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Dog Friendly Hiking in Boise: Table Rock

One of our favorite things to do with the dogs is to get out for a hike on a beautiful day. It’s good exercise for us all, and when you combine it with fantastic scenery and some off-leash time for Buster … well, there’s really nothing better.

We spent ten days checking out the local scene in Boise, and frankly, we didn’t find much that would make us want to go back. They do have a lovely Greenbelt that runs along the river for 25 miles, but the city itself felt kind of meh – people were not particularly friendly, there wasn’t much going on, and pet friendly activities were pretty limited. The highlight of our trip was finding the trail system at Table Rock – so let’s talk about that!

Table Rock - Boise, ID

Table Rock is a few miles southeast of Boise and parking at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary gives you access to the trails. Because it’s a local landmark, we chose the hike to the summit – and with the fall colors just starting to pop, the views did not disappoint.

Rod and the Boys at Table Rock - Boise, ID Table Rock - Boise, ID

The rules for pets are pretty generous: dogs can run off-leash if they are not disturbing wildlife or causing a safety concern with other trail users. Dogs must be under their owner’s control, not more than 30 feet away from you at any time, and dog owners must carry a leash and waste bag with them.

Though it’s less than two miles to the top, the climb will definitely get your heart rate up and make your leg muscles burn. Fortunately, once you’re there, you’ll find benches where you can catch your breath and have a look around.

Table Rock - Boise, ID Table Rock - Boise, ID Buster and Ty at Table Rock - Boise, ID

From the parking lot, there are a number of trails to choose from, but if you want to hike Table Rock, my suggestion is to go before the crowds arrive – especially if you want your dog to run off-leash. This is a heavily used trail for runners, site seers, and families. We were back to the car by 11am and the trail was already pretty congested.

Trail Etiquette

Off-leash trails can create a bit of a challenge for us, because our dogs are so different. Buster loves to run, has a solid recall, and does well with other dogs when he’s off-leash. Ty is basically the opposite – he’s afraid of other dogs and will lunge if he’s approached, and cannot be left off-leash because it would be the last time we ever saw him.

Living with these two dogs that are so different has given us a unique perspective on how to best handle encounters with other dogs on trails. Here are our suggestions:

  1. When we meet a dog that is off-leash on an off-leash trail, I assume he’s friendly with other dogs and fine for Buster to approach without asking permission. However, I keep an eye on the body language of both the strange dog and my dog while they meet and stay ready to call Buster to me if need be.
  2. When we meet a dog that is leashed on an off-leash trail, I don’t let Buster approach without first taking note of the dog’s body language and asking if it’s okay with the owner. Perhaps they’re working on training and would rather not have Buster get too close. Perhaps the dog is scared of other dogs, like Ty is, and just wants to be left to his walk in peace. Either way, I don’t take offense – it’s good practice for Buster to use some self control and let the dog pass without a thorough sniffing.
  3. When we meet off-leash dogs on a trail that requires leashes, my first reaction is to get angry. These are the trails where I allow myself to relax, because (presumably) any dog-on-dog interactions will be managed at the end of a six foot leash. So, when a dog comes bounding down the trail unfettered, his owner is responsible for stealing my tranquility. I how have to deal with corralling this dog before they get close enough to startle Ty while the owner calls from somewhere down the trail, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” My reply is usually pretty snarky and goes something like, “Putting ME in the position of having to control YOUR dog isn’t friendly, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Do you agree, or am I over-reacting? I’d love to hear your tips for dog hiking etiquette – please leave a note and share your experiences in the comments!

Table Rock - Boise, ID

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  • Good to know, Taylor! That’s one of the things about traveling full-time – we can always shoot to see a place during the best time of the year for that location. I appreciate your suggestions, and we’ll look into those options the next time we’re in the area!

  • Taylor Todd says:

    I think if you came back during the late spring-early fall you might have some Better luck. My family lives in Boise and we have a very energetic 3 year old German Wirehaired Pointer. We recently started taking her out on weekends to hike up in the foothills below bogus basin. Hiking trails might be hard to find near town but if you know where to look you will find them. My family also has some property in the garden valley area and there are some fun hikes up in that area.

  • Hi Julie! When we were in Boise we didn’t see many restaurants that had outdoor seating. Could it be that we missed the season? Our experience in other parts of Idaho was that if there were fences around the outdoor tables, the dogs had to be outside the fence. If a cafe had a few tables on the sidewalk, but not a permanent barrier around them, the dogs could join you at the table. I’m not going to say it’s like that in every town, but that’s what we ran into in the places we visited. If you find some good, pet friendly spots let me know and I’ll add them to the site!

  • I am sorry your visit to Boise was “meh.” It does get dull between summer and ski season and people there pretty much have to make there own fun; usually outdoors. We are currently in Southern California, but I am an Idaho native and we lived in Boise for several years. Seriously thinking of becoming “snowbirds” with Boise as our summer base. We go back to visit family and friends and we have seen huge improvement for places to go (restaurants, concert venues, shopping) and the hiking trail system in the foothills is fantastic. I am curious if you were able to take the dogs to any of the restaurants downtown that have outdoor seating? I’m not sure what the health codes are for cafes in Idaho and we are anxious to bring Beamer up the next time we visit.

  • Gus Onyx Fifty acres!! Holy woof, Gus, you are a lucky dog! And you deserve all the good stuff that comes your way.

  • It’s so silly for a person to say “I feel bad when we pass on dogs on leash when I keep mine off!” I mean, put your dog on a leash, lady, and everyone will feel better! I think the approach you’re taking with Bernie is perfect. He’s getting his exercise and training all during the same walk! Good for you, and keep up the good work.

  • Boy, I completely understand that, Dawn! People just don’t seem to understand the danger they’re putting their own dogs in when they let them run off-leash. And, your dog also has a right to go for a walk unmolested. I hope, for the sake of those dogs, that person doesn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.

  • Hi Kim. I’ve been thinking of you – I hope you’re doing well. Yes, this area was pretty amazing and I’m sure there are places like this near you! I hope you do get out to find them … and then write a blog post about them so I can find them the next time we’re there! =)

  • This area looks amazing! I wish we had more trails like that here. Maybe we’ll have to go find them :)

  • Dawn Ross says:

    My Pierson is dog aggressive so I only take him to to places where leashes are required and I generally avoid areas where there are a lot of dogs. One day, two little dogs running off leash quickly approached leashed Pierson while their mom was yelling for them from behind. So that my Pierson wouldn’t attack and hurt her little dogs, I had to pick him up out of the way. I didn’t get rude with the little dogs’ owner but I plainly told her that this situation could have ended very badly for her dogs. I like your response, although in my particular situation I don’t think it would have imparted the amount of danger she had put her dogs in by letting them be off-leash.

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