Pooch Paths

POOCH PATHS: Mt. Pisgah, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Chester at Mt. Pisgah There is a small window of opportunity between now and early November to take in the beauty of Mt. Pisgah and Fall colors in the surrounding area. (Or if you can't make it this season, keep this excursion in mind for a warm summer day, since the cool temperatures of Mt. Pisgah are delightful at that time of year).


Mt. Pisgah is on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Post 407, south of Asheville, NC. There are several areas your dogs will love.


For a moderate hike, try the Buck Spring Gap trail, about 1.5 miles one way, which goes from the Buck Spring Gap Overlook parking area to the Pisgah Inn. There are marvelous views both at the overlook and the Inn. Interesting note: On this trail you'll see a marker and part of the original foundation of George Vanderbilt's mountain hunting lodge. You'll find it hard to imagine that he trekked all the way from the Biltmore Estate to get here! (Of course, he had a lot of help.) The present-day Shut-In Trail generally follows the same path along the Blue Ridge up to the lodge site.


There are numerous other hiking trails near Mt. Pisgah, but the most adventurous is the hike up Mt. Pisgah itself, which this writer has not yet attempted! For more about the Mt. Pisgah Trail, and to access a map of all the trails around Mt. Pisgah, visit the POOCH PATHS page.


Mtpisgahpicnicarea POOCH PICK: Our doggies particularly loved the nearby Mt. Pisgah picnic grove, accessible from its own parking lot. It is a lovely, large wooded area with picnic tables, outdoor grills, and restrooms. We brought tie-outs, hooked them around a table, and let the dogs enjoy their bones while we enjoyed our lunch. What a great spot!


Off-Leash Dog Parks

Boonedogpark Despite the many local outdoor recreational opportunities, dogs must be leashed on Blue Ridge Parkway trails and in most forest and park areas. For off-leash time and socialization with other dogs, dog parks are ideal; however, there are not many of them in the region. The following is a list of official off-leash dog parks in WNC and the Upstate -- facilities that are fenced, maintained, and allow dogs off-leash. If you know of others, feel free to comment so we can update this list.

Note: Any time you visit a dog park, it is a good idea to have water, poop bags, and proof of vaccinations. Be sure your dog is well-socialized and will not be intimidated or cause problems in this environment.

(Photo: Dog Park in Boone, Watauga Humane Society)


Azalea Dog Park

Location: 395 Azalea Road (Not far from the WNC Nature Center. Continue on Azalea Road past all the soccer fields and the dog park will be on the left.)

Facilities: Two fenced areas, one small dogs and a large area for big dogs with a gazebo. Bring your own water. Insider tip: For a nice cool-down after romping at this dog park, exit the park and look for a pull-in near a dumpster, immediately on your left. Down a short path is a shallow river bed and gentle rapids where doggies love to splash.

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French Broad River Dog Park

Location: Adjacent to the French Broad River Park, Amboy Road and Riverview Drive, West Asheville.

Facilities: Large fenced area. No separate area for small dogs. Water is available.

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Watauga Humane Society Dog Park

Location: Don Hayes Road, between Rutherwood Baptist Church and the Boone Stockyard, about four miles from Boone off Old Highway 421 South.

Facilities: About 3.5 acres of fenced flat and hilly area. Separate area for small dogs, and another area for dogs with special behavioral problems. Water available. Note: Pre-registration required. Admission by pass only. Annual memberships and day passes available at the Watauga Humane Society. Insider tip: If you are not a Boone resident, you can still use this park for the day (12 hours) for only $3.00.

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Canine Corner at Cleveland Park

Location: 126 Woodland Way (Across from the Cleveland Park Animal Hospital and horse stables).

Facilities: Half-acre mulched park. No separate area for small dogs. Water is usually available. 

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Six Wags Dog Park

Location: 3671 North Highway 14 (4-1/2 miles north of Greer)

Facilities: A private 8-acre facility open to the public. Five fenced play areas based on dogs' sizes; includes a nature trail, creek, and agility equipment. Open 8 AM - 8 PM seven days a week. No appointment needed. Daily admission is $5 for the first dog, $2 for the second dog from the same family. Proof of vaccination required.

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Four Paws Kingdom Campground

Location: 335 Lazy Creek Drive, Rutherfordton

Facilities: Private campground catering to dogs. Has numerous fenced off-leash dog parks and other facilities available to campground guests; however, visitors can get day passes to use the facilities ($10 per dog for 3 hours on week days to use all of the dog parks, or $25 per day for up to two dogs to use all dog amenities). Reservations required. Call 828-287-7324 for details.

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Waynesville Pepsi Dog Park

Location: Vance Street, off of Howell Mill Road (Below the Waynesville Recreation Center and soccer fields)

Facilities: Two fenced areas, one for small dogs. Bring water.

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POOCH PATHS: Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, NC

Brevard062308 dogs If splashing in shallow water, hiking shaded mountain trails, and watching the rush of natural waterfalls excites you and your pooch, then the Brevard side of the Pisgah National Forest is the Pooch Path for you. Right at the entrance to the Pisgah National Forest on US 276, up a ways on the left, you'll find the shallow, gently running, cool water of the Davidson River, where doggies love to play (see photo).

All along US 276 are additional opportunities for fun, including the Visitor Center/Ranger Station, where you'll find a nature trail and exercise trail. Stop in to get trail maps. Then there's the Davidson River Campground, with hookups, trails, and fishing streams, the Sycamore Flats picnic area along the river, and the Coontree picnic area. At Coontree, cross a shallow stream and you'll find a secluded area with cliffs where you're likely to find jumpers splashing into the pool of water below.

Continue further up US 276 and you'll reach Looking Glass Falls, right off the highway. You can take a stairway down to the falls and even swim at its base, but be careful -- the rocks are slippery. It's also a short ride to Sliding Rock, a natural formation that acts as a water slide. You and your fur-pal can have fun watching both kids and adults taking the plunge, and you can wade in the water near the bottom of the slide.

You could spend many happy hours splashing and hiking just along this route, without even venturing further in the Pisgah National Forest. And on your way out, be sure to make a stop at Dolly's Ice Cream (on the left as you're leaving the Pisgah National Forest). Get yourself one of their incredible flavors, and treat the pooch to a vanilla soft-serve!

For more information and photos, visit the POOCH PATHS page.

Best Hikes with Dogs in NC

Hiking book cover Recommended Reading! Best Hikes with Dogs North Carolina by Karen Chavez is a great resource, both for its basic information about hiking, as well as its extensive details about trails. You'll find essentials about canine trail etiquette, permits and regulations, a doggy first aid kit, and more. The book is loaded with Western North Carolina trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond. For each trail, Chavez provides length, hiking time, best time to hike, difficulty, and lots of other details, including elevations and maps. You'll find yourself referring to this book often, so buy it today! Buy now.


Nc-arboretum-092809 022

If you live in or near Asheville, NC, or you're planning a visit there with your dog, consider taking a walk, hike, or bike ride on the grounds of the North Carolina Arboretum. This exceptional facility has 10 miles of well-groomed trails. You can take an easy bike ride or walk along wide roads, or hike past the cooling waters of Bent Creek. Take the shaded Natural Garden Trail and see many kinds of vegetation. The Bent Creek Trail, a combination of open road and shaded creekside trail, passes by the National Azalea Repository -- a real treat in the spring. Try the Carolina Mountain Trail for a little bit of relatively easy mountain hiking. The lower part of the trail enters a very shady sanctuary where your dog will love splashing in the water right alongside the trail. Dogs must be leashed.

Pooch Pick: Enter the Arboretum at the main entrance. Make an immediate left into a parking area. Take the path with the bark mulch (Bent Creek Trail) until it meets up with the wide road. Stay on the road until you reach the three signs about creek restoration, shortly after the Azalea Repository. Right after the signs, go left down the hill to the creek. Doggies love this area. Seems like it was made just for them. They enjoy wading in and lapping up the cold clear water (see photo) -- and the grass is tasty, too!

The entrance to the NC Arboretum is directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 393 (I-26 and Hwy 191). Admission is $6 per vehicle, free on Tuesdays. (Become a member and admission is always free.) There are many additional hiking trails, along with Lake Powhatan, in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest adjacent to the Arboretum. For additional information about the NC Arboretum, visit the POOCH PATHS page.