There is true joy in celebrating the outdoors with your four-legged friend.
Not only does hiking with your dog help you enjoy nature from a new perspective — your dog will notice things you won’t — it’s a workout that won’t feel like work.
Fortunately for local dog-owners, we don’t need to feel guilty about leaving Fido or Fifi at home. There are great dog-friendly hikes you can customize to your (and your dog’s) abilities.
1. Bear Creek Greenway
The 18-mile paved, multi-use trail through the Rogue Valley is one of best dog-hiking opportunities available, with convenience, scenery and the community feel of fellow dog walkers. It takes you through some beautiful parks, including dog parks, and your hike can be as long as you want to make it. There's a lot of activity on the Greenway, with many bicyclists, joggers, families and strollers. Leashes are mandatory (6-feet or shorter). Bicyclists are usually good about alerting you with a bell, but it’s always smart to stay aware.
2. Prescott Park/Roxy Ann Peak
This is another heavily used trail, but it’s worth it, with great views of vineyards and pear orchards below. On a clear day you can see the Three Sisters, the Crater Lake Rim, Mount McLoughlin, and even the Coastal Range. Depending on where you park, you're looking at a four- to six-mile loop, but it's mostly a moderate hike, with a steep finish if you go all the way to the peak. With a wide gravel road, it's accessible in all weather, but keep in mind that the lower gate closes at 5 p.m. in the winter.
It's a busy park, especially on weekends, with mountain bikers, dog walkers and joggers, so it’s very important to follow the dog leash restrictions. On weekdays, gravel trucks use the road, which is one more reason for a leash.
3. Jacksonville Woodlands
This popular trail system includes more than 16 miles of trails. One access point is above the Britt Gardens. You’ll find great views, and the wildflowers can be amazing. Paradise Point is easy to get to and has a beautiful viewpoint. The Petard Trail and Liz's Trail provide many places where you’ll be alone with nature and your dog. Most of the loops can be managed all winter, as long as you don’t mind a little mud. You’ll also find some remnants of our mining history, such as “glory holes” where miners dug for gold. A leash is important here, not only because they are mandatory, but because of poison oak, which grows plentifully along the trails and is harder to see after it loses its leaves in winter.
4. White Rabbit Trail
This is a moderate trail in the Ashland Watershed, about 4-plus miles in and out, which is popular because of the wildlife and views. Also, because it’s close to Ashland, it’s easily accessible for locals and visiting friends. You can access the White Rabbit Trail by driving or walking to Ashland Loop Road, where there’s a parking lot at the top of the trail. It’s popular with trail runners and mountain bikers.
5. Squaw Lakes Trail
Squaw Lakes Trail, in the upper Applegate portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, features a moderate loop that takes about an hour to complete, depending on how fast you go. There are great stops along the way where you and your dog can swim in the summer, or take a picnic and make an afternoon of it. The best times to use the trail are June through November. To get there from Jacksonville, take Highway 238 west seven miles and turn left at Ruch on Upper Applegate Road. Go 14 miles to Applegate Lake, cross over the dam on Road 1075, and continue on pavement for two miles. When the pavement ends, continue seven miles to the lakes.
6. Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor
We couldn’t put this list together without including the Oregon Coast. Is there anything a dog likes more than a day at the beach? The Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor near Brookings includes a 12-mile trail with access to several beaches. You’ll also find bathrooms and picnic tables along the trail. You’ll need a six-foot or shorter dog leash. The section from Lone Ranch to Cape Ferrelo covers a moderately busy 1.6-mile loop that is open year-round. You'll find beautiful wildflowers in season. The corridor is located off Highway 101, four miles north of Brookings.
— Jefferson Reeder is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.