Best Hiking Dogs: Which Four Legged Friends are Best Suited for the Trail?

Hiking with a dog
Written by Bradley Page

Every hiker needs a companion on the trail. Hiking with dogs can be a great experience for you and your four legged friend. It’s a great way for both of you to stay healthy and keep your adventurous spirit alive.

Some dogs are better suited for hiking than others. The best hiking dogs are strong, smart, energetic, and friendly. Any breed can be good for hiking, but it’s important to remember that every dog is only as good as their master.

What are the best hiking dogs

Every dog is different, therefore, summer hike might not be the best choice for one dog, but it would be perfect for another. The same applies to winter hikes. The length of the hike is also an important thing to consider.

Now we will see which dog breeds are suitable for which seasons, lengths of the trail and how they fulfill the above-mentioned criteria. Learn how to take care or your dog’s needs in the outdoors and why taking it on a hike may or may not be the best choice or both of you. See our earlier article on how to choose the best dog backpacking gear to be better prepared for you trip.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are one of the best hiking companions in cool weather. Not only are they some of the cutest puppies around, but they grow up to be strong, good natured dogs. They love being outdoors and will enjoy anything from playing in the backyard to hiking to pulling little kids around in a cart. As a part of the working group they are known for their size, quick learning, and strength.

They are known to be calm. Good natured, and have strong personalities. All of which are important on the trail. Having a dog that’s easy to walk with will make your hiking experience much better.

They have a medium energy level which is suitable for medium length hikes. Since, they are so big it is important to make sure your dog is well rested and gets plenty of breaks. You won’t want to carry him the last half mile.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are best suited for hikes in cool weather due to their double coat. They might shed all over your house, but they’ll stay warm on the trails in fall and winter.

Overall, you’ll enjoy your time on the trail with a Bernese Mountain Dog and they’ll be excited to get out there with you. Make sure to check that the conditions aren’t too warm and keep an eye on them to make sure they have enough energy to make it through the hike.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever is the most popular dog according to the American Kennel Club rankings, and for good reason. They are high energy dogs that are just the right size. They generally have a pleasant temperament and are usually a very healthy easy to care for breed.

Labradors are known to be good family dogs, friendly and outgoing. Most labs will get along well with other dogs which is a huge plus on the trail. Their active personalities make them fun to bring along. Coupled with their friendly and outgoing nature they are one of the most pleasant breeds to spend the day with.

Labrador’s have a high energy level and should be able to make it through a hike with no issues. Make sure to let them exercise and prepare before the hike no matter how much energy they have. They are a very manageable size, but are still big and strong enough to carry a decent sized pack. Their double coat sheds during the summer months and allows them to stay comfortable on cool or warm hikes.

Labradors are great dogs to hike with. They’ll bring a smile to the face of every hiker you pass, but most importantly they’ll make your hike more fun. They are a great friend to have on the trail and one of the best dogs for hiking.

Siberian Husky

Another beautiful dog on our list is the Siberian Husky. Huskies make great companions with energy levels to make it through your hike and a temperament to keep things fun and exciting. They’re at home in cool weather, and as part of the working group they won’t mind splitting the load with a pack of their own – they’re just relieved it’s lighter than pulling a sled.

See also: Best Dog Backpack: Find the Perfect Pack for Your Canine

They are known to be very loyal dogs and with their outgoing personality they will bring a smile to the hikers you pass and make sure to keep you having fun on the trail. They are alert, but very rarely aggressive. You should keep an eye on your husky though. They are known to be on the mischievous side, but I think that makes the hike a little more exciting.

Huskies are slightly smaller than average, but pack plenty of energy and strength. Their size makes them very manageable on the trial, but still allows them to be big and strong enough to get around most tough terrains.

They have enough energy to make it through most hikes without getting tired but it is still important to make sure they exercise and use that energy on the days you don’t hike. They are at home in cold weather due to their thick coats. A Husky’s coat may require some extra grooming and brushing.

Huskies make great hiking companions and will keep your hike fun and exciting. Make sure to check the conditions to spot an extra hot day. They’ll keep you active on the trail and might even bump up your pace a little bit.

Portuguese Water Dog

Working group dog’s make up much of this list with the Portuguese Water Dog being another addition to the group. They smart and athletic. Their personality and energy levels will make your hike easy. They’re strong enough to carry a light pack, and will love being able to let their adventurous side out on the trail.

Portuguese Water Dogs are among the smartest breeds around. The American Kennel Club describes them as an A student. Their affectionate personality will make them pleasant to have on the trail and if you’re lucky they’ll show their adventurous side. Their overall personality makes them well suited to make your hike a more enjoyable experience.

They are a high energy dog just like a Lab or Husky and will be able to make it through most hikes with no problem. They love being outside and need all the exercise they can get.

They are a very reasonable size. They will be easy to manage on the trail while still being strong enough to carry a pack and get around with no issues. While their coat is hypoallergenic, it does require regular maintenance. They will do best in moderate temperatures so make sure to check beforehand.

You’ll have a great time on the trail with a Portuguese Water Dog. They’re smart and adventurous, and will keep you active with their high energy levels. They might even like being outdoors more than you.


The Vizsla is our first addition to the list coming from the sporting group. They have a great personality for hiking and love being outdoors. They’ll stay be your side despite their uncontrollable excitement. They’re not the most popular dog on our list, but they come in right behind the Bernese Mountain Dog at number 33, according to the American Kennel Club. You’ll be almost as eager to get on the trail as they are.

Vizsla’z have an excellent personality. They are very gentle and affectionate dogs so you’ll never have to worry about them on the trail, and you’re bound to have a good time walking with them. They’re smart enough to learn their boundaries and will be pleasant to walk despite the high energy levels and eager personality. They’re excitement on the trail is infectious.

They are a medium size dog and have incredibly high energy levels. While their high energy might make them a lot to manage sometimes, you’ll appreciate never having to carry them at the end of a long hike. At the smaller end of the medium scale they are a very easy size to control and make easy work of any terrain.

Their short coat is best suited to warmer climates and requires very little grooming and maintenance. Vizsla’s are a great dog to have around on the trail. You’ll love your time with them and they’ll love you for getting them out and exercising. A Vizsla will definitely keep you in shape.

Border Collie

The Border Collie is a great family dog and our first addition from the herding group. They’re smart enough to make your life easy on the trail, while still maintaining enough energy to make it through the hike. They have a great temperament for being around people and their unmistakable markings make them one of the more beautiful dogs on the list. Border Collies are well suited to split your load on the trail.

Known for being a remarkably smart dog, the Border Collie will quickly learn their boundaries on the trail. They are very easy to hike with and will routinely check on you to see how it’s going.

They are affectionate and make friends with anyone they meet. They have enough endurance to make it through a hike and then some so you’ll rarely have to worry about your Border Collie tiring out before you do.

While their long coat can bear beautiful markings, it can also very easily pick up dirt and debris while on a hike. They require some daily brushing, but if cared for properly, their coat will stay beautiful throughout their life. They’ll prefer moderate temperatures, but will do alright on cool days.

Border Collies are among the smartest companions to take on your hike (your hiking buddies included). You’ll have a great time with your caring friend.

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are also from the herding group and share many similarities with the Border Collie. They are smart dogs and will love being able to expend a little bit of their extra energy out on the trail. They make great companions and will love every second of being outside and exploring.

The Australian Shepherd is one of the best dogs for hiking because they are so smart. They will quickly learn the dos and don’ts of the trail and will make your life easy. Their exuberant personality makes for lots of excitement and occasional surprises. They also have a work oriented attitude and will not mind splitting the load with a pack of their own. In fact, they might even prefer it that way.

They share more similarities with Border Collies when it comes to their size. They are also on the small side of medium. Their high energy levels will be able to make it through a hike or three.

Australian Shepherds will have no problem making it through any trail you. They’ll be ready to go again as soon as you get home. They have a thick coat that has great water resistant properties, but will require regular brushing. They are best suited for moderate climates.

Australian Shepherds make some of the best hiking companions. You will never regret bringing them along. Unless, maybe, they wear you out too early.

Australian Cattle Dog

Our final addition to the list from the herding group is the Australian Cattle Dog. They have a very good personality for hiking and will undoubtedly make you smile on the trail. They share many similarities to the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie, but are significantly less popular dogs. According to the American Kennel Club they are only the 58th most popular breed.

Their personalities are infectious on the trail and are sure to make you smile. They are alert dogs and will stay aware of their surroundings on the trail. Their alertness accompanied with their curious nature can lead to some excitement with them pointing out animals in the brush that you may not have even noticed. They have a very pleasant demeanor and will be affectionate to you and the hikers you pass.

Their similarities with the other herding group dogs continue past their personalities. They are a very similar size. Again, just on the small side of the medium dogs. This will make them easy to manage, but still big enough to make it through rough terrain and carry a decent pack.

Their energy levels aren’t quite as extreme as an Australian Shepherd, but they will be able to make it through the trail before they slow down. Their coats are shorter and they only require occasional grooming. Australian Cattle Dogs will make great hiking companions and will keep your hikes fresh and exciting.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are our only addition from the hound group. They have a very unique “ridge” of hair along their back that is formed by hair running in the opposite direction. It is usually clearly defined and helps them stand out among other breeds. They’re larger than most of the dogs on the list and that can lead to them tiring out sooner.

They have pleasant personalities and will be affectionate once you get to know them. They generally keep their composures and are easy to train. Their even temper can spare you from many headaches on the trail. They definitely won’t slow you down to meet strangers as they are usually fairly reserved until you get a chance to know them. They’ll make a very mellow companion for a nice relaxing hike.

They are larger dogs and only fall behind Bernese Mountain Dogs on this list. Rhodesian Ridgebacks must be large because they were originally bred to be used for lion hunting. They maintain a reasonable energy level and may need a break or two during longer hikes.

They are big enough, however, to carry a decent sized pack. Their coats are very short and only require occasional brushing. They are best suited for warmer climates.

They will make a great hiking companion, and despite the fact that they’re not the most popular they’ll be a great friend. You’ll always have a nice mellow hike with a Rhodesian Ridgeback around.

Mixed Breeds

Mixed breeds are by far the most popular dogs to own in the US. It’s always good to rescue a dog from a shelter. It’s hard to make a definitive column on mixed breed, but they are generally known to have the most even temperaments and to have the least health problems.

In order to determine if your mixed breed is good for hiking ask the kennel or shelter if they know the breeds. If not, a fun way to find out is through a DNA test. They can be done online and will give an accurate representation of your dog’s make up. You can do some research based on your results. The best hiking canine friends are usually strong, smart, and athletic.

Check out more hiking safety tips for you and your companion in our article on this important topic.

So which dog will you take for hitting the trail?

You never need a specific dog breed for hiking, but it is important to know your dog’s limitations based on their breed. Some small dogs will struggle and tire out easily while the same can be said for large dogs. It is important to be prepared when on the trail with your dog. Often times being prepared and taking proper care of your dog means more than the dog’s breed. For more tips on backpacking with your doggy friends, check out our article on this wonderful topic.

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Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!