Photo credits: @mycaninelife
Often overshadowed by its mountainous neighbors Washington and Oregon and its more Rocky Mountain partners Colorado and Wyoming, Idaho boasts a vast network of blissful dog-friendly hiking, with fewer crowds. Best of all, for those with a dog, many of the trails allow dogs off leash under voice control.
Many Idaho hikes are in high elevation, so keep that in mind before you go. Take a day or two to acclimate so you feel your best when you’re on the trail. Wildlife is also abundant in Idaho, so go prepared and bring bear spray and know what to do in case of an encounter. Lastly, the west has experienced severe wildfires during the summer months, so check the status before making plans.
Hell Roaring Lake - Sawtooth Wilderness
Located near Stanley, this 10.7-mile out and back trail is great for a longer day trip or for an overnight backpacking experience. With just 728 feet of elevation gain, it’s a great backpacking trail for beginners. From Hell Roaring Lake, you can choose to add on additional miles to two other lakes. If you’re coming from sea level, you may want a day or two to acclimate. Dogs must be on leash during the summer months and if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle, you’ll likely need to add on two additional miles to the trek.
Lake Estelle - Kootenai National Forest
Located in between the Washington, Canadian, and Montana borders Estelle Lake would make a great stop over on a road trip toward any one of those destinations. The trail sees moderate traffic and makes a good day hike or overnight camping stop. The summer brings beautiful wildflowers. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.
Blue Lake - Bosie National Forest
This short, but rewarding hike is great for the entire family and is teeming in wildflowers during the right time of year. Just 1.6 miles round trip, the views from the lake make this trek worth the trip. Plenty of camping is available at the lake, so beginner backpackers can test their gear without having to commit to a longer trail. Add on the optional 3-mile hike around Blue Lake to a small waterfall. Due to the ease of the hike, the lake and camp areas can get crowded, so go early or on a weekday if you’re planning to stay the night.
Granite Mountain Lookout - Payette National Forest
Bag a peak on your visit to Idaho with Granite Mountain. The trail is steep and gains 1,732 feet of elevation in about 2.5 miles, but hikers will be rewarded with views of the Salmon River Mountains and the 7 Devils of Hells Canyon. Cattle are permitted to graze at the trail head during the summer, so if your dog likes to chase livestock, keep this in mind. The lookout tower is active, so ask before going inside for a peek. There is little water and shade on this trail, so start very early or go outside of the hot summer season.
Proctor Mountain - Sun Valley
Easily accessible from many Sun Valley neighborhoods, this is a great hike to get in a nice workout without traveling far to the trail head. This hike is a gem in early fall when the Aspen trees shimmer in gold along the trail. Keep a look out for remnants of the world’s first chairlift, built in 1936 on Proctor Mountain.
Waterfall Canyon - Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Most who set out for this hike stop at Palisades Lake, located about halfway to Waterfall Canyon, and are missing out on a true spectacle in Waterfall Canyon. Great for a backpacking trip or long trail run, this trek is best done in June and July. The trail is popular and can attract heavy foot traffic, so head out early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Sawtooth Lake - Sawtooth National Forest
You may want to schedule extra time to do this hike because you’ll be stopping plenty for photo ops along the way. The 9.6-mile out and back hike offers constant views of rocky peaks and three different alpine lakes. There is plenty of water along the trail, so bring along a filter to stay topped off. If you prefer to hike with your dog off-leash, then plan your hike outside of the on-leash dates: July 1 through Labor Day. Camping options include wild spots at a couple of the lakes along the trail, including Sawtooth Lake and at the Iron Creek campground located at the trail head.
Taylor Canyon - Sun Valley
Wildflower lovers, this hike is for you! Early summer brings out colorful wildflowers, including lupine on this strenuous 4-mile loop. Alternatively, this hike is equally stunning during the fall with colorful views of Bald Mountain. Less crowded than many of the other trails closer to Ketchum, Taylor Canyon offers wonderful views of the Boulder and Pioneer mountain ranges. There is a small stream at the start, but no other water after that. Be sure to bring along plenty for you and your pooch.
Goat Lake and Goat Falls - Sawtooth Mountains
There isn’t a lot of information out there about this hidden gem, but it seems to be well worth the effort. Users are rewarded with an isolated alpine lake and a visit to the largest waterfall in the Sawtooths. The last section of the trail requires a scramble up scree and slab, so make sure your dog is fit enough to be a mountain goat and consider bringing a pair of good booties like our Blaze Cross Dog Shoes.
For a more comprehensive list of places around the USA & Canada to hike with your dog, click here.
Have you hiked in Idaho with your dog? We'd love your feedback and suggestions!
Jen Sotolongo is a writer and photographer and runs Long Haul Trekkers, a blog about independent, responsible travel with a pet. Over the past few years, she and her partner have taken their dogs around the globe including a cycle tour spanning across Europe and South America, proving that adventures can include your dog, no matter where in the world they may be.