Full of fantastic trails and all the trees, sticks, and smells a dog could dream of, heading to the Olympic Peninsula’s Hood Canal for a hike with your pooch is the perfect way to spend a day. Whether you wish to wander the mountain ridges or explore dense forests along wild rivers, the hiking along the Hood Canal side of the Olympics is perfect for two and four legs.
But first – how do you even know if a trail is dog friendly? The easiest way to know is to see where the hike is located. If the trail is in Olympic National Park, you can’t have a dog on the trail. If the trail is located in Olympic National Forest, DNR Land, or at a State Park, chances are that the route is indeed dog friendly. It is important to note that while trails may be dog friendly, you are still responsible for keeping them on a leash and picking up after them. There are not dog-exclusive trails and not everyone is as welcoming to dogs while hiking, so please keep that in mind while hiking with your pet.
We start with an easy and mostly flat trail that is close to Hoodsport and just off of Highway 101. Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman is a dog-friendly destination that is perfect for dogs and their owners who are looking to stretch their legs, as well as spend a few days camping next to the stunning lake. The park has off-leash swimming areas and pet-friendly trails, but remember that dogs must be on leashes in public areas. Also, Skokomish Park does have a breed restriction for those who have Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, or breeds that include wolf and/or coyote, but all other dogs are welcome.
Three incredibly popular dog-friendly trails can also be found in the Lake Cushman area. Two of which are steep, while the third is geared more toward those with dogs who don’t do well with rocky terrain and elevation gain. The easiest of the three is the Upper Big Creek Loop Trail, a perfect loop that crosses picturesque creeks, past beautiful cascades, and has all of the trees ferns and sticks a dog could imagine. At 4.2-miles round trip and with plenty of places to stop and rest, this trail is great all year long, as it gains just 800 feet of elevation. The trail is well-marked, easy to follow, and a local favorite for both hikers with two legs and those with four.
Mount Rose Trail
West of Big Creek is the Mount Rose Trail, which is recommended for those looking for something a bit more challenging. Located in Olympic National Forest and the Mount Skokomish Wilderness, Mount Rose shows off the breathtaking beauty of Lake Cushman, while also showing off Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens. At around 6.5 miles round trip and gaining 3,500ft in elevation, this trail is sure to leave both you and your pooch panting. Your dog will enjoy the smells, the walk and terrain, while you get to bask in the views. For dogs and hikers with sensitive feet, the less rocky route to and from the summit is found while staying right at the junction. This route will add miles, but has far less sketchy sections. Do not expect to find water on this trail from June through October.
Mount Ellinor Trail
Finally in the Lake Cushman area, we find the Mount Ellinor Trail. Considered a must-hike mountain in Washington State and home to one of the best views in the Pacific Northwest, Mount Ellinor will become a favorite. There are two main ways to hike Mount Ellinor, starting at either the upper trailhead or the lower trailhead. The lower trailhead starts off much easier than the upper, but is roughly six miles round trip, while the upper trail is only 3.5 miles round trip. No matter where you start, you will be hiking up along this trail, with the upper trailhead gaining 2,400 feet in 1.7 miles and the lower trail gaining 3,300 feet in 3 miles. The gain might be rough for both you and your dog, but the hike is a blast and the rewards are second to none. While your dog may be oblivious to the beauty, you will have a chance to take in one of the most magnificent panoramic views in Washington State.
Upper South Fork of the Skokomish Trail
The Upper South Fork of the Skokomish Trail is a perfect place to wander in some pristine old-growth and have a trail pretty much to yourself. Located near Hoodsport, this trail crosses several streams for nearly four miles toward the Olympic National Park boundary. Keep in mind that the road is closed to motor vehicles five miles prior to reaching the trailhead between the months of October and April due to a wildlife closure.
Dosewallips State Park
Those looking for something slightly closer to Highway 101 should head up to Dosewallips State Park, north of Hoodsport. Dosewallips has a few hiking options, with one the favorites being the well-maintained and always scenic Steam Donkey Trail. At just 3.5 miles with a gain of 400 feet of elevation, this trail shows off the wild and wonderful sights along the river. With cascades, bridge crossings, ferns and river views, this family-friendly and dog-friendly hike will have all members of your crew begging for more adventures. If you really need more miles, consider hitting up Lower Lena Lake nearby along the Hamma Hamma!