Dog-Friendly Texas Hill Country Hikes

Hikes for Dog Lovers in Texas Hill Country

Hiking offers one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors, and a dog is great company on the trail. Here are five Texas Hill Country hikes for dogs and owners to enjoy now.

Inks Lake State Park Trails

A series of trails loop through a quiet corner of this popular park on Inks Lake, northwest of Austin, Texas. Combined, they form a hike just under five miles that encompasses an astonishing variety of scenery. The route starts at the Amphitheater parking lot and follows the Green route, marked on color-coded trail maps available at the park entrance. The trail passes beneath cedar and pecan canopies, panoramic views of the countryside, multi-hued boulders draped with mosses, and swaths of granite with tiny yellow flowers growing in the cracks. This hike also has thick cedar breaks, cattail-filled streambeds, rocky lakeshore, and a stand of tall trees and grasses. Wandering on exposed rock is prohibited, as it will cause erosion and damage fragile plant life growing on the granite. Dogs must be on leash in all Texas state parks.

Hill Country State Natural Area Trails

Just outside of Bandera, this 5,369-acre former ranch has 40 miles of multi-use trails. Routes 1 and 6 can be combined into a 5.8 mile loop out to Wilderness Camp Area and back, over rocky hills and down canyons, through open stretches where tall grass undulates in the breeze, into shady groves of oak and juniper covered in blue berries, and even across a wide swath of ankle-scratching but wickedly beautiful sotol. Route 5B climbs a steep, rocky staircase to 1,760-foot-high Twin Peaks and a stunning, panoramic view of the almost unblemished countryside. No drinking water or supplies are available in the park, so hikers need to bring everything they’ll need.

Lake Georgetown Good Water Trail

A rugged, 26-mile trail circumnavigating scenic Lake Georgetown traverses dense juniper stands, hardwood bottomlands, and wide-open prairie grasslands, sometimes balancing on limestone cliffs or fording streams. Near Crockett Springs is an old corral left behind by early settlers, and armadillos and deer are frequent sights. Multiple trailheads and several camp grounds allow hikers to choose routes of various lengths. Leaving one car at the endpoint then driving to the starting point prevents back tracking. The trail crosses Hunt Hollow Wildlife Management area. Hikers should check with the office for dates on deer hunting season, and if hiking then, stay on the trail and wear bright clothing.

Canyon of the Eagles Lodge and Nature Park

This 940-acre park has campgrounds, an RV park, a dog-friendly lodge, access to the shoreline of Lake Buchanan, and miles of hiking trails. The Peacock and Juniper Ridge Loops explore a high ridge in the park, with views of the lake and shady stretches through juniper woods. The Beebrush, Live Oak, and Vireo Trails traverse more open area with gentle rises, wildflower patches, prickly pear thickets and rock formations. The Lakeside Trail traces lake shoreline, much of it shady. Eight hundred acres of the park are set aside for protection of endangered species, including black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warblers, and American bald eagles, and these areas are closed during nesting seasons. Trails are well-marked and maps are available.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Trails

This park contains one of the nation’s largest batholiths, or underground rock formation exposed through erosion. Enchanted Rock rises 425 feet and totals 640 acres of pink granite. A 4.5 mile loop trail circles this and several other granite domes, briefly following Sandy Creek, and passing by Moss Lake and a primitive camping area. Hikers may spy turtles and frogs along the creek, and wildflowers are abundant in spring and fall. The park has improved and primitive campgrounds, showers and restrooms, and picnic areas.

Preparation and Supplies Important for Safe Hiking

Dogs make excellent hiking companions. Proper preparation and supplies can keep a hike from turning hazardous, especially in summer.

A dog should be reasonably active and in shape before a hike of any length. Regular long walks around the neighborhood will do the trick. Dogs should be checked by a vet before hiking as well, and have up-to-date shots. Heartworm preventive is a must in most areas, and mosquito repellent may be a good idea as well. There are types made especially for dogs, as brands for people may not be safe for dogs. Dogs can get sunburned, mainly on their ears, nose, and other areas with little hair. Regular human sunscreen will protect from sunburn. Any mosquito repellent or sunscreen should be tested on a small spot of the dog’s skin before using.

Other potential dangers to dogs include alligators and snakes. Hikers who stay on the trail – always a good practice anyway – are less likely to encounter snakes, and keeping a safe distance from bodies of water lessens the chances of run-ins with alligators.

Weather Hazards on the Trail

Summer weather dangers include flash floods, the number one weather-related killer in the US. Hikers need to check the weather forecast prior to heading out – the National Weather Service posts up-to-date reports by geographic location – and then pay attention to any changes in the weather once on the trail. In case of rain, hikers should move to high ground. Thunderstorms can produce lightning and tornadoes, both of which can be deadly. A sturdy, completely enclosed building provides the best shelter.

Dogs at Risk of Heat Stroke

Heat may be the biggest hazard of summer hiking, for man and dog. Dogs can die of heat stroke, most commonly caused by overexertion. In hot weather, hikers should avoid mid-day activity, rest often in the shade, and carry plenty of water for themselves and their dog. Signs that a dog may be overheated include the tongue hanging out farther than usual, aggressive panting, or red eyes and ears. A dog that stumbles, throws up, falls down, or doesn’t want to walk may be suffering heat exhaustion, one step away from heat stroke. Dogs with these symptoms need treatment from a veterinarian. Placing wet towels or pouring water over the dog’s body helps cool him down, as will putting him in a tub of cool water or hosing him off.

In addition to panting, dogs cool off by dissipating heat through the pads of their feet. Walking on hot surfaces, therefore, can cause a dog to overheat. Trimming excess fur from a dog’s feet can help keep her cool.

Essential Gear for Hiking with Dogs

Dogs can carry their own gear with backpacks made especially for them. Essentials to pack include water (not all natural water is safe for dogs to drink), water bowl, food, basic first aid supplies, collar and leash, and ID tags. Plastic bags for disposing of dog waste are a must, as dog waste is not part of the natural environment and contains harmful bacteria. Dog booties come in handy on harsh surfaces, and will also keep a bandage in place if the dog injures a paw. Dog backpacks and booties are available at REI stores, some pet stores, and from Planet Dog. Dogs should be introduced to wearing a backpack and booties before going on a hike.

Human hikers need to carry sun protection; emergency shelter, such as a rain poncho or space blanket; a flashlight; matches and fire starter, such as cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly; and first aid supplies. A map and navigation aids, either compass or GPS, are also essential.

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