Hiking dog.

Hiking With Your Dog In Australia:
The Complete Guide

Written By Olivia De Santos | Canine Coach, Professional Writer & Video Content Creator.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | Double B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 7th January 2024

Hiking with your dog can be both a source of excitement and stress. It’s thrilling to explore new places with your trusty furry friend alongside. At the same time, heading into the wild can be a dangerous feat for both of you.

Related: Travelling Australia With Your Dog.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to go hiking with dogs in Australia. We’ll discuss the gear you’ll need, the rules of hiking and the best places to hike in each state.


Is It A Good Idea To Go Hiking With Your Dog?


Before you dive into the planning of your hiking trip, let’s take a step back and review whether this is a good idea. This thought is not to scare you. It’s more so that you and your dog need to have a certain level of skills to be able to hike freely on the many trails of Australia. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself before you take your dog hiking.

Does your dog have good recall skills?

Your dog’s recall skills are absolutely paramount to their safety on a hike. (1) Even if the trail requires you to have your dog on the leash the entire way. It’s important that you can command your dog’s attention quickly and easily whenever you need to. You may need to pick them up or remove them from a situation.

With that in mind, your dog needs to have obedience training to listen to you clearly and allow you to take control when necessary. If your dog’s recall skills are a little shaky, spend some time strengthening them before taking on any long hiking trails.

Are they physically able to do the hike you’re planning?

There are hikes of all different difficulties of course. There are 4-hour hikes uphill and 1-hour hikes on flat, meandering grassland. Both provide excellent exercise and are physically demanding in your own way. When reviewing the hike you want to do with your dog, don’t just consider the altitude and length of the hike.

Consider the sun exposure and pathway. Are the pathways wide or narrow? Is it open to elements? Are there animals or bugs to be wary of? Depending on your dog’s age and activity level, they may be better suited to some hikes than others. If you’d eventually like to do more challenging hikes with your dog, you can build up their strength and capabilities over time.

Does your dog have deathly curiosity?

Curiosity killed the cat, right? Well, it can kill the dog too! If you have a puppy on your hands that loves to explore new interesting plants with their mouths, you might want to sharpen those aforementioned recall skills before you consider any hikes in the wild. Or you may choose a trail that has fewer dangers.

If your dog is the type to get distracted and follow a creature wherever it leads, that can be dangerous. You’ll likely need to keep them on a leash for the duration of the hike. Be honest about your dog’s nature. If you think they’ll get themselves into trouble, choose your hikes wisely!

Is your relationship at a strong point to allow your dog some independence?

I promise you this is not a judgement, but a chance to reflect. I often find that new dog owners want to do everything and anything with their dogs. They are so excited to have this new bundle of joy in their lives that they sometimes rush the bonding process to bounds that they aren’t quite ready for.

Your relationship as dog and owner needs to be quite solid when hiking in the wild - particularly off-leash. You need to trust each other totally. They need to see you as their guiding light through this path. That’s not to say that you can’t develop this bond extremely quickly. You can! Just be honest about the stage you’re at. If you go into adventures like this too soon, it could lead to dangerous situations in which the anxiety of your dog or mistrust takes over. As long as you’re a solid unit and your dog listens to you, you’ll have a great hike!

Do you know how to do simple first aid on your dog should anything happen?

I’m not saying that you should know how to stitch injuries. The basics are simply being able to stop bleeding with styptic powder, and applying bandages and ointment creams to rashes or burns. You should also have a number for an emergency vet handy should you need it.

Are you aware of any crawlies or animals that could harm your dog? Can you identify them by sight?

Your dog unfortunately probably won’t know which bugs are safe and which aren’t. The same goes for plants. Work on having a good mental library of any dangerous crawlies, animals or plant life that you need to be wary of when walking in the wild. You can avoid certain trails if you don’t feel confident in this area. However, for future reference, Google some of the wildlife you're likely to encounter so you can call your dog to safety if you cross paths.

Does your dog get along well with other dogs or people that you may come across during your hike?

Lastly, it’s unlikely that you’ll be hiking on trails completely alone. If you come across other people or dogs on the trail, how will your pup react? Have they been sufficiently socialised that you can trust them off leash? If not, you might want to spend some more time in safer outdoor encounters before you attempt your first hike.

If you answered no to any of these questions, you might want to seriously consider the trail you choose to walk or if you’re ready for hiking in general. But importantly - this is not a “no” forever! Spend a little more time preparing and you'll soon be ready to explore the wild with your trusty canine companion.


How To Prepare 

Once you’ve determined whether your dog is ready for the hiking life, here’s how to prep for your first hike together!

Research the route

The cornerstone of preparing for your hike is to acquaint yourself with the route. This could involve speaking to others who have been on the trail before or using online resources to understand the elevation and difficulty you can expect. Use this research to choose the right hike for you and your pup, as well as prepare a packing list that’s appropriate for the journey. We have some recommendations for the best trails in Australia later in the article.

Make sure your dog is vaccinated and health checked

As with camping, you’re exposing your dog to the elements. Make sure all of your dog’s vaccinations are up to date before you go hiking. This is less important for short hikes but it’s worth checking anyway if you plan to go on frequent hikes together.

Learn hiking etiquette

Here are the basics of hiking etiquette with dogs:

  • Respect the rules when it comes to leashes. Most dog-friendly trails will indicate if there are areas where your dog can go off-leash.
  • Pick up after yourself. This is known as the “leave no trace” rule that most hikers follow. Make sure you are fully equipped with poop bags just in case!
  • Not all people will love your dog. For that reason, keep your dog under control in case someone is uncomfortable. The same goes for other dogs.
  • If there is a camping element to your hike, follow the campsite rules for dogs.

What Gear Will You Need To Hike With Your Dog?

Let’s get into the specifics! Here is a list of items you’ll need to take your dog hiking in Australia:

  • First Aid Kit - Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you brought it! A basic first aid kit will have everything you need in an emergency. If you’re unclear about any of the items in your first aid kit and how to use them, consult your vet.
  • Leash - All trails require that you have your dog on a leash at some point. Even if you find a trail that can be completely off-leash, you’ll still need one for the safety of your dog. You only want to let your dog off leash when it’s completely safe to do so. You might decide to use a retractable dog leash as opposed to a traditional one. This depends on the strength of your dog’s recall skills.
  • Dog Harness - Harnesses can be useful when going on long hikes. They are often more comfortable for your dog as opposed to being pulled at the collar.
  • Water and Water Bottle - It’s so important to have a fresh water supply for your dog at all times. Even if there are fresh springs, there can be pathogens in the water that can make your dog unwell. Always have your own water supply and a portable dog water bottle for your pup.
  • Food and Portable Food Bowl and/or Treats - This entirely depends on the length of the hike. If there is a camping element, you’ll need to bring food with you. If not, a snack or treat is helpful to bring with you for short hikes.
  • Towels - If there are any bodies of water on your hikes like the sea or a lake, pack a towel to dry down your dog after any swimming. I recommend choosing a lightweight dog towel so as not to weigh you down during the hike.
  • Dog Booties or Socks - If there is challenging terrain on your trail or adverse weather conditions, you might want to invest in dog shoes or socks to protect your dog’s delicate paws.
  • Poop Bags - Leave no trace! Ample poop bags are necessary just in case.

Where Can You Go Hiking With Dogs In Australia?

So you’re ready to explore Australia with your pup in tow. Here are some great hiking trails across the country for you to discover. Note: Alltrails.com is an excellent resource for available hiking trails!

Best Dog Friendly Hikes NSW

South Lawson Waterfall Walking Track

  • Location: Blue Mountains
  • Length: 2.7km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs may be off leash in certain areas
  • Location: Sydney
  • Length: 3.5km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Parramatta
  • Length: 4.2km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs may be off leash in certain areas

Best Dog Friendly Hikes QLD

Ivan Evans Walk

  • Location: Cairns
  • Length: 4.3km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs can be off leash in some areas
  • Location: Townsville
  • Length: 9.8km
  • Duration: 2hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs can be off leash in some areas
  • Location: Willow Vale
  • Length: 6.8km
  • Duration: 2hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs can be off leash in some areas

Best Dog Friendly Hikes VIC

Yarra Bend Park Loop

  • Location: Melbourne
  • Length: 9.5km
  • Duration: 2hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Little River
  • Length: 4.8km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Raglan
  • Length: 21.1km
  • Duration: 7hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times

Best Dog Friendly Hikes WA

Zamia Trail

  • Location: City Beach
  • Length: 5km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Perth
  • Length: 7.4km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Brigadoon
  • Length: 7.6km
  • Duration: 2.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs can be off leash in some areas

Best Dog Friendly Hikes SA

Belair Waterfall Hike Circuit

  • Location: Adelaide
  • Length: 6.4km
  • Duration: 2hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Adelaide
  • Length: 4.5km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Mount Gambier
  • Length: 3.7km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times

Best Dog Friendly Hikes NT

Bicentennial Park

  • Location: Darwin
  • Length: 2.9km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Alice Springs
  • Length: 5.5km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs can be off leash in some areas
  • Location: Darwin
  • Length: 4.5km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times

Best Dog Friendly Hikes TAS

Montezuma Falls

  • Location: Rosebery
  • Length: 9.8km
  • Duration: 3hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Tullah
  • Length: 8.7km
  • Duration: 3.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Nietta
  • Length: 1.9km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times

Best Dog Friendly Hikes ACT

Molonglo Gorge Trail

  • Location: Canberra
  • Length: 6.4km
  • Duration: 2hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Canberra
  • Length: 7.1km
  • Duration: 1.5hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • Location: Canberra
  • Length: 4.2km
  • Duration: 1hr
  • On or Off Leash: Dogs must be on a leash at all times

Conclusion: Happy Hiking!

Hiking with your dog is honestly so fun! As long as you prepare adequately for the journey, you’ll have a great time exploring a new space with your pup. My parting advice would be to start slow. Start with the easier hikes before progressing to the harder, overnight hikes if that floats your boat.

References:

  1. Lowrey, S. October 28, 2019. “Come! Tips For Training A Reliable Recall”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved July 31, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/reliable-recall-train-dogs-to-come-when-called/

Olivia De Santos


Olivia De Santos is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer and Video Content Creator.

Olivia has over 10 years of experience writing professionally and is a dog Mum to Pip, her Podengo and Blue, her Flat-coated Retriever. She loves writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners.

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