and I had no doubt our adventure to Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range would be as well.

A group of people sitting around a campfire at a campsite surrounded by tall pine trees

The Start of Backpacking to Island Lake

We had arrived at Trails End Campground Sunday afternoon to snag a good campsite so we’d have minimal travel Monday morning to start our hike. Campsites were first come, first served. But we need not have worried as it seemed like no one else was around, despite two marginally full parking lots.

Each of the 8 sites housed a fire ring, picnic table, and bear locker. The pits toilets were well-maintained, and there was a water spigot at the Elkhart Park – Pole Creek Trailhead (right next to the campground). Unfortunately for us, the spigot was not working at the time of our adventure, but in theory, it would be a convenient feature.

Throughout the evening and into the night, more adventure seekers wandered in. I was glad we’d nabbed a spot early; the campground was full when we rose Monday morning.

While backpacking to Island Lake, a backpacker stands on a rocky overlook facing mountains in the distance

Day 1 Hobbs Lake

Our rough goal for the first day of backpacking to Island Lake was to reach Hobbs Lake at roughly 7.5 miles. Up in Banff, we realized we preferred the days with moderate hiking. This allowed more time for relaxed exploring (i.e., enjoying time without packs on our backs). This adventure to Titcomb Basin wasn’t meant to be a suffer-fest.

It seemed as though we saw just as many horse prints (and poo!) on the way up as we saw human tracks. From the trailhead to Hobbs, it seemed like we saw more people than we did during our entire trip in Banff. A fair bit of that traffic included day hikers heading to Photographers Point, 4.5 miles up the Pole Creek Trail. We stopped here for lunch because, as the name implies, it is a great spot to take in the view.

While the foot traffic died down after that point, we did stop to chat with one pair trekking homeward. They recommended we stop at Eklund Lake for our final night. This would put us just 5 miles from the car, which would make for an effortless last day. We tucked that tidbit away for later in the week.

A hiker sitting in a camp chair looking out at a lake surrounded by pine trees and mountains

At Eklund Lake, we took the Seneca Lake Trail to continue our route. You can continue on Pole Creek to hit the Highline Trail as an alternate route to Titcomb Basin, but that was more mileage than we wanted for this trip.

Upon reaching Hobbs around 3 pm, we found a great set of campsites. Four of them were clustered together—perfect for our crew. It made it easy to stay the night here versus continuing to Seneca Lake or Little Seneca Lake. We were halfway to Titcomb Basin. Shortly after we set up camp, the clouds started sputtering raindrops, a perfectly timed cue to enjoy a nap before dinner. Everyone dispersed and zipped into their tents just as the clouds really let loose.

It poured. A heavy, drowning rain perfectly enhanced by swift blasts of wind. This had not been in my forecast for the week. Not until possibly our last day or two. But, as we all learned later, the Winds have their own weather routine once you wander far enough into their domain.

One should generally assume there will be an afternoon storm every day around 3 pm, give or take a bit, depending on the mood of the skies. We survived with just minor leakage in one tent and a renewed respect for the epic power this landscape held.

​Dinner was devoured under blue skies.

Four hikers making dinner at a lake surrounded by pine trees and mountains

Day 2 Backpacking to Island Lake

Overnight rain left us with damp rain flies the next morning. But we only had about five miles to cover. So there’d be time for them to dry out at Island Lake. Even with the afternoon storms.

Trekking up to Seneca Lake and then to Island Lake brought more elevation than the previous day. This is what we’d been expecting; I was happy to labor up. The views were outstanding, especially following the trail along a granite cliff overlooking Seneca Lake.

However, my favorite portion of the trail was between Little Seneca Lake and Island Lake. It was nice to head out of the woods and see more wide-open views. Plus: Wildflowers!

And then we crested our final ridge until our hike into Titcomb Basin and caught our first glimpse of Island Lake—what a stunner!

A lake surrounded by mountains covered in clouds, pine trees, and flowers, a regular view when backpacking to Island Lake

We rambled down the valley, dotted with pine trees and boulders, until we happened upon a good campsite where two men looked to be just finishing their packing. They highly recommended the spot, and we enjoyed a lively chat until they headed out. The best part was learning that they’d been friends for 38 years! Goals!

We set up just in time for the afternoon rain (much less tumultuous than the previous day). Then we spent the rest of the day exploring the valley and Island Lake.

Day 3 Hiking Titcomb Basin

Day three held our only day hike. The actual hike into Titcomb Basin. It felt luxurious to have a base camp and leave the tents in the same spot for more than one night. We enjoyed a lazy morning. Then we set out for Titcomb Basin around 10 am, packing lunch and rain jackets, just in case. The morning had been chilly. But the sun came out and the hike warmed us up. Soon it was t-shirts and tank tops.

A lake surrounded by mountains covered in clouds and flowers

Titcomb Basin was quite rad between the lakes and the peaks that tower behind and around them. There were very few people hiking up there even though tents and backpackers heavily speckled the Island Lake valley. It was like we had Titcomb Basin to ourselves.

That was until we ran into several gentlemen at the base of the last lake. They were coming down from the peaks and had all sorts of crazy stories about the weather and conditions. Unfortunately, the start of the afternoon rains cut our socializing short. So, we pulled out the rain gear and hiked our way back.

The rains cleared by the time we returned to Island Lake. So we spent the remainder of the day exploring the waterfall that emptied into the lake. This made the trip to Titcomb Basin 100% worth everything for me. Even considering the thunder, lightning, sleet, and snow that filled our evening later.

Day 4 Hiking Home

In the morning, we shook off the snow. We packed up with frozen fingers and feet and hustled up out of the valley. We were tired and damp when we stopped for lunch. However, we decided to power through the remainder of the miles (12.1 total) to Elkhart Park Trailhead to get hotels and hot showers that evening. We also stopped at Wind River Brewing in Pinedale, WY, for a celebratory burger and beer, which I’d highly recommend.

Five hikers backpacking to Island Lake taking a break on rocks by lake surrounded by mountains covered in clouds, pine trees, and flowers
Five hikers hanging out on the rocks along a waterfall

Backpacking Banff National Park

Make backpacking Banff National Park your new goal. Just trust me, it’s a good goal.

The dogs and I catapulted into camping and hiking with a trip to Banff National Park, Canada. I was instantly obsessed and knew I couldn’t stay away.

Five backpackers sitting on a log bench facing a lake reflecting the pine tree lined shore and mountains in the background

I prefer the company of my dogs over humans. However, dogs are not encouraged to accompany backpackers into the Banff backcountry. But my desire to explore more of Banff still prompted me to plan a group backpacking trip.

I started reading about this hike and that hike and those other hikes. There are so many options. ​And yet, I kept coming back to Egypt Lake. I felt like I had to include that area in our wanderings.

Backpacking to Egypt Lake

After reviewing a few route variations, I went with a point-to-point option from Sunshine Village to the Vista Lake Trailhead:

  • Park Car A at Vista Lake Trailhead.
  • Drive Car B and the crew to Sunshine Village.
  • Hike up Healy Pass to Egypt Lake Campground (E13) for Night 1.
  • Take Whistling Pass to Shadow Lake Campground (Re14) for Night 2.
  • Hike Gibson Pass to Twin Lakes Campground (Tw7) for Night 3.
  • Trek out to Car A the following day and pick up Car B.
A sparkling teal lake surrounded by pines with mountains in the background

Backcountry Camping Permits and Campsites

Backcountry permits and campsite reservations are mandatory for overnights in the Banff National Park backcountry. Sites are available for reservation up to three months in advance.

A backcountry site in Banff is enough room for one 3- or 4-person backpacking tent. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but one site can perfectly fit a 2-person Big Agnes backpacking tent and a 1-person Big Agnes backpacking tent.

Two backpacks set by a backcountry tent site, which is a square outlined with four logs, among a pine tree landscape

At the end of June, I called the listed number. I left a message with our requested sites, dates, and quantity of people. Then they called back to confirm details and collect the fees within a day. Easy-peasy!

Packing and Prep for Backpacking Banff National Park

​My spare bedroom soon became a disaster zone as I laid out gear to assess options and gaps. No matter how much gear I have, I always seem to need (want) something new for each trip. Anyone else like that?

I made a list and checked it twice. I went online to order a few items and got sucked into the black hole that is the internet. Aside from purchasing more than I needed, I saw that the Verdant Creek Wildfire spread. It had caused restrictions and closures in the Egypt Lake area. Eek!

A lake with a rocky shore surrounded by pines and mountains

The weekend before our trip, I called the backcountry reservation office Saturday morning to alter our plans. Of course, they called back while I was in the shower. I left another message that afternoon and waited for the callback Sunday morning.

Then Sunday morning arrived, and suddenly Egypt Lake was back open! Ten minutes after I saw the announcement, Banff Backcountry Reservations called me back. They confirmed we were safe to proceed with our plans. Whew!

Healy Pass: Sunshine Village to Egypt Lake

We rolled up to Sunshine Village, and I was filled with antsy enthusiasm. The type that makes you continually feel like you’re about to pee your pants. Even after you just peed twice to make sure you really didn’t have to pee. Am I nervous? Am I excited? Do I really just need to pee??

Pine trees in the foreground framing a view of mountains and lake in Banff National Park

​All of the other hikers pulling up seemed to be taking the shuttle bus up to the top of the gondola. I started to second guess our plans to begin our hike directly from the parking lot.

Two of us wandered up to the ticket desk for a local opinion of our plans.

Them: “We highly recommend taking the shuttle up.”

I felt like I had to pee again.

​Us: “Okay, we’ll hike up.”

Of course we chose to start our hike directly from the parking lot. Because that’s the type of group we were becoming. Go big or go home. And none of us had decided to stay home.

A backpacker standing along a rocky river in a pine forest

Healy Pass, Banff National Park

The hike was challenging for us, not going to lie. Not difficult like it was tricky footing or scrambling across rockslides. But some folks were new to backpacking, and some were new to the elevation (not even counting the elevation we were gaining during the hike). We started later than planned, and no matter how close we seemed to be getting to the top, it always seemed to be just over the next crest, just out of reach. It felt like a long day.

Backpackers in the distance along a meadow trail with pine tress and mountains in the background

We were beat by the time we rolled into the Egypt Lake Campground.
But we had made it.

We roamed through the campsites looking for three positioned near each other for our little caravan and dropped our packs as fast as we could shake them off.

As we sat by the river, refilling our hydration packs before dinner, we finally had a chance to sit back to take it all in — the calm but epic beauty surrounding us.

Worth it.

A calm river cutting through bushes and pine trees

After a quick pack-up of campsites, we meandered along the short hike to Egypt Lake for breakfast with a view. The water was pristinely calm, showcasing a flawless reflection of the mountains surrounding the lake. And what glorious mountains they were! The peace and calm offered a meditation of sorts, a chance to shake off the prior day and start anew.

A lake perfectly mirroring the background view of mountains and pine trees

Whistling Pass: Egypt Lake to Shadow Lake

It was going to be a 10-mile day. After leaving Egypt Lake, the trail almost immediately started going uphill. The ascent of Day 2 was more of a stair climb compared to the gradual ramp up of Day 1. I was partial to the stairs, the definite motion of going up. It gave me a straightforward sense of accomplishment.

Creeping down the rockpile, however, felt like an eternity! Testing the larger rocks for stability and trying to not slide on smaller crumbles and sand – it was a slow and steady journey to the base. After focusing so intently on my small steps down, I didn’t take in the magnitude of this rockpile. Not until I reached the base and turned around. Eyes went wide; mouth opened in awe. This is what I was out here to see.

A hiking trail going through a mountain pass near the tree line and a backpacker to the right looking small among the landscape

Leaving the rocks, the trail took us back down into the the trees toward Haiduk Lake. Two-thirds of the way in we saw our first sign of bears: several piles of bear scat along the trail. I tried to reassure myself by noting that none of the piles was ultra fresh, but I still caught myself looking behind me more than I care to admit.

Three backpackers hiking through pine tress with mountains in the background

Haiduk Lake

Bears were instantly forgotten though the moment the view opened up to the glacial waterfalls filling Haiduk.

​Stunner. ​

In the distance is a waterfall cascading over a rocky ledge with mountains all around

In our awe-induced stupor, we lost track of the trail and opted to follow the lakeshore until we were back on track. Two steps into the chest-high brush was the exact moment we remembered the bear scat. Singing and overly vocalized chatter immediately commenced.

As we tumbled out onto the trail our singing abruptly ended at the sight of seemingly fresh bear tracks in the mud. Excitement. Awe. Wariness.

“Wow, fresh tracks!” “Whoa, look at the size of that print!” “It may be heading away from us, but we should probably still skedaddle on out of here…”

From Haiduk, the trail took us into a mossy floored pine forest and eventually followed along the river leading to Shadow Lake. Along the way we passed the Ball Pass Junction Campsite, which was still closed due to the fires. It had a bit of an eerie feel to it, and whether that was due to the knowledge of it being closed, or because it was seeming out in the middle of nowhere, I’m not sure. I just know I was quite pleased to leave it behind us and I made a mental note to skip that site if I return to this trail again.

A wooden bridge for a trail crossing through a marsh with pine trees and mountain in the background

Shadow Lake Campground

Shadow Lake almost felt like a false summit to me. Only in that I was exhausted, hungry, and ready to ditch my pack for the evening. As much as I wanted to sit on the bridge admiring the view for more than a short break, I was definitely antsy to reach camp. One more mile to go…

A lake and mountains with some glaciers in the background, a common view when backpacking Banff National Park

By the time we arrived at the Shadow Lake campsites, I was hungry and tired. Add in lacking signage for tent sites and bear hangs (which we later realized was due to the direction we arrived from) and water that required boiling for consumption, I was grumpy as heck.

Thankfully for my adventure companions, I just needed a little food to calm me down. But that didn’t solve our minor annoyance with having to boil water. There is no easy access to the lake or streams from the campsites. The spigot available for backpackers has a sign indicating you must boil the water before consumption. Rough lives we lead out in the woods (insert overly exaggerated eye roll).

​The guys went exploring around the Shadow Lake cabins nearby. We couldn’t imagine they boiled all of the water needed for guests. There had to be another way to access drinking water. Luckily a friendly employee clued the guys in on a drinking water spigot along the side of one of the cabins. A nice bonus to help us set out on the right foot in the morning. ​

This was a nice campground, but my least favorite of our trip backpacking Banff National Park.

Gibson Pass: Shadow Lake to Lower Twin Lake

We set out as a group on Day 3, climbing up and out of the woods. A solid hike pleasantly rewarded by stunning views (as if there is any other sort of view out there). At 7,500 feet, we reached Gibson Pass.

A hiking trail leaning up to a mountain in the background, Gibson Pass,

Three groups hiking up (two on foot and one on horseback) dotted the downward trek from Gibson Pass. We connected with the horse crew right as we came upon a large fallen tree blocking the path. It would have been quite tricky but doable for us to shimmy over. On the other hand, the horses seemed stuck. That is until one of the men hopped off his horse and appeared at the tree with a saw. Ha! Perfectly prepared!

Another highlight from the passing groups was receiving a suggestion for stopping at Upper Twin Lake. “Right before you cross the bridge, take a small path to the left along the shoreline. You’ll wind up in a perfect location for lunch.”

Looking out at two hiking poles in front of a aqua-colored lake with a background of a pine covered mountain, a glacier, and a taller rocky mountain, a common view when backpacking Banff National Park

And perfect it was. We settled in for a couple of hours of relaxation. Sam decided he would finish his hike out to the road that afternoon. He’d gotten a somewhat severe cut on his hand, and he was ready for a real shower. Understandable. We said our goodbyes, and then we set out for camp shortly after.

Lower Twin Lake Campground

As it turned out, Lower Twin Lake was equally as perfect as Upper. It had just one slight advantage: it was our campsite for our final night!

TW7 was easily THE best camp of our trip backpacking Banff National Park. Tent sites set back in the trees. A dining area snuggled up to the shoreline. And this view. Oh, what a place of wonder!

We soaked up every last ounce of sun and wild we could experience.

A man sitting on a boulder in the shallows of a lake with pine trees and mountains in the background, a perfect spot while backpacking Banff National Park
A grassy marsh leading out to pine tress and a pink-tinged mountain at sunrise, a common view when backpacking Banff National Park

Lower Twin Lake to Vista Lake Trailhead

Our last day was the easiest. Just a handful of miles to hike from Lower Twin Lake Campground up to Vista Lake Trailhead. We encountered a fair amount of day hikers along the way. As well as more fantastic views. There will never be a shortage of great view when backpacking Banff National Park.

Once we reached the car and picked up the other car, we headed into town. Banff is a cute, mountain tourist town with a lot of shops and restaurants. We grabbed lunch and a beer and then started our trek home.

Golden leafed trees in front of a sparkling lake with pines on the mountainside behind, a common view when backpacking Banff National Park

Camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

Add camping at City of Rocks State Park NM to your to-do list. This is the type of place that blows my mind. A seemingly random, relatively small space that stands out in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Small but mighty.

Two pit bulls in blue fleece sweaters looking out a field of large stone pillars while camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

Visiting City of Rocks State Park

You’ll roll into the area on some quiet highways and paved roads, passing Faywood Hot Springs, a small resort with – yes, you guessed it – hot springs.

City of Rocks doesn’t even appear until you’re practically right at the front entrance of this massive cluster of giant boulders melting into each other. This monolithic structure is volcanic rock. Wind and water etched the formation over time, leaving smooth, rounded surfaces.

Two dogs in front of a red wooden sign stating "Welcome To City of Rocks State Park" that is held up by two stone pillars; this is what you'll see when you arrive to go camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

As always, I recommend making the visitor center your first stop. The rangers on duty can give you up-to-the-minute details along with the usual maps and souvenirs. I let them know I had two dogs and asked if I should be aware of anything besides keeping them on leash throughout the campground.

They told me they had spotted a mountain lion nearby the day prior, and that elk and bear were in the area, so I should keep a close eye on my pets. ​Of course, when they met Cool Whip and Herc later, they realized we didn’t have quite as much to worry about than if they’d been small, snack-sized dogs.

Two pit bulls in blue fleece sweaters looking out from a cave while camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

Camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

You can’t pick a bad spot in this park, but our friendly ranger did offer a couple of recommendations to help us stay out of the wind that day. Just one of the many reasons to make time to talk with the local rangers. It’s their job to know these parks, so they can provide information on things you didn’t even think to consider.

​Campsites are $10.00 per night. You can make reservations for some campsites, but others are first-come-first-served only. I wasn’t visiting during peak season, and I didn’t need electrical hook-ups, so I relied on the FCFS options.

Each site has a picnic table and campfire ring. There are garbage cans tucked throughout the campground and several pit toilets. The visitor center also has flush toilets and showers if you want to feel fancy.

A campsite with one deciduous tree, a campfire ring, and a red wooden sign state #5 and the word Aquila with a rock landscape in the background, a great campsite if you're camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

Cell Reception at City of Rocks

I didn’t have cell reception throughout most of City of Rocks State Park.

So, then what do you do when it starts pouring rain right after you pull into your campsite? ​Like your-tent-isn’t-even-set-up-just-pulled-in.

You turn your vehicle into your tent. Redistribute a few gear bags, blow up some sleeping pads, and spread out sleeping bags. Kick back and relax.

I listened to my downloaded podcasts. And, ironically, this is when I came across How to Unplug with Danny Kim, episode 100 from Wild Ideas Worth Living. It covered exactly what had been running through my brain: Do we need to unplug, and, if so, how can we?

Honestly, to answer that, I’d just be repeating what I heard on that podcast, so give it a listen for yourself. Trust me; it’s worth listening to.

Because once the sun did come back out and I inadvertently found cell service while hiking, I resisted the urge to jump on social media. I heard a few notification dings, then turned my phone on silent. And challenged myself only to use my phone for pictures until I left City of Rocks the next day. It was refreshing!

Two dogs, a brown pit bull in a blue sweater on the left and a white pit bull in a unicorn sweater on the right, facing the camera while standing up on a rock ledge
A brown pit bull dog peering out through a crack between two large rocks

Is City of Rocks State Park Dog Friendly?

Yes, City of Rocks State Park is very dog friendly! Once the rain cleared, we scurried all over the park. The whole place is dog-friendly aside from inside the buildings. There are trails to hike, but we mostly stuck to scrambling around on the boulders because there seemed to be endless nooks and crannies to explore.

Whether this is a destination or a pitstop on a more extensive adventure, I highly recommend it. After backcountry camping at White Sands National Park, we spent the night here. And I’ll definitely stop again if we’re cruising through southern New Mexico.

A brown pit bull dog in a sweater looking out over a rocky landscape with sunrays shining out just above his shoulder

Backpacking to Whipple Valley

I’d categorize Utah as my freshy fresh 2017 love interest (the Supes are my local love, and Canada is my big love). There are lovely national parks in the state, but I’ve found that national parks only seem to have one or two relatively short trails that dogs are allowed to hike. On the other hand, national forests are prime-time adventure dog real estate! Backpacking to Whipple Valley would be perfect.

A woman with two dogs walking along a stream in a mountain meadow

Trail Details for Backpacking to Whipple Valley

For this trip, my eyes were on Dixie National Forest in the southeast corner of the state – Whipple Trail in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, to be exact.

Trail length: 12 miles (O/B)
Elevation gain: 2,890 feet

Looking down at a white dog with a blue backpack and a brown dog with a green backpack
Looking out at a green valley below pine covered mountains


There is something to be said for planning far enough ahead. We’ll just get that statement out of the way right now.

A week before we rolled out is when I decided we’d be rolling out. The plan was to leave work early on Friday to drive the 7 hours to the Pine Valley Recreation Area. This is where you’ll find the Whipple Trailhead. We’d camp at a designated campsite. Then start hiking right away Saturday morning and sleep in Whipple Valley. Sunday afternoon, we’d hike down to spend the night at the campsite again. And then head home early Monday morning.

Not a bad plan for a regular weekend. But a horrible plan for Memorial Day weekend when everyone and their uncle’s cat decides to go camping and you’re trying to stay at a first-come-first-served campsite and work gets busy, so you can’t leave until Saturday morning.

Spoiler alert!
We still had a grand adventure!

A mountain stream cutting through the woods

The Hike up to Whipple Valley

We arrived in Pine Valley around 2:30pm. As expected, no campsites were available. Luckily you can park for free at the trailheads if you’re just hiking for the day or doing overnights on the trails.

A three-person family was gearing up as I pulled into a parking spot. We compared notes on what we knew about the trail: Rangers had yet to clear it. Downed trees across the trail. Potential snow at higher elevation on north-facing areas.

The weather was warm, and the elevation hit me a little harder than expected. But it was a beautiful hike with spectacular views and just enough shade to even out the warmth. The hounds were on their best behavior – or maybe the elevation was hitting them a bit as well.

There was no water on the trail until we hit a few streams halfway up. Here we ran into our second human encounter. A couple was setting up camp. They reported that they’d only gone halfway up the remainder of the trail before turning back because it was more challenging than the first portion. Super!

A grassy mountain meadow with snow among the trees along the edges, a view you may encounter when backpacking to Whipple Valley
A white dog and a brown dog looking out at sunset in a mountain meadow, a nice reward after backpacking to Whipple Valley

I kept on trekking, taking breaks often, thinking about how easy it would be to turn back or just set up camp at any of the other sites we came upon after that point. We reach the first pocket of snow tucked up under some pines. Then a patch, closer to the trail. Another blob covering half the trail. Just as we came upon the next set of campers, snow-covered the remainder of the trail as it headed from the summit area of the trail down to where the trail spilled out into the valley.

We hopped and slid down to the green space ahead. I stared in awe as we stepped from the trees into the grassy valley that opened up ahead. Green grass, tiny spring flowers, a stream down the center. There was still snow tucked away in the shadows of the tree line, rumpled up dirt where the snowpack had moved along, and water simply flowing out of the ground from the thawing process.

We located a narrow portion of the stream to cross and set up camp across the way. I could see two other campsites when we explored a bit more. The the family of three arrive a short time later. We wound down with a beautiful sunset and retired for the evening.

A white dog with a pink collar looking out at snow under the trees along the mountain meadow, a common sight when backpacking to Whipple Valley
A woman sitting on a blanket on a rock with two down in a mountain meadow, a great way to relax after backpacking to Whipple Valley

Shoulder Seasons

The houndy hounds were a bit chilly at night (it dropped below 40) because someone forgot their winter jackets – no names mentioned – okay, it was me!! I covered them in every extra piece of clothing or fabric I had. And I was extra thankful for the morning sunrays that were a toasty piece of heaven.

We explored the valley for a while before making our way back down the trail. Then we were greeted by a dead car battery. I was grateful for friendly hikers willing to give me a jump start. Also for my dad for making me carry jumper cables in my car at all times because the other hikers didn’t have any. If you take anything away from this post, take that: Always carry jumper cables in your car!

Even with a few detours to the original plans, I loved every second of our adventure. And I can’t wait to get back to Utah for another one. I definitely recommend backpacking to Whipple Valley!

A white dog and a brown dog looking out at a small stream in a mountain meadow
A brown dog with a green backpack in front of a water soaked mountain meadow
Backpacking to Whipple Valley

Hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

​Embarking on what I considered to be our first actual day of adventure, we set off for hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. The journey there was, of course, spectacular. No amount of rain or stormy weather could diminish the beauty of this wilderness.

View while hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, looking from behind pine trees at a mountain side, aqua colored lake

Emerald Lake Trailhead

​I pulled into the Emerald Lake parking area and crossed every finger and toe. It looked busy – definitely hoping that what I’d read about the touristy areas was true: 20 feet away from the main viewpoint, you’ll encounter hardly anyone. I saw the trailhead, then off to the left was a bridge leading to several lovely lodge buildings. Fancy. Canada, you are one legit classy broad.

Looking out at Emerald Lake, an aqua colored lake and a resort barely visible through thick pine trees

​But first things first, I had to pee. I spotted an outhouse by the trailhead. Jackpot.

​Let it be noted that not only do Canadian’s have stunning lodges, but their outhouses also are really freaking nice! There may not have been running water or plumbing of any sort, but each one I stopped at was clean and equipped with plenty of TP and hand sanitizer. Small but significant comforts.

I assessed the trail map by the bathrooms and walked back to collect the pups. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the start of our new routine: First, park the car. Then stop at the trailhead bathroom. Next, assess the maps. Return to collect the dogs. And finally, hike!

View while hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada, a white dog and a brown dog looking out at an aqua-colored lake surrounded by pine trees and foggy clouds
View while hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park in Canada, from a viewpoint behind a large rock looking out at an aqua-colored lake and pine trees

Hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake Trail: 3.2 miles (5.2 km)​, approximately 2 hours of hiking, minimal elevation

We shimmied past the crowd of people collected by the maps. I chatted with a park ranger for a moment. Then continued down the path. The first thing I noticed was the silence. Or rather, the lack of human noises. It was like everyone had disappeared. Bliss.

​The trail was wide enough for the pups to walk along my sides most of the time. First, the trail was mostly dry, with just a few puddles and muddy sections along the way. The trees blocked most of the rain, not that I minded it too much – nothing could distract me from the scenery!

​Aptly named, Emerald Lake was a vision of color! Standing there, looking directly at it, it was still hard to accept the colors as real. I just stopped and stared many times along the way.

View while hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park in Canada, an aqua-colored lake surrounded by pine trees

​We came across a few other hikers. Many seemed to turn around once they reached the end of the lake opposite the parking lot and trailhead. At first, I wondered if I’d missed something. But it was actually rather convenient because now the trail was getting muddy. I was becoming quite a mess!

The dogs were barreling through not just some but all of the mud puddles. Cool Whip now had brown legs, and if my pants hadn’t been a dark color already, they’d have been brown as well from all the dirt and water the dogs splashed up. Perfect. My car is about to get really dirty!

We made it back to the car just as the rain stopped—a perfect time to brush off some of the mud and give the hooligans a snack.

Hiking along Emerald Lake, Canada, a white dog looking up a mountain trail heading into pine trees
View of a pit bull dog and a woman with short, aqua colored hair in front of a foggy, aqua colored lake

Hiking with Dogs in Yoho National Park

Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails in Yoho National Park unless otherwise noted. Some trails are closed to pets and small groups during times of heavy grizzly bear activity. Be sure to pack poop bags, a water bowl, and water for your hiking adventures.

A white pit bull in front of a foggy, aqua colored Emerald Lake
A woman holding the leash of a brown dog looking out at a foggy, aqua colored lake, the standard view when hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park