Oregon dogs (and their humans) are spoiled with the abundant forested trails that lead to mountain tops, beautiful ocean beaches, and crystalline alpine lakes throughout the state. Outside of the cities, dogs can enjoy responsible off-leash freedom to satisfy all of their sniffing, exploring and swimming desires. Here are five off-leash trails to consider for your next hike with your best friend.
OFF-LEASH PRIVILEGES: Understanding that hiking with a dog off-leash is a privilege, not a right, will keep the trails safe and enjoyable for all users.
Do not allow your dog to approach other dogs and people, even if your dog is friendly. Allowing a dog to approach without permission is impolite and can be dangerous if the other dog does not appreciate other dogs in its space. Keep your dog in sight and under voice control at all times.
If your dog does not return to you consistently when you call them, then they need some more recall practice. Keep working in less distracting areas until they return to you every single time.
TRAIL ETIQUETTE AND DOGS: Recall your dog to a heel or leash them when you see or hear other users ahead. You can also step aside and put your dog in a “sit” to allow others to pass.
Always pick up your dog’s poop and pack it out, rather than leave it on the side of the trail to pick up on your return.
OFF-LEASH RESTRICTIONS: Rules for dogs vary in different wilderness areas and trails. In general, Oregon State Parks require dogs to be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times. Crater Lake National Park allows leashed dogs on some trails.
National Forests generally allow for dogs to hike off-leash, however some popular areas may have leash rules. Bend has an off-leash season (September 15 to May 15) on certain trails. Bureau of Land Management properties (BLM) are notably more lenient and typically do not have leash restrictions.
On the Oregon Coast, pets must be leashed in state parks, but are otherwise welcome to run free, as long as the dog is under voice control and does not disturb wildlife or other people.
Developed areas on all lands, like campsites or parks require dogs on leash. Always check the rules before you go, and then again at the trailhead.
HOOD RIVER/MT. HOOD
This year-round trail is a short drive from Hood River and features wildflowers, snowshoeing options in the winter, wooded forests, and a ridgetop with stunning views of the Hood River Valley and prominent Cascade Peaks on a clear day. During spring, balsamroot coats the meadows near the peak.
The 8.2-mile out-and-back trail starts on Oak Ridge Trailhead #688A. After about 2 miles, take a left onto Surveyor’s Ridge for the final push to Bald Butte.
It is possible to turn this hike into a loop by returning along the powerline road. Bear in mind that the powerline road is open to ATVs, and Surveyor’s Ridge Trail is used by mountain bikers. Ticks and rattlesnakes are also found in this area.
Not far from the delightful coastal town of Yachats, the Cummins Creek Trail deviates from the bustle of the Cape Perpetua trails. While there is no ocean view from this trail, it’s a lovely romp through fern-covered woods that follow Cummins Creek.
The 9.1-mile loop starts off gently before reaching the fork that climbs about 1,000 feet in just over a mile along a ridgeline. When your calves are just about ready to give out, you’ll reach a T intersection on the trail. Take a right to head down the steep, but wide, hill that takes you back to much gentler single track trail leading to the parking lot.
Mountain bikers frequent this trail, so keep an ear out for them.
Located off of the Cascade Lakes Highway, in between Bend and Sunriver, Senoj Lake is a fairly quiet, easy hike that features several lakes, depending on your starting point.
From the northern end, take Six Lakes Trail #14, passing Blow and Doris Lakes before merging with Senoj Lake Trail where you’ll arrive at the lake by the same name shortly after. This option is 7.4 miles out and back.
Alternatively, you can start from the southern end of the highway and hike along Lucky Lake Trail to Senoj Lake. This route is about 11 miles roundtrip. Both routes make for great overnight excursions.
Currently Senoj Lake is not part of the new Central Cascade Wilderness Permitting system, the only permit required is a Northwest Forest Pass.
Located off of Lostine Road in the Wallowas, Chimney Lake is a long, steady climb to a beautiful alpine lake. The trail starts from the Bowman Trailhead across the road.
About 3 miles along, you’ll reach a sharp turn in the trail where there’s a section of boulders, just off the trail. This is an ideal spot to take a break and eat a snack while enjoying the view of the Lostine Valley.
Continuing up, you’ll reach Laverty Lake, a smaller lake worth exploring. If you’re backpacking and Chimney Lake is full, this is a great alternative. Just about a mile beyond Lavery Lake, you’ll arrive at Chimney Lake.
The lake sits at an elevation of 7,604 feet, tucked in among granite peaks.
This trail is frequented by horses, so if your dog is excited by them, stay aware and make sure their recall obedience is strong.
DIAMOND PEAK WILDERNESS
Right in between the popular resorts of Odell and Crescent Lakes, Fawn Lake sees less traffic and makes for a peaceful hike.
Starting from the Crescent Lake Campground head to the far end of the parking lot to find the Fawn Lake Trailhead. This moderate hike has a little more than 1,100 feet of elevation gain over 7.5 miles. Follow the Fawn Lake Trail to the lake where you can enjoy views of Redtop and Lakeview Mountains. There are camping options if you would like to stay the night.
If you’re feeling up to it, tack on three additional miles and detour to Stag Lake, a stunning turquoise lake with sandy beaches and a view of Lakeview Mountain.
Diamond Peak Wilderness has notoriously ruthless mosquitoes during the summer, so plan your trip for the fall to enjoy the scenery without the annoying bugs.