The Best Trails in Truckee-Tahoe to Walk your Furry Friends

By: Andrea Green

Ah, the great outdoors. The fresh air, the stunning views, and the opportunity to bond with your furry best friend. As a dog owner you know that there's nothing quite like hitting the trails with your pup by your side. And if you're lucky enough to live in or visit the Truckee Tahoe area, you know that there are plenty of amazing trails to explore. But with so many options, it can be tough to decide where to go with your four legged friend. Don't worry, though - we've got you covered. Here are the five best trails to hike with your dog in the Truckee-Tahoe area:

1. Donner Lake Rim Trail

First up is the Donner Lake Rim Trail. This 23-mile trail offers stunning views of Donner Lake and the surrounding mountains, and it's dog-friendly, too. It's a bit of a challenge, but your dog will love the workout - and you'll love the chance to burn off some energy, too. Just make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for both you and your pup. There are various entry points to the DLRT. One option is to start at the Castle Peak trailhead, which can be accessed via Castle Valley Road. Alternatively, you can reach the trail by taking the access trails at Johnson Canyon trailhead or Glacier Way trailhead in Tahoe Donner. Johnson Canyon offers more parking than Glacier Way though. In most places, dogs are welcome off leash, just be sure to respect other dogs owners with theirs on leash, or other hikers in general. 

Dog hiking safety tip: Keeping your dog on leash can help avoid them getting lost or injured by wildlife. Carry a small first aid kit in your backpack, with items such as bandages, antiseptic, and tweezers to remove any thorns or debris that may have attached to your dog's skin.

2. Martis Creek Loop (Tompkins Trail)

Next up is the Martis Creek Trail, also known as the Tompkins Trail Loop. This 4.3-mile loop that follows a paved path at the beginning then turns to gravel and single track. You will cross over Martis Creek which is a great water source for the puppers and offers a break in the shade, making it perfect for hot summer days. The beginning and end of the trail are exposed though, so make sure to wear sunscreen! It's a relatively easy hike, so it's great for beginners or those with dogs who aren't quite as athletic or aren’t looking for a sufferfest. It is best to keep your dogs on leash for this hike. 

Dog hiking safety tip: Avoid letting your dog drink from standing water, as it can contain harmful bacteria that can make them sick. Avoid this by only letting them drink from running water (think river, stream) or bring along a collapsible water bowl. My favorite is the Collapsable Quencher Bowl by Ruffwear. It fits easily in your pack and is lightweight.

3. Mount Rose Summit Trail

If you're looking for a challenge, the Mount Rose Summit Trail is the hike for you. This 10-mile trail is not for the faint of heart, but the views from the summit are absolutely breathtaking. Just make sure to take plenty of breaks along the way to catch your breath - and give your pup a chance to rest, too. Most of the trail allows for dogs to be off leash.

Dog hiking safety tip: Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion in your dog, such as excessive panting, lethargy, or vomiting. Take frequent breaks in shady areas, and offer plenty of water to help keep them hydrated. This will require knowing your dogs exercise limit and checking the weather before you go. Early morning or evening hikes in mid summer are the way to beat the heat.

4. Shirley Canyon Trail

The Shirley Canyon Trail is another great option for those looking for a challenging hike. This 5.8-mile trail offers stunning views of waterfalls and granite cliffs, and it's a dog-friendly trail as well. Just be prepared for some steep inclines and rocky terrain. If you want to cut off the downhill part of the hike, check the Palisades Tram schedules to get a lift down. Dogs are welcome on the tram. This is a popular trail as well, so there may be moments where your dog is welcome off leash, but definitely bring a leash with you and beware of other hikers. There is a lake about 2 miles up that is the perfect swimming hole for your pup as well!

Dog hiking safety tip: Bring along a paw balm or booties to protect their paws from the rough terrain. I personally use Musher’s Wax in the winter and summer.

5. Tahoe Rim Trail

Last but not least is the Tahoe Rim Trail. This trail totals 165 miles and circles the entirety of Lake Tahoe. You obviously don't have to tackle the entire trail but there are lots of smaller sections that are dog-friendly and offer amazing views of Lake Tahoe. One of my favorite sections of the TRT is Picnic Rock off the summit of Highway 267, near Kings Beach. You could even plan part of the trail as a backpacking trip and camp along the way. There are even backpacking harnesses for dogs. Check out the Ruffwear Palisades Pack for a multi day pack. Bring plenty of snacks and water for both you and your pup. 

Dog hiking safety tip: Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines since the Truckee-Tahoe area is home to a lot of other dog owners and visitors. Keep your dog safe from any spreadable viruses when meeting new doggy friends on the trail.

As always, make sure to bring enough poop bags to pick up after your pet. Respect other trail users, whether that is biker, horseback rider, runners, or fellow hikers. Truckee-Tahoe is one of the most dog friendly places I have experienced, which makes our home even that much greater. 

Author: Andrea Green

Drea's favorite adventures always include her dog, Chip the Rip. Together they splitboard, mountain bike, backpack, camp, run, and love traveling. Drea loves encouraging people to get outside and adventure!

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