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Tails on Trails: Our Top 10 Memorable Hikes with Pets

Memorable Hikes with Gatsby at Ruby Peak

Hiking with our furbags is one of our favorite activities. Seeing their tails wagging and hearing their loud purrs is the most incredible feeling a pet parent can have.

Through the years, we’ve had some memorable hikes with pets. From the peak of a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado to a stroll through an old-growth forest in Pennsylvania. We’ve had quite a few adventures with our four-legged companions.

Here, we’re reviewing our top 10 most memorable hikes with our furbags. Who knows, it might inspire you to grab your canine companion and head outdoors!

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1. Mt. Herman Colorado: A Scramble To Remember

Memorable hikes with Gatsby, Robyn, Jarrod at Mt. Herman

Mt. Herman is the prominent peak that dominates the Monument and Palmer Lake area in Colorado. It stands at 9,063 feet and is located in the Rampart Range, separating Denver from Colorado Springs.

We ended up hiking Mt. Herman twice once on purpose and once by accident…This happy little accident made Mt. Herman one of the most memorable hikes with our original furbag, Gatsby.

Gatsby’s First Summit Of Mt. Herman

For those who don’t know, we adopted Gatsby when he was around eight years old. We were told he was returned twice and rescued from the euthanasia list. We brought him home at the end of January 2019, hoping for a dog we could take hiking on our adventures in Colorado.

After a few preliminary walks and short hikes, we were confident this was the adventure dog we’d been dreaming of. Gatsby was a trooper and loved the adventure life, so we thought we’d explore somewhere new!

At this point, we decided to tackle Mt. Herman. It was his first summit hike, but still easy at 2.2 miles roundtrip. We conquered it with no problem, and Gatsby loved the entire experience. Don’t worry, Gatsby, we’ll be back! We just won’t realize it until we reach the summit…

Gatsby’s Accidental Second Summit

Gatsby looking out from the summit of Mt. Herman

Not even a month later, we were exploring somewhere new—Limbaugh Canyon. At least, that’s what we thought we were doing. There were many intersecting trails, and we were enjoying the outdoors, meandering from one trail to the next without looking at a map.

Before we knew it, we were on a trail, gaining some serious elevation. We kept saying we’d go a little further, just to ‘see where it goes.’ Gatsby was climbing right alongside us, determined as ever to keep up with his humans.

For the next 0.4 miles, we climbed nearly 800 feet of elevation! At one point, we even ran into a rope that had been placed to help hikers climb the steep hillside. As we neared the top, we realized it looked familiar—Mt. Herman! Since we came from the other side of the mountain, we only realized where we were when we saw the little yellow flag at the summit.

Gatsby wasn’t too happy with us, especially when he realized we had to go back down the same way since that was where our car was parked! Nonetheless, we made it back safely, and Gatsby got a pup cup to make up for the ridiculous hike we just took him on.

2. Mt. Evans (Mt. Blue Sky) – Rocky Mountains Colorado

Gatsby Jarrod and Robyn at the summit of Mt. Blue Sky (Mt. Evans)

Mt. Evans (Now Mt. Blue Sky) was another adventure mishap with Gatsby. This 14er is located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, west of Denver. Colorado Department of Transportation highlights a 49-mile drive along a scenic byway that leads directly to the summit. But we’ve never been into driving to the summit!

To enjoy a 14er (Summit above 14,000 feet) in Colorado, you must get up early. This helps you avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms that often hit in the summer. So, we woke Gatsby up, left our apartment around 3 am, and made it to the parking lot around 5:30 am.

It was still dark, so we got our gear together inside the vehicle and headed out at first light. The trail was well-marked initially, and we were all excited to start a new adventure. This was Gatsby’s first 14er!

Where Did The Trail Go? 

As we continued along, things started to get rough. There was some major scrambling up and down rocks, and it got to the point where we had to lift Gatsby up and down because it was too high for him to jump.

Were we on the right trail? Other hikers were doing the same thing, so we figured we must be on the right path. However, at one point, we decided to turn around because Gatsby was frightened of being hoisted up and over the rocks.

We were still determined to bag this peak but figured we would find another way. We returned to our vehicle to regroup and let Gatsby de-stress.

The Steepest Path? We’ll Take It!

Our intention from here was to walk up the closed road to the summit. It was only 5 miles – well within our wheelhouse, and Gatsby was ready to try again. We started walking along the road, enjoying the views, when something caught our eye on the steep hillside to our right – a photographer and a trail!

The daunting hillside facing us was steep, heading straight up to Mt. Blue Sky in a direct line. The photographer was about halfway up the hill taking photos of some Ptarmigans. Jarrod and I looked at each other, then at Gatsby. He gave us a little tail wag that we took as approval and started towards the trail.

It was 0.6 miles of grueling uphill climbing. Still, we ended up seeing the ptarmigans, which Gatsby was very interested in, and we made it to the windy summit of Mt. Blue Sky!

Trend Setters

Jarrod and Gatsby walking down the road at Mt. Blue Sky (Mt. Evans)

At the summit, we met some hikers who had summited from the trail we initially tried. They explained that we had been on the wrong path and accidentally set a few other hikers behind us on the wrong trail as well!

Oops.

When we returned to the car, the lot was packed with folks who had expected to drive to the summit, only to find the road closed early for the winter season. We sat in the back of the car with the hatch open, sipping on our summit beers around 10 am.

People wearing boat shoes and flip-flops walked around us, disappointed at not being able to reach the peak. One guy even stopped in front of us and said, “You look comfortable.” We said, “Yeah, we’re just celebrating our summit.”

He looked at the top of the mountain, back at us, and then at his watch. He just raised his eyebrows and moved on. It was one of the most memorable hikes with Gatsby and certainly one of our proudest ascents.

3. Square Top Mountain: Views For Days

Jarrod Robyn Gatsby at square top mountain

There is a pattern here—we hiked Square Top Mountain two times, too! Luckily, Gatsby only had to endure it once, as we didn’t have him the first time we hiked it. Square Top Mountain is a bit further west than Mt. Blue Sky and is at 13,794 feet elevation.

What made this one of our most memorable hikes was our bonding time with Gatsby. He was a reactive dog, but Square Top was so desolate that he got to run wild and free the entire hike. He waded in an alpine lake, saw the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and summited his first 13er.

He got his summit bone while we had our summit beers, and he slept the whole rest of the day. Jarrod and I will never forget that day.

If you’d like to hike this amazing mountain with your pup, check out our guide to hiking Square Top Mountain.

4. North Catamount Reservoir: A Solo Hike

Robyn and Gatsby at North Catamount Reservoir

Gatsby and I did a solo hike at the North Catamount Reservoir when Jarrod visited his dad in Texas. It was the first hike I did with just Gatsby and me, and I was looking forward to bonding time with that ‘little’ furbag (he was 80 pounds!).

This hike was a special time that I’ll never forget. It was a 9-mile hike, approaching Gatsby’s (and mine!) upper limit. It was one of the most gorgeous hikes we’ve ever done. The trail wound around the entire North Catamount Reservoir, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop.

We saw owls and hawks, skittering chipmunks and squirrels, turtles, and fish. The views were secondary to Gatsby’s wagging tail and lolling tongue. Surprisingly, we didn’t get lost or take any wrong turns on this hike! Nonetheless, it was still one of the top ten most memorable hikes.

We have a fantastic guide to hiking Catamount Reservoir. It is well worth the drive and your furry friend will love it!

5. Raspberry Mountain: A Pleasant Surprise

Jarrod and Gatsby at the summit of Raspberry Mountain

We didn’t realize it until we moved back to Pennsylvania, but we did a lot of hiking in Colorado! Raspberry Mountain is located just west of the Catamount Reservoirs, which you can see from the summit.

We liked Raspberry Mountain so much that we hiked it twice—both times with Gatsby. When we started the hike, we weren’t really expecting fantastic views at the top—the summit is only 10,605 feet, which is pretty low as far as Colorado Summits go.

The trail winds you through lush pine forests over rocky paths. The dense thicket makes it challenging to see any good views. But, as we exited the forest for the summit, we were rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. This pleasant surprise made the trek one of the most memorable hikes.

Tent Worm City

Another reason this hike was so memorable was that Jarrod got covered in tent worms! While hiking through part of the forest, Jarrod stumbled into what he thought was a spider web. He brushed it off; no big deal.

A few steps later, he felt something crawling on his neck and then on his arms. He stopped, and I took a good look at him and noticed about 30 tiny tent worms were covering him! Luckily, neither of us is too squeamish, so we simply picked them off and went about our hike.

Jarrod had phantom worms on him the rest of the hike as he occasionally brushed his arms and head, thinking it was another worm. Gatsby’s indifference to the entire situation made it all the more hilarious.

6. Mt. Sniktau Sunrise Hike

Robyn and a sleepy Gatsby huddled in a blanket atop Mt. Sniktau

Mt. Sniktau is located near Loveland Pass, one of my absolute favorite places in Colorado. It’s a long and winding road off Route 70 that leads to a parking lot at over 11,000 feet in elevation. 

Jarrod and I decided we wanted to do a sunrise hike up Mt. Sniktau, but we were a little weary of getting up at 1 am to drive there. Instead, we decided to drive there that evening, sleep in the car, and hike to the top to catch the sunrise.

Sounds reasonable, right?

A Crowded Backseat Bed

The night was beautiful. Parked at 11,000 feet with a clear sky, it was like looking into the center of the Universe. A few other stargazers were in the parking lot, sharing in the breathtaking view. As it got later, we decided to grab some sleep before trekking to the summit for the sunrise.

At the time, we drove a Kia Niro hybrid – a tiny SUV. We folded the seats, put down some sleeping pads and blankets, and settled down.

Kind of…

We quickly learned that we should have tested this out beforehand. We were smooshed together in the back, unable to move, and suffering from sulfur overload (Gatsby had legendary toots). Overall, we only got about an hour or two of sleep before we had to get up for the hike.

The Sunrise

Gatsby looking at the sun rise from the summit of Mt. Sniktau

We hiked the trail in the dark with our headlamps. Gatsby trotted out before us, wondering why we were awake at this hour when he would much prefer to be sleeping at home in his bed.

1.5 miles later and 1,500 feet of elevation gain later, we reached the summit with time to spare. We got out our portable burner and propane and started making coffee. Meanwhile, Gatsby grumpily lay down, indulging us and our hobby of climbing steep hills ridiculously early in the morning.

As the coffee finished and we took our first sip, the sun peaked over the horizon, burning the top of the surrounding mountain peaks in a fiery red glow. Even Gatsby took in the views as if sensing the awe-inspiring moment. It was one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever been on, and still my personal favorite hike of all time.

7. St. Mary’s Glacier & James Peak

Robyn and Gatsby hiking James Peak

This 8-mile trek was the most unique hike we’ve ever done in Colorado. We brought our boy Gatsby with us, but luckily, the trailhead was only an hour and forty-five minutes away, so we didn’t have to wake up at 2 am, which he appreciated.

We weren’t really sure what to expect for this hike. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier before, and we were curious if we had to hike up it or what tools we would need, if any. So, as per the usual, we winged it.

I’m glad we did because it ended up being one of the most memorable hikes of all time.

A Gorgeous Alpine Lake

Jarrod and Gatsby on the shore of St. Mary's Lake

To kick things off, we were the only ones on the trail. We meandered around a rocky 4×4 road meant for ATVs and jeeps. As we approached the half-mile mark, the trail opened up into a beautiful lake, St. Mary’s Lake, which the glacier feeds into.

We drank in the views of the glacier above the lake, gave Gatsby a few extra pets, and continued on the trail.

Hiking A Glacier

Jarrod and Gatsby hiking up St. Mary's Glacier

As we continued along the trail, it became apparent that we would have to hike up the glacier to reach James Peak. We stood at the glacier’s base and put on our ice cleats, marveling at this huge snowfield before us in the middle of June.

We started up the glacier, glad we had the foresight to bring our trekking poles and ice cleats. We traversed a snow and ice field for the next quarter mile, slowly gaining elevation. Gatsby was an absolute trooper and scaled the glacier much easier than we did!

We reached the top and marveled at what we had accomplished. However, we weren’t even a mile into the hike yet! We still had over three miles to go, so we grabbed a drink of water and continued.

A Chilly Summit

A few more miles and snowfields later, we reached the 13,294-foot summit of James Peak. It. Was. COLD. We hiked 14ers in the summer before, but for some reason, it was extra chilly on the summit. 

We huddled in one of the rock alcoves to escape the biting wind, drank our summit beers, and gave Gatsby his summit bone (Nature Gnaws!). We took some photos but didn’t linger too long because it was so cold.

A Crowded Descent

We headed off the mountain and back towards the glacier to finish the hike. When we reached the glacier, we were shocked – hundreds of people were on the glacier and around the lake area!

We found out that this is an extremely popular area in the summertime. One of the most memorable scenes on our descent was a guy snowboarding down the glacier with his dog bounding after him.

Unfortunately for Gatsby, who was reactive, walking through the crowds was not enjoyable. We never would have dreamed it would be crowded on the way down when we were the sole hikers on the way up! But we returned to the car without incident, and Gatsby promptly fell asleep for the ride home.

8. Ruby Peak: Gatsby’s Last Hoorah

Robyn and Gatsby looking toward Ruby Peak

Ruby Peak is Jarrod’s favorite hike and one of my top three. The hike involved a lot of guesswork, scrambling, and possibly trespassing, but we’re pleading the 5th on that! To this day, we’re still not sure if we were even on a trail when we hiked this mountain. 

Ruby Peak is part of a cluster of mountains known as the Ruby Range in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Its namesake is due to the hues of red found throughout the slopes and summit, along with oranges and yellows, making for a beautifully colored mountain.

There’s not a lot of information about how to hike Ruby Peak. This was our second year in Colorado, and we were determined to see the fall colors from a mountaintop. Ruby Peak was listed as one of the best, so we had to give it a try.

Finding The Trail…Kind Of

Robyn and Gatsby on the side of Ruby Peak

Once again, Gatsby was woken from a peaceful slumber at 2 am to drive to the base of a mountain. Ruby Peak is located all the way out near Gunnison National Forest, about four and a half hours from where we lived in Palmer Lake.

After hours of driving in the dark, we arrived at the Lake Irwin Campground parking lot just after sunrise. The usual trail leading to Ruby Peak is now closed due to landowner disputes, so we sort of just hiked through a field toward the looming ruby-colored mountain ahead of us.

Finding the mountain’s base was an adventure all on its own, and we were glad for the warmup. The scrambling that followed was nothing short of class II climbing.

The Summit

Gatsby on Ruby Peak

At the base of the mountain, there was still no visible trail. We looked at the slope and picked out what we thought looked like the most straightforward way up. 

It was not.

Jarrod scouted ahead while Gatsby and I followed behind, using hands and paws to scramble up the side of this mountain. Finally, as we neared the summit, we found a trail! The trail led us along the ridge of the mountain to the summit, which was one thing that made this one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever done.

The whole reason we went on this hike was to see the famous Colorado Aspens in the Fall. Until we reached the summit, we didn’t see a single yellow leaf. But as we approached the summit and got a glimpse of the Gunnison Forest on the other side of the mountain, our jaws dropped. Our eyes feasted on a gorgeous yellow valley below us with exposed rock cliffs dotting the landscape.

I have never seen a view of the fall colors that rival Ruby Peak.

View of the yellow aspens from the summit of Ruby Peak

A Memorable Descent

Once we drank in the views and our summit beers and, of course, gave Gatsby his summit bone, we were ready to head back to the car. We wanted to use a different path than how we came up the mountain (hopefully an easier one!).

It has to be better on the other side of the mountain, right? Wrong. As we followed what we thought was a trail that would lead us off the hill, we found ourselves literally sliding down the mountainside (sometimes on our butts!) until we reached the bottom.

I don’t think Gatsby ever forgave us for taking him on that hike. Nonetheless, we made it down relatively safely, and Jarrod only has one scar on his hand to remember our class III descent.

Gatsby’s Last Hoorah

Ruby Peak will always hold a special place in our hearts. It was Gatsby’s last big adventure. A month later, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. We removed his spleen, which gave him an additional eight months with us, but his days of waking up at 2 am to hike the Colorado Mountains were over.

Gatsby was our original furbag, and we are so grateful for the memorable hikes we took with him.

9. Forest Cathedral: A Hike Among Giants

Pawdrick beside a big tree on the Forest Cathedral Trail

Forest Cathedral is located in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. We hiked this trail with Gatsby and Pawdrick on two different occasions, which is one of the reasons it was so memorable. Forest Cathedral is the largest old-growth forest in the United States, encompassing over 300 acres!

You can take a more in-depth look at hiking Forest Cathedral here!

Gatsby’s Trundle Through Forest Cathedral

At this point in Gatsby’s life, he had already been diagnosed with cancer and was having some trouble walking. But this dog loved to hike and be outside in the sunshine. 

The trail through Forest Cathedral is about two miles long, so we figured Gatsby could handle it. Toward the end of the trail, Gatsby walked right into a large stream and plopped down—something he always loved to do.

This was one of Gatsby’s last hikes, so it is a time we cherish.

Pawd’s Sprint Through Forest Cathedral

Fast forward about two years to Pawd’s experience at Forest Cathedral. If you know anything about Pawd, you know he only has two speeds: sprint and mild sprint.

While Gatsby’s hike took us about an hour, Pawd and I completed the Forest Cathedral in about 30 minutes. Pawd is less of a fan of water than Gatsby. Still, I got a picture of him in a similar area to where Gatsby stood, and it filled my heart, making this one of the most memorable hikes with our pets.

10. Goose Creek State Park: All Paws On Board

Luna and Pawdrick relaxing at Goose Creek State Park after a hike

Goose Creek State Park is located near Washington, North Carolina. We stopped there while traveling full-time in the van with Pawd, G, and Luna.

The park itself isn’t that remarkable. It’s pretty and worth a stop, but we wouldn’t usually put this on our top ten list. What made it so special was hiking with all three of our furbags.

If you’d like to bring your furry pals here, you can read about the trails at Goose Creek here.

Hiking With Cats

Robyn and G hiking on a trail at Goose Creek State Park

When you think of hiking with cats, it’s probably not a serene picture of a cat walking on a trail, right? It’s a cat darting off-trail, climbing trees, and chasing critters.

We were pleasantly surprised that both G and Luna walked on the trails. It was like they knew where to go! Both cats got to hike out and see the Pamlico Sound (Although neither was thrilled to see so much water!)

After about a mile apiece, the cats were tuckered out and ready to head back to the van. We returned here two days in a row and got to hike with all three pets daily. It was a remarkable experience and one that we’ll never forget!

Memorable Hikes With Pets: Wrap-up Session

Gatsby wading in an alpine lake on Square Top Mountain hike

There you have it! Our top 10 most memorable hikes with our pets. Most of what made these adventures unique was sharing them with our furbags.

Gatsby was always up for adventure as long as he got his summit bone and a comfy bed in the back of the car for the ride home. Pawdrick is like a tornado on three legs – ready to go anywhere as long as he’s with his favorite humans. G and Luna made hiking a short, unassuming trail into the adventure of a lifetime.

Do you hike with your cats or dogs? Have an exciting adventure story to share? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, keep exploring and give your furbag an extra pet from us!

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3 comments

  1. Awe this was special & I didn’t remember Gats being @ Cook Forest! Or the tent worms on Jarrod!

  2. Actually hiked Mount Herman a few years ago, and it was fantastic! Thanks for the informative guide with excellent information.

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