There’s something euphoric about hiking along a countryside trail or through the woods. Oftentimes it’s a calm experience that can give you time to gather your thoughts or escape from the daily grind. One of the few things that makes it a more enjoyable experience, than it already is, is having your loyal pup by your side. But bringing a dog means more things to pay attention to as well.

Hiking Is Best When You’re Prepared

The first thing you need to do before any hiking adventure is be prepared. This can mean a number of things depending on the specific location like maps, food/water, first aid kit, flashlight, and other tools.

But beyond the material objects you should also make sure your dog is just as prepared as you are. If he/she is getting older in age or struggling with mobility, an extensive trip might be out of the question. Even though, for you, I’m sure your dog would put forth their best effort as long as they can.

A dog’s loyalty knows no bounds.

Psychology - Husky Palace

Dog Obedience

The obedience level of your dog is extremely important when hiking. There are many dangers out there and an untrained dog can get themselves in trouble – quickly.

If you want to let your dog off leash the most important factor is their recall. If they don’t come back to you the first time, every time, keep them on a leash. Say the flash of a squirrel catches their eye. Will they go after it? Will they stop when you say, ‘leave it’? Only you know your dog well enough to know if they should be off leash.

Similarly, if your dog pulls when leashed, this can cause problems as well. Spend some time training your dog to walk on a leash in a safe environment before venturing out on a hike. 

Basic commands that come in handy are sit, stay, come, and leave it. You’ll want your dog to be well-behaved and respectful whether the two of you are alone in the wilderness or sharing a common trail with other people.

What to Look for When Hiking with Your Dog in SC

Hiking with your dog can be a fantastic bonding experience, but it can expose both of you to dangers that you need to be aware of. Some of these will be applicable anywhere you go, and others are more specific to South Carolina (and some surrounding areas).

doberman pinscher breed - husky palace

Photo by Eugene Zaycev

Dogs Body Language

Always pay attention to your dog’s body language. Their body language is one of the ways they tell you how they’re feeling. They may be tired and forcing themselves to continue for you, or they can sense danger that you don’t. After all, dogs have a better sense of smell, hearing, and motion visibility than you do.

I can’t stress this one enough and I speak from experience. When I was 10 or 11, I would often wander the woods by our house, always with my dog. One day he started growling at seemingly nothing and tried to push me back, keeping me from going further. I didn’t understand at the time, and the next thing I know a coyote appeared from behind a tree, snarling at us.

As an even bigger surprise, at that moment, my dog changed. The dog who had never shown an aggressive bone a day in his life planted himself between me and the coyote and became big and mean. He got taller, his hair stood on end, his growl got deeper – he became bear-like. In my youthful mind anyway.

Long story short the coyote ran away, and my dog and I were unharmed. But had I listened to him to begin with we could have potentially avoided the entire situation.

Trust your dog and listen to them. Do not force them to do something they don’t want to, especially if what they don’t want to do is out of character for them. Instead try to understand what they are telling you.

Native Wildlife

South Carolina is home to a variety of animals that can be fascinating to watch. While many of them pose no threat, there are a few to watch out for.


While not unique to SC, ticks are ever present and more of a nuisance than anything, but there are still precautions you should take. Keeping your dog on monthly flea & tick medication can help repel ticks as well as using tick collars. After a hike always check your dog, and yourself, for ticks and remove any you find.

Ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis.


A well-known animal in SC is the Copperhead, the most common venomous snake in the state. They have a copper-colored body and head with a darker colored banded hourglass pattern. There are no other snakes with this pattern which makes identifying them easier if you know what you’re looking for.

Copperheads are usually shy and rarely aggressive, but if they are stepped on or cornered, they will bite.

Watch where you and your dog are walking to avoid stepping on any snakes and if you see one, especially a copperhead, make sure you give it substantial space. And in the worst case, if you or your dog get bit, you should seek medical attention.

While most copperhead bites are not fatal to dogs, prompt treatment can help ensure there are no complications.

Black Widows and Brown Recluses

Since most people hike during the day, it’s unlikely you’ll come across either a black widow or brown recluse spider unless you’re trying to. Both spiders are nocturnal, preferring to hide during the day.

Black widows often build webs in holes or crevices and brown recluses on debris, wood piles, and rotting wood. You should be careful and pay attention to where you are placing your hands, feet, or nose. In this situation the biggest concern is your dog sticking his nose somewhere he’ll regret.

If your dog does get bit by either of these spiders, treat it as an emergency and seek medical attention immediately.

Hiking Dog

Photo by Yoav Hornung


Being in South Carolina, no list is complete without mentioning the American Alligator. These large reptiles are found near the many freshwater lakes, rivers, marshes, and swamps that encompass the lowland half of the state.

They are not usually aggressive, but if they are hungry, provoked, or defending their young/territory they may attack.

Always keep your dog on a leash and away from the water’s edge when hiking around alligator habitats. Also be aware of where you are hiking and check what animals frequent the area ahead of time.

Other Wildlife

Aside from the truly dangerous animals, there are other animals that are not harmful themselves but can trigger your dogs prey drive, which can cause its own sort of problems.

When hiking on trails you will often encounter squirrels, rabbits, birds, frogs, turtles, lizards, and sometimes deer or raccoons. If this excites your dogs prey drive and they take off after a small animal they can quickly get lost, stuck, or injured. This is one of the reasons having good obedience skills and great recall when off leash is so important.

Help, I’m Lost!

Getting lost while hiking is a scary and dangerous scenario for you and your dog. Planning ahead and being prepared can help you quickly remedy this worst-case scenario. Some ways to prepare are:

  • Carry a map, compass, or GPS device with you.

  • Know the trail name, distance, and landmarks.

  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back.

  • Stay on marked trails and avoid “shortcuts”!

  • Pay attention to your surroundings and remember where you’ve been.

  • Bring extra food, water, and tools.

If you do get lost off a trail, you should:
  • Stay calm and assess the situation.

  • Try to retrace your steps and find the trail.

  • Call for help if your phone has service or use a whistle/flashlight to signal help.

  • Look for clues or signs of a water source, buildings, roads, etc.

  • Keep yourself and your dog warm, fed, hydrated, and rested.

Trail Etiquette

Depending on the trail your on, it may have posted rules you’ll need to follow. Some trails don’t allow dogs to be off leash, so be sure you check beforehand.

Normal trail etiquette includes:

  • Yield to other hikers, bikers, horses, etc.

  • Stay on the right side of the trail.

  • Keep your dog close to you and under control.

  • Pick up after your dog and dispose of their waste properly.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings and remember where you’ve been.

  • Leave the area as you found it.

Best Hiking Locations

Now that you know what to look out for when hiking with your dog in SC, you might want to know where good spots are. SC has many beautiful and diverse hiking locations that you and your dog can enjoy. One of my personal favorites is the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, it is absolutely beautiful with well-marked trails. This is one of those ‘beware of alligators’ areas, but the trails are often spaced apart from the ponds where the alligators typically reside.

Some other great places to hike with your dog in SC are:

  • West Ashley Greenway in Charleston: This is a 10.5-mile rail trail that runs through urban and rural areas. You and your dog can enjoy the scenic views of marshes, creeks, fields, and forests. The trail is paved and mostly flat, making it a great choice for all skill levels.

  • The Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville: This is a longer 22-mile trail that follows the Reedy River and connects Greenville with Travelers Rest. There are many historic sites, parks, shops, and restaurants that you and your dog can enjoy along the way. The trail is mostly paved with some hills and bridges along it.

  • Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville: This is a 1,540-acre park that offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. You and your dog can enjoy the views of lakes, waterfalls, and mountains. The difficulty of the trails ranges from easy to difficult with different lengths and surface types. 

  • The Sea Pines Forest Preserve, Hilton Head Island: Not far from Pickney Island, this is another gorgeous preserve with 605-acres that protects a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, forests, and fields. You and your dog can walk on the boardwalks, bridges, and trails, enjoying the natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Trails here are easy and well-marked.

  • Clemson South Carolina Botanical Garden, Clemson: A 295-acre garden that features a variety of plants, flowers, sculptures, and exhibits. There are multiple trails with different lengths where you will venture through different gardens and themes.

These are just a few of the many places South Carolina has to explore with your furry friend. Just remember to follow the trail etiquette and rules, respect the wildlife and environment, and have fun! Happy hiking!


Chase Roseberry has spent his life surrounded by all kinds of animals. From growing up with horses, dogs, and cats to keeping multiple saltwater aquariums, he quickly realized his love for all animals. He now shares his passion by writing on BuzzPetz with his loyal German Shepherd proofreading at his side. You can get in touch with Chase on LinkedIn.

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