best place to walk your dog

Wood River Valley residents Kasey Burden, left, and Susie Atkinson walk Labrador retriever Blu, center-left, in Adams Gulch, as three other dogs rest beside the trail.
Photo by Roland Lane

'quite the dog place'
Adams Gulch wins gold for best place to walk your pooch.
Kate Wutz

Only in Sun Valley would the "Best Place to Walk Your Dog" be not just one spot, but an entire trail system. Offering everything from a 1.5-mile out-and-back walk to a 14-mile loop best tackled on a mountain bike, the Adams Gulch trail system just north of Ketchum was this year's overwhelming winner.

The Adams Gulch trails are, along with the Fox Creek and Greenhorn areas, among the most popular in the Wood River Valley. Sawtooth National Forest Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said the Adams Gulch trails host an average of 18,000 visitors a year, many of whom are dog walkers.

"It is quite the dog place," he said. "It's right in town, so people can go before work, on their lunch break, or after work."

Perhaps no single entity walks more dogs through Adams Gulch than the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. The shelter holds its Hiking Buddies program at Adams Gulch from June to September, inviting visitors and locals to come meet the dogs and take a hike. Brooke Bonner, the shelter's development and communications director, said about 400 people walked shelter dogs at Adams Gulch last year.

"It's one of our more popular summer programs," Bonner said. "It's something people can do in town and on their lunch breaks. It's an amazing thing for visitors, too."

But no one is having more fun than the dogs, she said. Though every shelter dog is walked by staff at least once a day, Bonner said the dogs chosen for Hiking Buddies love it so much that they act like they're going to summer camp.

"They have such joy!" she said. "They're just so blissful. Going on a field trip is always fun, right? New trees, new scents."

Dog walkers can choose from a number of trails of varying difficulty, though the area's mountain bike "pump tracks" at Forbidden Fruit and Eve's Gulch should be avoided.

The shortest of the trails is the Shadyside Trail, a 1.5 mile out-and-back that's (as the name implies) shady and cool with an easy 300-foot incline. The Sunnyside-Lane's Trail is similar, though on the other side of the gulch, traversing about 500 feet of incline over 2.5 miles. Both of these loop into the Old Adams Gulch Road Trail, which Nelson said is by far the most popular. The trail is wide and relatively flat up to the junctions with the other two trails, which Nelson said is perfect for groups walking their dogs in tandem.

"People love to walk and talk," he said.

A more vigorous hiker—or those trying to tire out their pups—might try the Inner Adams Gulch Loop, which is about 7 miles with a 1,300-foot incline. Dog walkers should keep an eye out, as this is also a popular mountain biking trail.

Nelson said the popularity of the trail system for canines and their owners is not a surprise.

"It's quick, it's beautiful, and they can get their dog out," he said. "Simple as that."

Trail tips and etiquette
• With so many dogs in one place, things can get smelly. The Ketchum Ranger District and the Environmental Resource Center have teamed up to place bags and a container for dog waste at the trailhead. Please use them to keep the trail clean for other users. Walkers who do not dispose of their dog's waste are subject to a fine.

• Dogs should remain on leash until they are more than 200 feet from the trailhead to reduce the potential for dog-on-dog conflicts. Even when off leash, dogs should be within 10 feet of their owner and/or under verbal command.

• Bring water. Though Adams Gulch Creek runs near the trailhead, it often runs dry by mid-summer.

• Remember: The trails are open to horseback riders and mountain bikers. People and their dogs should yield to horses, giving them a wide berth and moving to the downhill side, if possible. Bikes and dogs are not always a good mix, especially when one surprises the other. Be aware and share the trail.

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