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Section Hiking PCT with Dog - Water Crossings

I'll be section hiking the PCT in WA and OR from June-August 2021. I've seen a few videos of hikes and am concerned the water crossings may be too dangerous. Anyone else hike the PCT in WA with a dog. I have a 100 lb Cane Corso. 

5 Replies

Hi @countryboycitygirl - Thanks for reaching out! Love hearing that you're already making plans for the PCT in 2021.

While it won't necessarily be Washington specific advice, we thought a few of our fellow dog-owning community members might have experience with water crossings they could pass along. 

@PatrickB @REI-RachelL  @MaineAdventure @REI-SarahS @adamconrad @Paula @ItsOkImTray @WynneAnderson @REI-DaveM - have any of you all every crossed rivers with your dogs? Any tips to share? 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hi there! I don't have much experience with large river crossings for dogs - our dog is about 30 lbs so we are somewhat limited there. We do a ton of SUPing with our dog however and investing in a good dog lifejacket has been awesome. We have currently have a Playa Pup with the handle on top so we can grab on if she starts to float away. Good luck! 


Hi @countryboycitygirl - how exciting to be planning your PCT section hikes for this summer! I have not done those sections, so I can't speak directly to where you'll be crossing, but I've done a number of river crossings with my pup so I'll fill you in on what I've learned. 

First of all, river conditions can vary based on the time of year and the amount of snowfall during the winter. During runoff, rivers that are normally calm can become raging and impossible for human or animal to cross. You can stay up-to-date on the current conditions by contacting the closest Ranger's station to ask about river flows and safety. 

In general, in the spring and summer, it is better to cross a river in the morning before the heat of the day melts more snow and increases river flows. It is also a good idea to assess incoming weather, so if there is a big rain storm coming, you should cross before the river swells. 

It's also best to cross with other people. If you link arms and form a brigade, not only do you have extra strength as a team but the person at the top diverts water away from those below. So I will put my tallest and strongest friends upstream to make it easier on us more petite people. With a dog, you can put them on the most downstream part of your brigade so you can hold onto their harness if you need to. But keep in mind that most dogs are better swimmers and faster at moving through the water than a human brigade walking carefully. 

That being said, as long as they do ok off leash, I would discourage you from crossing the river with a leash attached to your pup. A leash poses a real threat in water, especially if they are swept away - it could get caught in something and pull them under or prevent them from swimming to safety. 

Also knowing your dog's swimming abilities is key. If they are a strong swimmer and enjoy the water, you have less to worry about. If they are not a strong swimmer or are hesitant in the water, then I would recommend practicing in some easy water before taking on anything too difficult. You could reward your dog with treats or sticks or toys... whatever gives them joy and reduces their anxiety about crossing. 

Please make sure your dog is wearing up-to-date tags (not just a microchip), if anything were to happen. You should be wearing good water shoes as well, in case you need to make a rescue. Just please make sure you are safe too!!

Finally, pro tip: If they are carrying their own food, double-bag their kibble!!!! There's nothing worse for you or the pup if their food gets soggy. And it's almost a guarantee that will happen if it's only in 1 ziplock bag...

Please be safe and enjoy yourself. Remember, there's no harm in turning around if you cannot cross safely!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I don't know and I have not backpacked with dogs but here is the general "hiking with dogs" page from the PCTA which has good information and advice.

I have only hiked a few minor segments of the PCT in the Sierras but my impression from watching various thu hikes is that water crossings are not a major issue in Oregon and Washington in the summer and early fall where, in places,  actually finding water can be more of an issue.  Wildfires and tree blow downs blocking the trail seem to be the other concerns.  As far as I can tell most of the dangerous water crossings are early to mid season in the Sierras when it would definitely be inappropriate to take a dog.  I have experienced a moderate amount of those and I would not take a dog even if it were legal to do so...dogs are not allowed on trail in the National Parks ruling out much of the PCT in High Sierra.

As a resource Dixie aka Homemade Wanderlust took her dog on various PCT section hikes last year

and had some conclusions




@countryboycitygirl - I live in Portland Oregon and I am very interested in section hiking the PCT. I want to do Oregon and or Washington this summer. Dates are flexible. I have no dog 😕 but all necessary gear. I’ve hiked Mt Whitney, Machu Picchu, Kilimanjaro, and the Annapurna circuit in Nepal. I walk about 15 to 25 miles a week nowadays. Ready to get out there again