Cally, Tyson and Hank of BCTreks.com recently wrapped up a road trip to Moab, UT to explore the wild canyon lands, arches and trails that Southern Utah has to offer. They learned a few things along the way about how and where they could adventure with their canine companion and were graciously willing to share their experience with us. If you are planning a trip to the Moab area, this is a must read.
There’s something special about the way the desert captivates visitors, outdoor enthusiasts, and adventurers. Beautiful Moab, Utah, in particular has something for everyone from the explorer of National Parks to the devoted hiker, the technical bike trail ripper or jeep enthusiast, the Moab area will fill endless days under the sun with some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.
There is no better way to enjoy this amazing landscape than with your four-legged friends. Hank, our 85 pound hound mix, goes everywhere with us and especially loves the hot sun and dry heat. The desert is his favorite destination and also ours because of the variety of adventure opportunities within a close proximity. While the desert has a multitude of activities for humans to enjoy, it can be an intimidating place to adventure with your dog because of the hot temperatures, and the regulations surrounding the inclusion of dogs in and around the area.
Tyson and I were especially apprehensive on our latest trip to the desert, because we wanted to embark on long mountain bike rides, but of course we couldn’t leave Hank unattended on the extremely hot days. One thing you should know about Hank is that while he loves to hike and explore the desert, he is also pretty lazy and loves to sleep in the sunshine. We didn’t have our camper on this trip, so leaving Hank in a cool and comfortable living space wasn’t an option. While we accepted the challenge of working our schedule around Hank hanging out at camp or in the car, it became clear to me that many dog owners undoubtedly face the same issues.
Hank goes everywhere with us and loves exploring, so leaving him behind with friends or family seemed like a depressing and unfair option. Finding the balance between human activities and Hank time was a key to having a successful adventure trip to Moab. After 10 days of camping, mountain biking, exploring, climbing, and hiking in the desert, we came away with some helpful tips that helped to ensure a safe, fun, and beautiful time.
We all know (I hope) how important it is to have ample amounts of water with you when you explore the desert. Keeping in mind that your own hydration is easy to remember because when you’re thirsty, you drink, make sure you don’t forget that your dog is presumably just as thirsty as you and equally susceptible to dehydrating quickly under the hot sun. Our favorite place to get water is Gearheads Outdoor Store in downtown Moab. They offer an unlimited supply of free filtered water as well as a plethora of climbing, outdoor, and camping gear and clothing on display.
First of all, organization is very important when packing for your dog. The key to organization is simple. It’s called the Haul Bag. The Haul Bag has made traveling with Hank so easy and simple and makes it nearly impossible to forget something important. Inside the Haul Bag you’ll be able to include your dog’s essential items. Hank is pretty low maintenance and so for him, this means lots of treats and toys. Along with those two most important items, we brought a harness, leash, nail clippers, a fleece, and insect spray. Your dog will also be very appreciative if you bring him or her some food! The best way to transport food is the Kibble Kaddie. I can’t stress enough how grateful we are for the innovative travel products that Ruffwear has developed over the past year!
Having a comfortable and well-fitting harness for your dog is essential in the desert. There are many hikes where you find yourself required to help lift your dog up or down natural stairs, cracks, or crevasses. A harness is the safest and most comfortable way of helping your dog through these situations.
With Hank, we always pack a coat or fleece. Ruffwear’s Climate Changer is a great layer to have along on any camping adventure. Keep in mind that while the desert can be sweltering hot during the day, temperatures can fall drastically at night. Hank has a thin coat and gets chilly easily, but the Climate Changer solves this comfortably for him.
Exploring National Parks with Your Dog
Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park are both beautiful parks to explore, and being in such close proximity to Moab, they are definitely a must see at least once in your life. The only downfall to these stunning and unique parks is that dogs are not permitted on the trails inside the parks. Dogs are allowed in your vehicle and permitted in parking areas, but unfortunately they will not be able to experience the spectacular views you will. We explored the parks on a chilly and rainy day and so Hank was just fine hanging out in the vehicle while we car hopped the timeless sites.
Hiking Locally With Your Dog
There are hundreds of places to choose from when hiking with your dog in and around Moab, but there are three hikes near town that are our own favorite choices, and that Hank absolutely loves! Any hike with water throughout, around, or during the hike is a huge benefit when hiking with your dog.
Mill Creek is a hike that borders Moab to the East. The trail starts out crossing a flat prairie-like field and eventually funnels you into a canyon carved by a cool and refreshing creek. After weaving back and forth through the creek, dodging willows and towering cottonwood trees, the trail will lead you to a large watering hole and waterfall. It was almost a daily ritual for us to hike this trail up to the watering hole. Hank loved playing and swimming in the water, it exercised him and cooled him down. Perfect!
Corona Arch Trail is another dog-friendly hike that is exciting, with spectacular scenery, and is located relatively close to Moab. The trailhead for Corona Arch is about 8 miles northwest via Potash Road. The hike itself is pretty short, only about 3 miles, but definitely a great quick hike to do early in the morning or before making dinner back at camp.
There are a few places during this hike where bringing a harness for your dog is a must. There are steep natural stairs about halfway through the hike. Let your dog do his or her thing, as most are capable of making it up safely, just keep a leash on in case of a slip or misstep. There is also a ladder a short distance after the natural stairs, which is easy to avoid by walking up and around to the left. The phenomena of the natural Corona Arch makes for a memorable and awe-inspiring payoff to this trail.
Negro Bill Canyon is another hike that’s fun for both humans and dogs! The trailhead is located off of Highway 128, 3 miles northeast of the junction with Highway 191 (any area map or guidebook will clearly show this popular trailhead). The trail leads you through a canyon that towers high above with deep red rock walls and desert vegetation. You will meander through, past, and around a cool and clear stream where your dog will have fun bouncing in and out of the water and staying cool too. As the trail comes to its end, you will find yourself staring up a rock wall to find a 243-foot long natural rock bridge (Morning Glory Bridge).
Getting Your Extreme On
Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Moab is the fact that the accessibility to the outdoors, for a wide array of travelers, adventurers, and extremists is second to none. You could bring a jeep, a dirt bike, a dog, a mountain bike, climbing gear and a kayak and fill 10 days with adventure, and still only be able to explore a small fraction of what this desert region has to offer.
While we love to hike with Hank, we also love the challenge of technical mountain bike riding, audacious dirt biking riding, and rock climbing. Hank can’t accompany us on many of the activities we love to do, but we still manage to take time for ourselves and make sure Hank is having a great time as well. Many of you probably take your dog with you when mountain biking, however Hank is a pretty lazy and calm dog and would rather sleep in the shade for hours on end. There is also a nice dog park in Moab that was relatively calm during the time we were visiting—still a great option to let your dog have some play time.
We embarked on a few Hank-less adventures during our last trip to Moab and while they were fun and challenging, Hank was still in the back of my mind the entire time. If you’re planning to head out on adventures that aren’t well-suited for your dog, think about where you leave him or her, leave plenty of water, and never underestimate the power of the desert heat. Also worth mentioning is that the Wall Street climbing area in Moab is a perfect place to hang with your dog. The roadside crags make for safe, close proximity and hang time with your dog while getting some time on the rocks yourself.
Perhaps it is the way the evening hour gracefully lights up the deep red rocks, the overpowering contrast in plant life and dry desert rock, or the night sky illuminated with a seemingly impossible amount of stars that makes the desert such an amazing, constantly evolving place to visit. There is literally an endless amount of terrain that seems to be longing to be explored by you and your dog so get out there and thrive!