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Candle-lit dinners are nice, but I’ll take a romantic hike with my sweetie over dinner at a stuffy restaurant any day. These five romantic hikes in San Francisco are perfect for strolling hand in hand with your special someone and setting your hearts a fire.

Living in the City by the Bay we are blessed with rolling hills, golden sunsets, and fog shrouded valleys. There are plenty of beautiful views to be had- if you know where to look. Head over to these five special spots that are sure to turn up the sparks with your honey or your hunky Tinder date.

Bernal Heights Hike

The dog-friendly 1-mile loop at Bernal Heights Park is the perfect date for pet owners. Because let’s face it, whether or not your dog likes your date is probably more important than how much you like the date. Bernal Heights is great at any time, but it is especially romantic just after sunset, as the sky turns dark the city slowly lights up below you. Just make sure to bring a flashlight or give yourself plenty of time to hike back down the hill before it gets too dark to see the trail. If the date is going well, you can find a secluded nook at Wild Side West’s dog-friendly, sculpture-filled beer garden or check out the live music at the Lucky Horseshoe’s Sunday Bluegrass jam.

Botanical Garden Stroll

A casual stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Garden is perfect for avid travelers or adventurers. The garden is organized into regions, so you can walk through the Bamboo tunnel in Temperate Asia, the succulent garden of Dry Mexico, or the Andean Cloud Forests or gardens of Chile. Each summer the Botanical Garden has a special event called Flower Piano, where twelve pianos are hidden throughout the park. You can impress your date with your best riff on Chopsticks, or if you’re lucky you just may be treated to a private concert by a classically trained pianist. Whenever you visit, be sure to show your ID at the entrance booth because San Francisco residents get free admission.

A flower from the San Francisco Botanical Garden

North Beach Stairway Walk

San Francisco is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Each time I discover one of the city’s hidden stairways and neighborhood gardens I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a secret. Follow the city’s famous stairways and be inspired by sweeping views and lush private gardens as you walk up to Coit Tower from Levi’s Plaza. This one-mile walk travels from the waterfront to Coit Tower before heading into North Beach. At the end of the day, share something sweet with your sweetie. Order some classic Italian pastries from Mara’s Italian Pastries, then head to the Washington Square park to enjoy the rest of your date.

Lands End Coastal Walk

Between the stunning coastal views, a labryinth perched high on the cliff, and rocky, windswept beaches it is impossible to avoid the romance of Lands End. Bring your hiking shoes because you’ll want to explore every hidden gem on this 3.5 mile hike. After the hike you can explore the Sutro Baths or watch the sunset while sipping a cocktail at the Cliff House Balcony Lounge.

Lands End at low tide

Presidio Hike

Discover something new in the Presidio. Art buffs will love the rustic elegance of the many Andy Goldsworthy sculptures hidden around the park while beach lovers will enjoy strolling across the sandy shoreline at Baker Beach or admiring the dramatic cliffs and rocky shores along park’s western edge. Whether you are strolling through lush Eucalyptus forests, marveling at serpentine bluffs, or admiring the wildflowers and wildlife a hike through the Presidio is a natural conversation starter. You can enjoy all the sights on this 8.7-mile loop, or choose to do a portion of the hike as a smaller out-and-back trek.



If you have a favorite romantic hike we’d love to hear about it!

If this post gave you the feels, you can click below to save it to Pinterest.

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Are you hitting the trail this summer? Here are five helpful lessons I learned from hiking the John Muir Trail that may help you plan your JMT hike.

This article is in honor of those about to hike the 210 miles from Yosemite to Whitney (or vice versa) on the John Muir Trail! Congratulations! You are about to embark on a life changing journey, especially if it is your first time. I was lucky enough to get the full Happy Isles to Whitney Portal permit last year, as well as getting Katie, creator of this website, to come with me.  

If I were to get back on the JMT (and I hope I do since I have 70 miles left to do between MTR and Kearsarge Pass), there are five lessons that I will take to heart that I hope will help you too.

(I don’t get into the nitty-gritty of planning here so if you need advice for getting a permit this is an excellent resource. If you need advice on gear look here. If you need a map, here’s what I used. Want resupply tips? Here you go.)

Lesson 1: Don’t overdo the food 

The most common error people make on the JMT is waaay overdoing it on the food. Some estimates have the daily calorie intake at 3,500 – 5,000 a day, which put me into a food packing panic. From this freakout I now have the super power of identifying the most caloric thing by weight in any store (usually Little Debbie style fruit pies and Combos).

The reality is that most people lose weight on the JMT, which is ok since it is a “short” distance (210 miles pales in comparison to the 2,650 miles of the PCT) and you’ll soon recover what you lost after the hike. However, if you are a longer distance thru-hiker, hypoglycemic, diabetic, underweight, or have some other health concern, please consult your doctor and don’t take any of my advice.

Due to the calorie panic, I overpacked, ironically causing me to burn even more calories carrying the extra food weight. And I wasn’t even that hungry partially due to the elevation, which can suppress appetite.

Compounding things further is that I packed food I was apathetic about at home, which turned to contempt on the trail. I would avoid the calorie dense breakfast bars, Fritos, hot chocolate, tuna, and almond butter, angry at them all for their useless weight. However the stuff I love (guiltily) in real life like ramen, Peanut Butter M&Ms, salami, and cheese were gone way too soon.

Bottomline: Yes, bring food to try to meet your daily calorie goal. No, don’t bring extra on top of that. And definitely don’t bring food unless its tried and true for you. As evidenced by the overflowing buckets of discarded oatmeal and hot chocolate at MTR, you’re not going to want that extra oatmeal or hot chocolate (except I weirdly did want that extra oatmeal; oatmeal worked for me!).

Lesson 2: It’s not a hike, it’s a mind game 

The hardest thing for me was when my mind got involved and not the actual hiking. Hiking is easy if your gear and body are cooperating (but they don’t always, admittedly). The most difficult situations for me were always caused by mental factors.

It is no coincidence that I felt strongest gazing at the mountains ahead on Donohue Pass or soaking in the sublime peace of Virginia Lake. And it is no surprise that the days I felt terrible were spent in burned out or wind torn forests with no inspirational views.

One of the hardest days was after a wonderful zero day spent in Mammoth. Reunited with friends from home who shared a comfortable condo with me and Katie, I was riding high on the fun, not to mention the frequent showers and easily accessible beer.

The high came crashing down the morning we hit the trail southbound from Reds Meadow and immediately started an uphill climb into a sad burned down area of trees. Fortunately, we were inspired after talking to two women around our age going north-bound, the mirror image of us going south-bound. They assured us that there were more amazing things to come.

So, we cut the hike off short for the day and went to bed early. That night’s rest provided a clean slate for us to start stronger, both mentally and physically, the next day.

Lesson 3: This is your hike 

You have to do this for you and no one else. And if you feel like you are doing the hike for someone else, then maybe you should reconsider.

I actually dropped out halfway at Muir Trail Ranch with Katie because we were both feeling unsafe. I couldn’t think about the new friends who were counting on us to continue walking with them, the old friends from home meeting us for resupply, or my dad who flew out from Florida to pick me up at Whitney Portal. I had to push aside those feelings of guilt and end it for me.

What finally ended it was being stuck on a bald hillside crouched in the bushes avoiding lightning strikes for about 45 minutes, not to mention getting soaked by the rain. On top of that, I had already spent a sleepless night in lightning, fallen in a pretty swift stream earlier in the day, and made it through some terrifying crossings across the raging Bear Creek. My confidence was shaken, and with the rumors of melting snow bridges and even more dangerous river crossings to come, I felt I had to stop. The mental toll of feeling unsafe became too much to bear, because remember, this is a mind game.

I’m not an adrenaline junky or risk taker. I’m a librarian. That’s probably what took me out of the game, and is probably why some of my friends do not understand why we left. But I had to hike my hike, and I’m glad I did.

And I hiked my hike when I went back in to do the last 50 miles to summit Whitney. The terrible weather had passed at this point, and felt more confident that I wouldn’t be wiped out by lightning. In a spur of the moment I decided to go back in, supported by Katie who drove me to Onion Valley and walked me up to Kearsarge Pass. When we parted ways, I was so sad, glad to be wearing sunglasses so she couldn’t see my tears, but fortunate that we both recognized we had own individual and separate journeys.

Lesson 4: Don’t overplan (unless it makes you feel better)

I spent at least 48 hours tweaking our itinerary, trying to find the most optimal mileage and spots to stop each day. I revised the revised itinerary, updated it based on up-to-the minute trail reports, and when I was finally done, I printed out the color coded pages and laminated them. I had an idea that there would be things I couldn’t account for, but it just made me feel better to factor in everything I could while at home.

Once on the trail though, there was no way to follow the itinerary due to weather, campsite availability, and most of all, mosquitos. All of these factors forced us into situations where we asked ourselves, “We either hike way more miles into the unknown, stay here in suboptimal conditions, or hike back to a better situation.” Obviously we never hiked back (but I wish I had for at least Rosalie Lake because that was such an idyllic spot!).

And I had to be ok with the unexpected and the unplanned. I took one step at a time, stopping when I need refueling, which sometimes was in the form of a nap (which I strongly recommend).

I became so accustomed to taking things as they are that I re-entered the trail with no firm plan for returning home to San Francisco after Whitney, which leads me to my last lesson…

Lesson 5: Count on the goodness of people

Let’s face it – the JMT is not for those seeking solitude; it is super social. You’ll meet so many people, almost all of them kind and helpful. If there is an unkind or unhelpful person on the JMT, then you get to gossip about them with everyone else.

If you are running low on food, expect someone to want to share something delicious with you. If you are about to cross a dangerous river crossing, very likely someone will be waiting to cross with you (and you should never cross alone anyway!). If you can’t find a campsite, people will invite you to set up your tent next to theirs. And if you need a ride from Lone Pine to home, there just might possibly be someone who will drive you.

Total strangers gave me and Katie a ride from Florence Lake to Mono Hot Springs as we fled the trail. Then another stranger who we had only met days before on the trail invited us to camp with her on her choice Mono Hot Springs campsite AND drove us to Sonora. And when I re-entered the JMT at Kearsarge, another complete stranger chatted with me before I dozed off into another afternoon nap, adopted me as her hiking partner, and did everything except carry me to the top of Whitney. And then she drove me all the way home to San Francisco!  

The fact that I am regularly in touch with three people I met on the JMT proves to me that people are fundamentally good, and that goodness especially shines in difficult situations. I can think of no less difficult situation than hiking 200+ miles in the Sierra. Good luck to you all!


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Want to ditch the stove? Check out my 3-day minimalist meal plan for backpacking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim without a stove.

When I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2017 my menu consisted of homemade dehydrated meals, ramen, instant potatoes, PB&J tortilla “sandwiches,” and oatmeal. I used the freezer bag cooking method to rehydrate all of my hot meals, and while the freezer bags made clean-up a breeze I felt extremely wasteful every time I threw one of them away. And since I was going through 2-3 Ziploc freezer bags a day I was producing a lot of trash!

I’ve been searching for a more earth-friendly cooking option. I’ve ditched the plastic bags and now use a reusable take-out food container to rehydrate my meals (the bowl is flat enough to lick clean, it has a lid, and it fits perfectly in my food cozy!).

But, I’m still not satisfied! I’m once again re-vamping my menu and backpacking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim without a stove.

Why I’m Choosing to Go Stoveless

Blistering summer temperatures and early morning wake-up calls are my main reasons for ditching the stove. Temperatures at the bottom of the Grand Canyon often soar over 100 degrees during the day, and after hiking in the blazing sun the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove (or eat a hot meal)! While many minimalist backpackers would survive on jerky, bars, nuts, and dried fruit, I’m choosing to indulge in wraps and other savory meals that feature fresh, wholesome ingredients.

While some of these food items may be heavier and bulkier than the traditional dehydrated meals, not having to carry a pot, stove, and fuel means that I have extra room for food! I’ve also chosen to use fresh ingredients like sun-dried tomato, tortillas, spinach, and avocado to make the meals extra delicious while reducing the amount of ingredients I need to carry.


Our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hiking Route

I’m a big fan of slow hikes that allow plenty of time to take in the scenery and can accommodate side trips. Because this is probably a once in a lifetime trip we chose to spend two nights and three days hiking the Grand Canyon. We start our hike on the South Kaibab Trail and spend the first night camping at the Bright Angel campground. The second night we will camp at Cottonwood before ascending the North Kaibab Trail on our third day. Temperatures at the bottom of the canyon can reach over 100 degrees, so you need to make sure that you don’t carry food that will spoil (and it is the main reason that I planned to eat my spinach on day 1 and save the avocado for day 2!).

My Backpacking Menu

Day 1:

Breakfast at the Maswik Lodge before starting hike at 7am. (Breakfast consisted of a muffin, an apple, and coffee from the hotel coffeemaker.)

Lunch: Mediterranean wrap with Casbah instant hummus, sun-dried tomato, tortilla, and spinach.

Dinner: Chicken wrap with Ranch dressing, spinach, and bacon bits.

Day 2

Breakfast at Phantom Ranch (Breakfast is served family style and must be reserved in advance. Breakfast at Phantom Ranch was one of the highlights of the hike!)

Lunch: Tuna Salad wraps with tortilla, sun-dried tomatoes, Sunkist Tuna Salad pouch (2), and avocado

Dinner: Cold-soak Dr. McDougall’s brand or Sam’s Choice quinoa or couscous salad and top with leftover avocado. (These mixes are pre-seasoned all you need to do is add cold water to the dry ingredients approximately 3 hours before you want to eat)

Day 3

Breakfast: Bagel with 2 packets of Barney Butter’s Espresso Almond Butter and 2 packets of Bonne Maman jam

Special Snack (in case the Barney’s Butter doesn’t have enough caffeine!): Carnation Instant Breakfast and Starbucks Via

Lunch: nuts and dried fruit in case I need an extra boost (you’ll want to start hiking before the sun rises to avoid the heat)

Other items: snacks and supplements for all 3 days

Snacks: Beef jerky or salami, chips, trail mix, granola bars

Electrolytes or Gatorade powder

Other items: salt, pepper, and olive oil to spice up meals when needed

My Shopping List

This shopping list will feed two hungry hikers. (Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links. Purchasing products through these links won’t cost you any additional money, but they do help me earn a few pennies to cover the website maintenance fees.)

Mission Tortilla Wraps – 6 count (I chose the Spinach Herb flavor)

2 packets Sunkist Tuna Salad

1 packet pre-cooked chicken (one packet feeds two people)

Shelf-stable Ranch dressing (or the Buffalo and Barbecue sauces from Chick-fil-A are great!)

1 avocado

1 packet sun-dried tomatoes

Large handful of fresh spinach packed in a ziploc bag

Bacon bits

Casbah Instant Hummus (one box feeds two people)

Dr. McDougall’s brand quinoa or couscous salad (one per person), or one packet of Sam’s Choice Bulgar (this will feed 2 people)

Bagels (the store-bought kind like Sara Lee or Thomas’ brand bagels)

Barney Butter’s Espresso Almond Butter

Jam packets

Starbucks Via

Carnation Instant Breakfast (2 packets)

Seasonings: salt, pepper, olive oil (I store my olive oil in a plastic airline-sized booze bottle)

Your favorite snack items including: beef jerky, chips, trail mix, granola bars, nuts and dried fruit

Gatorade powder


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These scenic dog-friendly hiking trails near San Francisco promise to be a big hit with your four-legged hiking companion. All of the trails on this list are within a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The dog-friendly hikes range from easy jaunts to challenging workouts.

Lands End Coastal Trail

Tourists flock to the Lands End Coastal Trail for views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, but dogs love this trail too! Many people choose to do this hike as a shorter out-and-back hike, but active dogs love the varied terrain in this 3.5-mile loop. The dirt path begins at Sutro Baths and hikers pass by several scenic viewpoints before discovering Mile Rock Beach, traversing through groves of Eucalyptus, and winding through a hidden historic battery.


Sutro Baths and Lands End is a great dog-friendly hiking trail in San Francisco

Cataract Falls

The dog-friendly, six-mile Cataract Falls hike near Mount Tamalpais is a waterfall wonderland. This is a stair-stepping, butt-busting challenging trail that rewards visitors with over 2-miles of waterfalls. The trail follows Cataract Creek as it cascades down Mount Tamalpais and flows into Alpine Lake. This is a pleasant hike year-round, but its full beauty unfurls in the wet months. In winter and spring the ferns are lush, trees are fuzzy with moss, the waterfalls gush, and wildflowers are abundant. As the year progresses the vegetation recoils and the Maple trees glow with autumn hues.


Sweeney Ridge

On a clear day Sweeney Ridge offers hikers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and the stunning coastline and Pacific Ocean. This challenging 7.2-mile ridgeline walk in Pacifica also features a Nike Missile site and the San Francisco Bay Discovery site. The trail is a mix of steep gravel fire roads, paved paths, and narrow single-tracks that traverse through the coastal scrub. Depending on the season, hikers may even be lucky enough to see a rabbit or two dart across the trail. Hikers can access the trail via several different trailheads, but my personal favorite is the entrance behind Shelldance Orchid Gardens.

Dog-friendly hiking trail Sweeney Ridge in Pacifica, California.



Water Dog Lake

There are always happy hiking dogs on this 3.6-mile trail in Belmont. This easily customizable route consists of two loops. The shorter inner loop is a heavily forested trail that follows the shoreline of Water Dog Lake in the lower canyon. While many owners allow their dogs to swim in the pond, the water can be mossy and green and may not be healthy for dogs. It is still enjoyable to sit on the bench or walk the short pier and watch the ducks swimming.

The sunny outer loop (Lake Loop Trail and John Brooks Trail) is a wide trail popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. The trail winds along the upper part of the canyon and gets a fair bit of sun and can get quite hot in the summer months. While portions of the outer loop are shaded, the majority of the trail does not have shade.


Devil’s Slide Trail

Is whale watching with your dog your idea of the perfect afternoon? Then head to Devil’s Slide Trail for an easy 3.5 miles out-and-back coastal walk. The dog-friendly paved path hidden between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay is popular with both walkers and bicyclists. With epic views year round, the Devil’s Slide Trail that runs along the old Hwy 1 is the perfect place for whale watching on a clear day. The trail sits high above the bluffs and walkers are treated to stunning views and the soothing sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below. On a sunny day you might be lucky enough to spot a migrating Grey or Humpback whale breaching or showing off its flukes as it dives deep into the ocean. The many benches scattered along the path make this the perfect place to rest, enjoy the views, and soak up a bit of sun.

Cute dog taking in the view at the Devil's Slide Trail near Pacifica, California.


You can use our Trail Finder to search for more dog-friendly trails in the San Francisco Bay Area. And if you need tips for hiking with your dog we have that too! What are you waiting for? Take your best buddy on a nature-filled hiking adventure!

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Wondering what to pack for your first backpacking trip? This basic packing list for beginner backpackers has the essential gear to make your first backpacking trip a success.

Hiking and backpacking are two of my favorite things in the world. While I’ve always enjoyed hiking it took me a bit longer to get into backpacking. I resisted backpacking for a long time simply because I didn’t understand how it worked. I thought that backpacking involved carrying all of my car camping gear on my back- it sounded awful! When I finally understood that backpacking required new gear I tried to purchase everything as cheaply as possible. I wasn’t concerned about how heavy my pack was because I was only going out for one night at a time.

I traded my large 6-person tent for a smaller 2-person Coleman tent, I bought a synthetic 20-degree mummy bag, and I borrowed a backpack, stove, and water filter. The rest of my gear I cobbled together from what I already had available. I used an inflatable swimming pool floaty for my sleeping pad, I brought a spoon and fork from my cutlery drawer, and a small flashlight (I didn’t know about headlamps yet!). It wasn’t until I started backpacking on a regular basis that I began upgrading my gear.

But, it still took a while before I felt confident in my gear choices. The amount of gear that I thought I needed to be a “real backpacker” was overwhelming and expensive, and finding the gear that worked for me took a lot of trial and error. I bought a lot of gear that I ended up not using because I found that cheaper “hacks” worked just as well, or better than, the expensive, carefully engineered ultra-lightweight equipment. More importantly, I learned what equipment was worth the investment (tent, sleeping bag, and backpack), what equipment can be shared (water filter, stove), and what equipment can be hacked, multi-purposed, or bought inexpensively (sleeping pad, cutlery and kitchen essentials, and water bottles).

The items on my packing list are the items that I now confidently carry with me every time I backpack. They are my go-to items that I’m a bit lost without. (Want this list as an easy download? Scroll to the bottom of this post and sign up to receive my Essential Packing List for Beginning Backpackers.)





Here’s what I have in my bag whether I’m backpacking for one day or 10 days.

What do you have on your gear list? Have you developed any hacks to multi-purpose or replace expensive gear? Join our private Facebook group for women who are new to backpacking or backcountry adventures and share your gear list or learn more about backpacking and backcountry adventures. Come say hello!

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Being prepared doesn’t require you to carry a heavy pack or buy a bunch of expensive gear. Here’s what I consider to be essential gear for day hikers–gear that could help save your life.

When I was new to hiking I’d often hit the trail with nothing but a water bottle. I soon upgraded to carrying a backpack, but for many years, my backpack was just a convenient way to transport my water, snacks, and sweatshirt. It took being locked in a state park after hours to make me realize that I was woefully unprepared.

In the end, everything turned out okay. The volunteer park ranger had left a note on my car windshield with the code to unlock the padlock on the main gate, and I wasn’t hurt, only embarrassed that I was the “irresponsible hiker” who didn’t leave the park before closing time. But, that experience made me realize that I needed to be self-sufficient, especially when hiking alone.

There are no guarantees that if I got hurt someone would come looking for me. Even though I was relatively close to civilization, I was still far enough away that I didn’t have cell service. And, since the main gates to the park were locked, the chances of encountering another hiker on the trail was pretty slim. To make things worse, I had told my boyfriend that I was going hiking, but I never bothered to mention exactly where I was going. Suddenly, it hit me, if I had twisted my ankle, fell down an embankment, or got lost I would have had no other option but to try to survive overnight in the wilderness. And it would have been a pretty miserable night with only a granola bar, half a bottle of water, and an old sweatshirt!

That experience made me completely re-think what I carry in my backpack. I realized that I was severely lacking some essential gear that could help save my life if I ever got stranded in the wilderness again. I didn’t need to buy a bunch of expensive, fancy gear. All of the items in my bag are lightweight and relatively cheap. And aside from the snacks and water, everything lives in my backpack 24/7, and gives me great peace of mind.

The items on this list are what I consider to be essential gear for day hikers, and I would never leave home without each of these items in my pack. Here’s what’s in my bag (full disclosure: some of these are affiliate links, but I’ve only listed items that I personally use and trust):

  1. SOL Emergency Bivvy

The SOL Emergency Bivvy is basically a foil blanket, but better. If you need to spend the night outside you can wrap it around you, or you can crawl inside it and use it as a sleeping bag. The shiny material inside will reflect your body heat and keep you warm while the waterproof outside will keep you dry. If you get lost in the woods you can use the reflective material to signal for help. The best part is that this packs up super small, weighs less than 4 ounces, and costs around $10.

  1. Fleece jacket or other warm layers

Weather in the Bay Area changes constantly so I always have a cheap fleece hoodie and a knit beanie in my bag. You can choose to pack whatever warm layers you like, but whatever you do, avoid bringing a sweatshirt or other cotton clothing. Aside from weighing more than a fleece, a cotton sweatshirt takes a long time to dry and isn’t a very heat efficient, so that sweatshirt can end up making you cold when you really need to stay warm.

  1. Water and snacks

I’ve been on many hiking trips where I end up giving water to people who haven’t brought enough. I always carry more water than I think I need, and if I’m attempting a strenuous hike on a hot day I fill my 3-liter Camelback water bladder to the brim before hitting the trail. I also always carry a Life Straw in my emergency kit. The Life Straw is small, personal water filter that safely purifies questionable freshwater sources. It’s like a straw that lets you drink directly from the lake or stream. Since it costs only $15 and weighs only 2 ounces the Life Straw is a no brainer!

You can’t survive on water alone! That’s why I always pack some extra snacks just in case I need an extra boost or my hike takes longer than planned. Trail mix, dried fruit, and beef jerky are some of my favorite hiking snacks.

  1. Basic first aid kit

I bought this basic first aid kit for $2.50 and then beefed it up with a few additional items. My first aid kit includes an assortment of bandages, a pair of tweezers, Advil, antiseptic wipes, and some hand sanitizer wipes. If you’re hiking with dogs you can check out this article for tips on how to build a dog-friendly first aid kit.

  1. Whistle

The sound of a whistle is louder and carries further than the human voice. If you fall down an embankment or get stuck in a place where you aren’t easily seen by other hikers the sound of a whistle will alert any hikers in the area. (You should blow the whistle three times and then listen for a response. If there is no response try again.) I personally carry this lightweight emergency whistle that costs less than $4. But, before you go out and buy a whistle take a look at your pack, some backpacks have a whistle built into the chest strap.

  1. Light

I prefer a headlamp, but a flashlight works just as well. These Coast headlamps have three levels of bright light and a mellow red light setting. What’s better is that you can get two headlamps for only $25. After each hike I check the batteries to make sure that they are always bright.

  1. Pocket Knife

I can’t believe how much use I’ve gotten out of this small Gerber pocket knife. Okay, so most of its use has come from cutting a loose string from my clothing, or using it to cut up the salami that I brought for lunch. But, I’ve also used this knife to cut guyline and to shave down wood to make kindling. This knife costs less than $10, weighs practically nothing, and has a million uses.

  1. Sunblock

Never estimate the power of the sun! I always wear a hat and bring sunblock to protect my sensitive skin. I always carry extra sunblock because being burnt to a crisp is no fun!

  1. Fire starters

Whether it is a lighter or waterproof matches, I always carry something to help make a fire in case of emergency. A fire will help keep you warm and the smoke from a fire can also help emergency personnel find your location (just be sure that you don’t burn down the forest!). In addition to matches, I bring a Ziplock baggie with some cotton balls that have been smeared in Vaseline, as an easy, lightweight fire starter. This tutorial will teach you how to make your own fire starter from Vaseline and cotton balls.

  1. Navigation

I always pick up a trail map from the park headquarters because I don’t trust myself to memorize the route. If there isn’t a trail map for purchase I take photos of any maps I find along the way- whether they are on an info kiosk or a trail marker. In addition to a paper map I also download a map of the area onto my phone before leaving the house.

What essential items do you carry in your pack?

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[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Section” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off”][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label=”Fullwidth Image” src=”http://www.treesandtents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Hiking-with-Dogs-e1507874540427.png” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” animation=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” alt=”These seven tips for hiking with your dog will help ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.” /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

For many years, my regular hiking partner was Grizzly, a bulldog-boxer mix. Grizzly and I went everywhere together. We spent summer weekends filling our lungs with mountain air in Tahoe, and in the fall we sauntered among the changing Oak trees in the East Bay hills. Our adventures included exploring the Lost Coast and once we even attempted to hike through snow to get to Bodie in the winter. These seven tips for hiking with dogs should help make your hikes safe and enjoyable.

Always willing to hit the trail, Grizzly was a wonderful hiking companion. Our time on the trail kept Grizzly lean and trim (despite his tendency for laziness) and it gave me the sense of safety that I needed to confidently hike alone. A bulldog-mix isn’t the most likely hiking companion, but with a little bit of planning and foresight I was able to select adventures that we could both enjoy.

Since Grizzly is no longer with me, I often borrow a pup to take along on dog-friendly trails. From the water-loving husky to the short-legged toy dog, below are seven tips to help ensure that both you and your four-legged friend have fun on the trail.

Bring on the fun! Tips for hiking with dogs.

  1. Choose the best trail for your dog.

Grizzly’s wide chest and shorter front legs made scrambling over boulders and scurrying up bluffs difficult, but that didn’t matter because there were more than enough trails that were better suited for his stature. Understand your dog’s limitations and find dog-friendly trails that you will both enjoy. Having to hoist your dog over a fence or carry them over difficult terrain can be potentially dangerous for both you and your dog.

  1. Bring plenty of water and take breaks.

Dogs require more water and may need to take more breaks than their human companion. Dogs are extremely susceptible to heat stroke, and an excited dog who is eager to please may not show signs of heat stroke until it is too late. Learn how to read your dog’s physical cues to ensure that your pup doesn’t overheat or become dehydrated on the trail. Give yourself extra time to enjoy the vista and give your dog some time to cool off in the shade. If it’s hot outside consider hitting the trail in the early morning or evening; dogs sweat through their paws, so if the trail is hot your dog won’t have a chance to be able to sufficiently cool off.

  1. Be sensitive of tender paws.

Grizzly loved playing in the snow and every winter we’d head off to Tahoe for some snowshoe hikes. Unfortunately, spending too much time in the snowmade his paws crack and bleed. Much like you wouldn’t strap on a brand new pair of hiking boots before setting off on an epic trek, you shouldn’t expect your dog’s paws to automatically withstand the rigors of a long trail. Sharp rocks, hot pavement, ice, and uneven terrain can be hard on your pup’s paws. Help your dog prepare for the trail by starting with short hikes before building up to longer distances on rough terrain. During our snowshoe hikes applying some Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Wax helped protect Grizzly’s paws and keep them from cracking and bleeding.

  1. Steer clear of poison oak and wild animals.

Whether it is a snakebite from the rattler hiding in the brush or a run-in with a bear, you are responsible for keeping your dog safe. Your dog is typically always safer on a leash than running free on the trail. In fact, if you have a small dog and you are in mountain lion or coyote territory, the leash may be the only thing preventing your dog from becoming another animal’s lunch. If you do let your dog off leash, make sure to keep your furry friend constantly in your sightline–you never know what treasures (or possible threats) are ahead.

  1. Make sure your dog is well trained.

Before hitting the trail your dog should be extremely well trained. At the minimum, your dog should be able to remain calm and non-aggressive around people and other dogs and should obey basic commands, including recall. If your dog doesn’t have perfect recall, don’t think about letting them off the leash. There are too many distractions on the trail and if you lose your dog in the wilderness he probably won’t be able to find his way home. Check out these tips for training your hiking dog

  1. Do a post-hike tick check

Ticks are prevalent in most of the U.S. and they can make both humans and dogs ill. I always do a quick post-hike tick check before getting into the car and a more thorough check when returning home. Here’s what to look for and how to properly remove a tick.

  1. Carry a first aid kit.

A basic first aid kit is an essential element in your daypack. Whether you get a splinter while enjoying lunch on the dock or take a more serious spill on the trail, being prepared with a first aid kit can make the hike back to the car much more enjoyable. Add the following supplies to your first aid kit for your furry companion:

Are you looking for dog friendly trails in the Bay Area? Use our trail finder to search for the perfect trail!


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Summer is snake season! Just like humans, snakes want to soak up some rays and bask in the sun after a long winter. There have been a number of recent rattlesnake sightings in the East Bay hills and on the peninsula, that’s not a surprise since the entire state of California is prime snake territory. Don’t freak out! Follow these tips and avoid a bite the next time you run into a rattlesnake while hiking.

  1. Stay alert.

Watch where you step, look before you sit, and pay attention to where you put your hands. Be extra careful when climbing over boulders or stepping over logs or other obstacles on the trail. Snakes often like to sun themselves on rocks and they can hide along the edge of a fence or log. Snakes blend in easily with dry brush and if you’re walking through tall grass you can easily step on a snake if you’re not careful. When stepping over large rocks or logs be sure to step on the log, and then look down, before stepping over the log.

  1. Give a wide berth.

When attacking, a snake can launch itself 2-3 feet in a matter of seconds. Thanks to gravity, this distance can increase if you are downhill from the snake. Common to popular belief, rattlesnakes don’t like to attack. When a rattlesnake is mad, it will shake its tail to give a warning sound, that’s your signal to step back and get away! Listen to what a rattlesnake warning sounds like and see videos of rattlesnakes here.

  1. Keep your dog leashes and on the trail.

Be vigilant when hiking with your dog. Keep your curious dog on a leash and stay on the trail. Dogs are most often bit by rattlesnakes when running through tall grass or walking with their nose to the ground. If your dog gets bit by a snake try to take a picture of the snake or take note of the snake’s color and markings. Keep your dog calm and get to a vet right away.

  1. Stay calm.

Despite the hype, rattlesnake bites are fairly uncommon. Rattlesnakes usually don’t attack unless they are intentionally provoked or threatened. Just last week, we were backpacking in the Ohlone Wilderness when we saw a rattlesnake while hiking. The snake was booking it down the middle of the trail, heading straight at us. We stepped to the side of the trail and the snake slithered by without a problem.

Snakes are an important part of the ecosystem and should be respected. If you do happen to get bit by a rattlesnake, you should alert your hiking partner or, if you’re hiking alone, try to find another person on the trail. Call 911 and make your way off of the trail. If you were bit on the arm or hand you should remove any rings or other jewelry and keep your hand below your heart.

If you get bit by a snake, DO NOT:

Want to learn more about these fascinating creatures? Stop by the Old Green Barn at the Sunol Regional Wilderness to learn about and view some local snakes. And if you want to do a bit of snake hunting, check out our trail finder to search for hikes in the East Bay hills.