Last summer, I became hyper-fixated on the idea of hiking a long trail. My heart was set on the PCT, but I had one problem: my best friend in the world is my border-heeler mix named Lassen, and I can’t bear to be away from him for six whole months.
Yes, people do hike with their dogs on the PCT, but the reality is, there are trail restrictions on some sections, and I just simply don’t have someone who can shuttle my dog to and from trail for me while I hike. So, this led me down a rabbit hole titled: Thru Hikes You Can Do with Your Dog.
I’ve been in love with the Pacific Northwest for as long as I can remember, but at the time of this google search, I was living in West Virginia for a guide job. So, when I found out that you can bring your dog along on all 400 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail, I was convinced to land myself in the PNW so that I could complete this trek.
Planning a thru hike is already a long and sometimes tedious process, but even more so when you have to take into account your pet’s safety and food and be aware of trail restrictions.
This is everything I’m doing to get me and Lassen ready to thru hike the Oregon Coast Trail. If you’re planning on doing a thru hike with your dog, I hope you find this helpful!
Learning About Trail Restrictions
Even if a trail allows dogs, there still might be restrictions, so do your research. While dogs are technically allowed to thru hike the OCT, they are restricted to certain times of the year.
Plovers are nesting on some of the beaches from March to September, so bringing your dog means doing your hike in the shoulder season, starting in mid-September. Most thru hikers will be off the trail for the season by then, but luckily, it is after wind season.
The OCT is known for a southbound wind in the summers, and while we might still get some of that, we’ll likely miss the worst of it. September’s weather can be tricky though — it’ll either be super dry or fairly rainy, so I’m going to have to pack for all weather conditions.
Dog Hiking Gear
Not only do I have to worry about my own gear on trail, but I also must have Lassen’s gear dialed. Because of this, we’ll be doing the Timberline Trail as a solid shakedown hike so that I have time to make any needed changes.
Lassen has his own overnight pack, booties for uncomfortable terrain, and I’ll be getting him a doggie sleeping pad. We’ll be carrying a water bowl as well because most natural water sources on the OCT are not safe to drink due to city runoff, so we’ll have to search for potable sources.
Lassen will also be carrying about two days of his own food at a time, but that isn’t all of it. His food is also going to be the majority of my weight, especially because I have to pack him larger portions (hiker hunger doesn’t just affect human hikers!) so whatever he’s able to help out with is going to make a difference.
Generally, resupply on the OCT is easy because you’re passing towns every two days or so. But, I won’t be able to resupply Lassen’s food in that way, so I will be having to mail resupply boxes of dog food to myself.
I plan on resupplying Lassen’s food once a week, but I might need to do it more often once I figure out how much his food is going to weigh. Luckily, this means I also get to mail myself treats that I won’t be able to find at grocery stores and convenience stores too!
How We're Dealing with the Dreaded OCT Road Walks
The truth is, I won’t really know or have a grasp on the extent of the 101 sections of the OCT until we’re there, but having Lassen with me definitely means that I have to be a lot more cautious during these sections. Because of this, I’ll be avoiding road walks as much as possible.
This might mean waiting out a tide so that we’re able to walk the beach, calling ahead for boat shuttles across some of the bays and rivers, or even hitching a ride when we can if a section feels particularly dangerous. I’ll also be getting a brighter colored rain cover for my pack to help with visibility, and made sure to get Lassen’s pack in a bright orange for the same reason.
Normally, Lassen hikes in front of me with his leash attached to my fanny pack or hip belt. During these sections, though, I’ll be keeping him on a short leash and away from the road as much as possible.
How Long Will We Be on the Trail?
I’m planning on being on trail between a month and a month and a half. While most hikers take about a month on the OCT, I’m going into it knowing that I’ll likely be taking a little more time than most so that I can take Lassen’s needs into consideration more than my own. I’m trying my best to keep our daily mileage under 20 miles, and those longer days will come with lots of breaks.
When you’re hiking with a dog, it’s important to remember that it isn’t just your comfort you have to think about, it’s theirs too. If you’re tired, they probably are too. If you’re thirsty, they’re most definitely thirsty.
There is also a huge chance that plans may change, and I might choose to hike without Lassen depending on weather in the area. It’s important to be flexible and aware that this is a lot of miles to ask a dog to hike. Make sure you’re making the most ethical decision for your dog, even if you really want them to come along.
That being said, a thru hike with a dog isn’t an impossible task, it just takes a little more planning and care to make sure that your furry friend is having just as great of an adventure as you are.
About the Author
Halle Homel is a thru hiker, adventure guide, and rock climber. She’s been a full time nomad since 2019 and currently changes locations a few times a year in search of seasonal guide work. In 2023, she thru hiked California’s Backbone Trail and will be attempting to thru hike the Oregon Coast Trail later this year. When she’s not guiding hikes, you can find her backpacking, summiting mountains, or climbing rocks (or planning her next big adventure).