Book Report: Best Hikes with Dogs

For nondog people, taking in Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina (Mountaineers Books, 2007) by Karen Chávez, an editor at the Asheville Citizen-Times, is probably something like sending a pianist to a guitar shop. Good information, but not exactly helpful.

However, for canine fans, Chávez has written a great book that combines a bunch of fun elements: Opportunities to explore the best of the N.C. wilderness, useful details on how to hike with a dog and loads of cute dogs-on-wooded-trail photos.

The book (on shelves Friday, Nov. 30) is split into two sections: First, a primer on safety and etiquette in the great outdoors. Second, a breakdown of some 51 trails in western N.C., the western Piedmont and foothills, and the eastern Piedmont and coastal region.

The front section includes helpful (if obvious) tips like, “Dressing in layers will help you when you meet with unexpected weather conditions,” and (not so obvious) advice like outfitting four-legged pals with booties to keep paws warm in cold weather and protected on rocky terrain. The author also notes hikes (like Pinnacle Trail in Crowders Mountain State Park) where small dogs need to be carried.

Hikes closest in to Asheville include Big Butt Trail, Craggy Pinnacle and Graveyard Fields. Each of these 14 trail descriptions is preceded with the bare-bones facts: Total miles, estimated hiking time, level of difficulty and rules for dogs (hint: In most cases, dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet). Driving directions follow. The closest trail to downtown Asheville is Rattlesnake Lodge, about 7 miles north of town on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hikes range from one to four hours, most in the moderate to strenuous range.

Chávez, who professes in the book’s introduction that her black lab is “the reason I get up every day,” writes in an easy, conversational style peppered with helpful suggestions. “Keep in mind that this area is exposed to the sun, so it can be very hot in summer on furry heads and little paws,” she writes of Cedar Rock Trail. While the author intends her book as a starting point for those interested in learning about local outdoor spots and spending time with pooches, her friendly text makes this a good read for even experienced hikers.

If you’re looking to go farther afield, the same publisher offers 75 Hikes in Virginia Shenandoah National Park (2nd edition), by Russ Manning, and Best Hikes with Dogs: Georgia & South Carolina, by Steve and Ashley Goodrich.

One More to Try:

Outdoor-adventure columnist Joe Miller has written for Raleigh’s News & Observer for 15 years. His book, 100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina, was released just last month by Mountaineers Books.

As part of the Publisher’s 100 Hikes Series, this dense, 235-page guide covers the not-to-be-missed treks across the coast, Piedmont and mountains. Each region is broken into sections, with (again!) 51 hikes earmarked in the western mountains alone.

The author defines “classic” as those including something for everyone, from his favorites (5-plus mile aerobic lung-busters) to a spot that requires no exertion at all — and still turns up a bear sighting.

100 Classic Hikes, complete with detailed maps and richly colored photos, also makes a good guide to our state’s best nature spots. Even for the nonathlete (or nonresident), this book offers plenty of fodder for travel daydreams.

— Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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