Hiking isn’t just about climbing a mountain. Merriam-Webster defines hiking as: a usually long walk especially for pleasure or exercise. Google says: walk for a long distance, especially across country or in the woods.When I adopted my dogs, I wanted to do more with them beyond taking them for a walk around the block. Hiking not only helps to keep you and your pup fit and healthy but it is also an opportunity to decompress, seek peace, enjoy nature, explore new paths. Once I started looking, I found a plethora of dog-friendly trails in and around my area of Massachusetts and I want to share these trails with others.
A well exercised pup is a happy pup, and a happy pup makes for a happy pup parent!
I always considered myself a cat person. Siamese cats, particularly. I suppose I like having a furry friend I can argue with that will still love me unconditionally… as long as I clean the litter box. I always thought I liked dogs sort of like I liked kids: other peoples’. Too much responsibility; I had better things to do.
Sometime around 2007, an in-law recruited me for a dog rescue drive. Spend a Sunday afternoon driving out to Western Massachusetts to meet a group of drivers in a Friendly’s parking lot just off the Mass Pike to pick up their passenger load of furry canines that had just been sprung free a day or two earlier from an otherwise-kill shelter in Kentucky. Our leg of their journey was their final leg. Their destination was the Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton, MA where they were guaranteed to be quickly adopted into happy forever homes.
I caught the rescue drive bug (it’s addicting) and soon I would be spending many weekends driving these Southern survivors from Point A to Point B for different rescues. Meeting these dogs, you got the sense that they knew they were on their way to a better life. They were usually calm, relieved, excited to get to their destination, and oh so happy. There were many I considered taking home but I continued to convince myself that I was not a dog person.
At some point I was introduced to Big Fluffy Dog Rescue and in 2012 I found myself at a turning point in my life. I don’t think it was fate that Big Fluffy needed a foster home for four 4-month-old pit bull mix puppies, but the timing was right. And I had the time – lots of it. I had just been laid off from work, my marriage had imploded and I was determined to make some major changes in my life both inwards and out. I decided to take the plunge and foster these puppies.
The puppies came with Scooby Doo themed names. The yellow puppy, Fred, was adopted within the first week. Two more, Daphne and Shaggy, soon followed within the next three weeks. That left Velma. Velma chewed her way into my heart.
Velma became Sophie and I officially made her my own.
Knowing that raising a pit bull type dog comes with a lot of responsibility, I was determined to socialize the heck out of this pup. Without many formal dog parks in the area, I asked around about where to go. This started me on this journey of discovering the many trails of Massachusetts and got us exploring together.
Massachusetts is an incredibly dog friendly state. Not only can you bring your dog into most state parks and state forests, but most communities have their own network of conservation land with marked trails that are not only dog friendly, but OFF-LEASH friendly (check local ordinances)!
In 2012 I moved to Acton and boy did I hit the dog-friendly jackpot here! Acton has a wonderful network of trails, and an equally wonderful dog-people community. In surrounding towns of Littleton, Groton, Westford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Weston, Lincoln, Stow, and beyond, I found even more amazing dog-friendly trails, ponds, fields, and their resident friendly dog-people.
In 2014 I added another hiker to the clan. Stitch. He also started as a foster pup through Big Fluffy but proved to be such a dedicated, enthusiastic hiking partner, that he too became a keeper. It doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly photogenic and seems to have come with a built-in grade-A recall.
We’ve had such fun exploring these trails that I wanted to share our experiences with others. At the same time, I want to learn about and visit more trails in areas that I travel through and to. My summer destination is often Lake George, NY, so I am always on the lookout for dog friendly places to stop along the way in NH and VT.
The perfect trail to me is well marked, off-leash friendly, has water, nature, plenty of space to run free away from traffic, roads and houses, and some variation in elevation. The perfect trail has other like-minded trail-loving dog-people and isn’t too popular with non-dog people. The perfect trail ends a perfect day like this:
Come explore with us and share with us some of your perfect trails.
P.S. I still have cats.