West Virginia is the perfect dog-friendly adventure escape! You know what they say about it… wild and wonderful! I’ve found that the eastern panhandle region is the perfect place to take your dog to discover hiking, quiet small towns, swimming spots and much more. The 5 dog-friendly hikes in West Virginia featured here are all hikes I’ve done with my two 9-year-old chocolate labs, Burt and Lucy. We’ve been to West Virginia three times so far this year. For each visit, I explore different dog-friendly activities.
When I plan these hiking adventure getaways with my dogs, I look for a few specific things to ensure my dogs and I all have a good time. For suggestions of gear and supplies to take on hikes with your dog, see the end of this post.
For a hike to truly be dog-friendly in our book, it should meet most of these criteria:
- Less than 4 miles (my senior dogs can’t do more than that)
- An overlook with great views
- Some kind of water to cool off in
- Tree cover to hide from the sun
- Off the beaten path hikes that won’t be too crowded
All of the hikes in this post don’t hit every single one of those criteria. But, if you combine a few on your getaway with your pup, you’ll get the best of everything! I make sure we have a variety of super short hikes with spectacular views plus some steep climbs for more of a challenge.
Dog-Friendly Hikes in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle
All of the dog mom approved hikes in this post are located in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. This region is considered the Potomac Highlands. According to the West Virginia Tourism website, “Encompassing the Allegheny Mountains and the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia, the Potomac Highlands region is nature’s outdoor playground.”
The hikes I feature in this area of the WV eastern panhandle are about 3.5 hours from Pittsburgh and 2.5 hours from Washington D.C.
Some of the well known towns in the Potomac Highland region are Davis, Thomas, Elkins, Mathias, Wardensville and Capon Bridge. I spent time visiting all of these small West Virginia towns with my dogs this year. We met so many friendly people and found just about everywhere we went to be very dog friendly! We even got some amazing bones for the dogs at Farmer’s Daughter in Capon Bridge!
At a glance, these are the 5 dog friendly hikes I highlight in this post:
- Cranny Crow Overlook in Lost River State Park near Mathias, WV
- Tuscarora Trail to Eagle Rock near Wardensville, WV
- Seneca Rocks Overlook in Monongahela National Forest
- Harman Trail loop in the Dolly Sods Wilderness near Davis, WV
- Pase Point Trail in Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, WV
FYI: I did a lot of these dog-friendly trips to West Virginia during the pandemic, so hours of operation for a lot of business were limited. If you plan a trip now or in the future, I think it will be an even better experience than we had since businesses are more open now.
Cranny Crow Overlook at Lost River
This dog-friendly hike is located in West Virginia’s Lost River State Park near the town of Mathias. Getting to the Cranny Crow Overlook is a 4 mile out and back hike that features 2 beautiful overlooks. I parked at the horse stables and hiked up with my two dogs from there. The trails were well marked and easy to follow. It’s a relatively steep climb up, so we took out time. For most of the hike, we were the only people in sight so I was able to let Burt and Lucy off-leash to walk at their own pace for a while.
The first overlook is a great place to stop for a doggy water break. There’s a small shelter and bench there where you can admire the view. Keep climbing to the top for an even better view from the rocks.
There’s a small shelter and bench at the top, along with a visitor book that you can sign. You’ll have expansive views of the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park. The dogs and I were all alone at the top for about 20 minutes until a couple hiking with their two dogs appeared. That was great because we took photos of each other with the view!
Check out the White Oak Trail to Cranny Crow hike on AllTrails. This is the route I followed.
Tuscarora Trail to Eagle Rock
If you’re looking for a short and easy dog-friendly hike in West Virginia with spectacular views, I highly recommend taking Tuscarora Trail to Eagle Rock. This out and back 2-mile trail is located near Wardensville, West Virginia where you can find the popular Lost River Trading Post. Stop in after your hike for a snack, a drink, and a little local shopping.
To access the Tuscarora Trail, park on the opposite side of the road where there’s room for about 4 cars. There are many no trespassing signs bordering the parking area. If you see those, you’re in the right place!
Park and cross the road to hike this tree-covered, rocky trail. We saw some snakes and other small animals on the trail, which was fun. But the best part of this hike is the view! We packed sandwiches and had lunch at the overlook. To find the best view, you want to keep going about 300 yards past the first view. I did this hike with my mom and we kept stopping thinking we found the best view…on the 3rd try we found it! You’ll know you’re there because there is a bench.
We only saw one other person on this trail, so if you want to avoid other people and dogs, this is a great West Virginia hike to check out. Since it was so quiet, I was able to let the dogs off-leash for a little bit until we got to the overlook.
Check out the Eagle Rock hike on AllTrails to see the route I followed.
Seneca Rocks Trail
The Seneca Rocks in Monongahela National Forest is famous for rock climbing along the Potomac River. This hike to the Observation Deck is just shy of 3 miles and takes you to another beautiful overlook with a deck and benches. Since Seneca Rocks is a very popular area with cabins and camping nearby, this trail was very busy, even on a weekday. We passed many people and a few dogs on the trail, and the overlook was busy with families and small kids.
The climb up to the overlook is the steepest of the hikes I recommend in this post. But there are many benches, railings, and places to rest along the way. I think it’s worth the climb to see the sprawling countryside, mountains and views of the Potomac River.
What really made this hike worth it was a detour to a swimming hole! I love to find spots where my dog Lucy can swim and this was a really special discovery. Here’s how you find this hidden gem: From the parking area for the observation deck, get back in your car and drive past the entrance where you came in and keep going to the farthest back parking area. You’ll see a small trail that leads toward the mounting. It’s less than a quarter of a mile walk to a beautiful swimming hole along the rocky face of Seneca Rocks.
After letting Lucy swim and hang out for a bit we saw two guys fly fishing, but other than that we had this beautiful spot to ourselves! I thought it would be a perfect place to have a picnic lunch. Until Lucy went in the woods and rolled in something disgusting! That was the end of that!
You can find the Seneca Rocks trail on AllTrails, but you’ll have to follow my directions to find the swimming hole.
Harman Trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness
The Dolly Sods Wilderness is a 17,000 acre area near Davis, West Virginia and Canaan Valley Resort. It’s filled with extremely long hikes, I’m talking over 20 miles! But I discovered a great dog-friendly loop that clocks in just over our 4-mile limit. I love this loop because the turnaround point is a creek crossing where the dogs can cool off and relax in the water before the hike back up to our car.
I did this hike on a Saturday morning so we did pass a handful of people along the route. Many people had friendly dogs with them. About half the dogs we passed were off-leash but under control (like Burt and Lucy). Everyone was very friendly. We even saw another chocolate lab hiking with a pack on who had been camping with his family in the Dolly Sods.
This loop starts from a parking area within the Timberline Mountain Community, a neighboring ski resort. Take Rocky Ridge Trail to access the Blackbird trail. This leg of the hike was very rocky and a little muddy at times, but still enjoyable. The turnaround point is the Left Fork Red Creek Crossing where we saw the remains of a few campfires. Burt and Lucy cooled off in the water and we all had a snack.
For the return to our car, we took the Harman Trail (it runs almost parallel to Blackbird) and enjoyed the beautiful Mountain Laurel tunnels. During our hike in late June the Mountain Laurel were in full bloom and it was beautiful!
The only downside of this hike is that it’s pretty exposed to the elements for most of it. Because of that I recommend going as early in the day as possible to avoid the sun and heat for your dog.
I created a map in AllTrails just for this Rocky Ridge, Blackbird and Harman Trail loop.
Pase Point Trail in Blackwater Falls State Park
Another great place to find dog-friendly hikes in West Virginia is in Blackwater Falls State Park near the town of Davis. If you’re visiting the park with dogs, I recommend you skip the most popular spots (like the falls) and instead head a little off the beaten path to Pase Point Trail. This is a 3 mile out and back trail that takes you through a beautiful rhododendron forest! We were there about 2 weeks before peak bloom for the rhododendrons, but it was still breathtaking.
This trail is great for hiking with dogs because its totally shaded by the trees. Once again, we were the only people on the trail for most of the time, so I was able to let the dogs off-leash for a bit until we got to the overlook.
You’re probably noticing that I love trails with overlooks! And this hike does not disappoint! There’s a beautiful rocky overlook that was a total surprise to me. Eagles were flying overhead while we had a water break and admired the view of the mountains and Blackwater River.
This trail in Blackwater Falls park also starts and ends at a small lake that’s perfect for taking a swim, like Lucy did here! There was nobody around and the shore to get into the water was around the corner from the trail so I felt comfortable lettering her off leash to swim and chase sticks for a little while.
You can find Pase Point Trail on All Trails. *Note that we did not go all the way to the turnaround, which would make it 4 miles. I turned around at the overlook. I passed a couple who went to the turnaround and they said it was steep, overgrown and not worth it.
Learn More About Hiking with Dogs
Are you new to hiking with your dogs? I’ll be honest, I never took my dog Lucy hiking with me because she pulled on the leash, lunged for any water and stressed me out! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I worked on training, bought a harness and took my time to make sure we could both enjoy it.
Now, hiking with both of my dogs is one of my favorite things to do! If you want to get out and hike with your dog, but you’re not sure how to get started, I highly recommend a book written by my friend Jen Sotolongo of the blog Long Haul Trekkers.
Jen wrote the Essential Guide to Hiking With Dogs. It’s an indispensable resource for pet parents who want to get out and explore the great outdoors but aren’t sure where to start. You can find the book on Amazon, Bookshop.org, REI and many other booksellers.
Did you enjoy this post? Check these out, too:
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A Dog-Friendly Trip to NYC
Dog-Friendly Raleigh is Full of Art and Design
A Dog-Friendly Day Trip to Cleveland (with the best ice cream!)
Podcast Episode 64: Gretchen Dill, founder of Mutt Ruk
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