Megan Ayres Moore
Take a hike with your dog
Take a hike with your dog

Lake Dardanelle State Park, located in Russellville, Arkansas, provides a quiet and relaxing setting to enjoy the outdoors with the entire family, including man’s best friend. The park features a large amount of pet-friendly space including open grassy fields, picnic areas, and the Meadowbrook Trail, an easy ¾-mile walk through a wooded section of the park. Responsibly sharing the trail with your dog can make hiking at Lake Dardanelle State Park unforgettable.

When visiting Lake Dardanelle State Park as well as other park units, we encourage following the Leave No Trace Principles. Have you ever thought about how those principles apply to your four-legged friend? Read on for a few tips to help you get the most out of your hike with your dog.

An out of focus trail brochure being held up in front of a sign that says Meadowbrook Trail. Images on the sign post show that hiking and dogs are allowed, but no motorized vehicles, ATVs, or motorbikesYou can find information about the Meadowbrook Trail in the trail brochure and at the trailhead.

Tip #1

Planning ahead and preparing are crucial to having a safe and enjoyable outing for both you and your dog. As you plan, ask yourself some important questions, and don’t be afraid to call the park for help answering those questions:

  • Are dogs allowed on this trail? What areas will my dog not be able to go to? Many of the trails across Arkansas State Parks, including the Meadowbrook Trail are pet friendly. However, some trails may be for specific uses like mountain biking only. It is better to find out before you reach the trailhead! Common areas pets are not allowed are swim beaches and inside facilities.
  • Do I need a leash? Yes! While at the park, your dog will need to be leashed and under your direct physical control.
  • Is this trail appropriate for my dog and me? Consider the length of the trail and its difficulty. Paying attention to the temperature is also important as dogs are susceptible to becoming ill from the heat. Make sure you bring plenty of food and water for both you and your pet while you are away from home. If your pet isn’t normally active, start small and easy. Some of our state parks see emergencies with dogs every summer when people try to push their limits too far.
  • What plants and animals might we encounter that I need to be aware of? You may want to discuss flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives with your veterinarian. You’ll also want to keep your dog away from wild animals, as an interaction with something like a frog, toad, or snake may cause problems. Also, don’t let them eat the plants growing along the trail. An upset stomach can ruin a fun day!

A green and white sign with a drawing of a dog, and the words “Pet Waste Station” with a bag dispenser and trash canLake Dardanelle State Park has two pet waste stations available.

Tip #2

When out on the trail, picking up your dog’s waste protects the health of the environment, people, and other pets. Chances are you aren’t happy when you step in dog waste, so you’ll want to make sure you clean up after your pet. Always carry a bag to pick your dog’s waste up. Lake Dardanelle State Park has dog waste stations with bags located near the visitor center and the amphitheater entrance. You can also purchase your own, or reuse grocery bags.

Dogs can become ill from another infected dog, but people can also be affected by bacteria and parasites found in their waste. By cleaning up, it helps everyone stay healthy. At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, “What’s the difference in my dog and a wild animal going in the woods?” Wild animals are feeding on the things found in that environment, so their waste is returning the nutrients to where they come from originally. Some plants even rely on this process to disperse their seeds.

In contrast, pet foods are formulated to be high in nutritional content, and larger amounts of those nutrients are passed in their waste. Things like nitrogen and phosphorus can be found in pet waste and can destroy the delicate balance of an ecosystem. This can be especially problematic around water sources where it can cause algae blooms. Picking up your pet’s waste today ensures you will have more pleasant hikes in the future!

A man with a black goldendoodle and a woman with a golden retriever, walk with their leashed dogs down a trail surrounded by trees.Hikers should manage their dogs and keep them leashed while on the trail.

Tip #3

While on the trail, managing your dog is your responsibility. This helps protect other people and pets, wildlife, and your own pet.

Even though your dog may be well-mannered, another may not be. Always be prepared to handle the situation if one arises. Keeping your dog on its leash is a great first step to being prepared to meet other dogs or seeing wildlife.

For the safety of the wildlife and your pet, you should never let you dog chase animals – even the squirrels! Instead, stay on the trail and reduce unnecessary impact on the undisturbed areas surrounding the trail. Responsibly managing your dog makes the hike safer for people, pets and animals along the way.

A hiker kneels in the grass with her sitting dog.A hiker kneels with her sitting dog at the top of the Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park.

Tip #4

Finally, be considerate of others on the trail while hiking with your furry best friend. If you are a dog lover, this tip might seem strange, but not everyone on the trail loves dogs as much as you do. You may find it easier to yield to other hikers and let them pass before continuing down the trail. It is also always a smart idea to give other hikers with dogs plenty of space. It may be helpful to have your dog sit at the edge of the trail until the other dogs have passed by you.

Even if you are not hiking with a dog, it is always best to ask the owner for permission to pet their dog. Some dogs don’t like strangers, or might not appreciate the smell of the dog you left at home. When hiking, avoid letting your dog rush up to other people or dogs as it might frighten them. At the end of the day, dogs will be dogs, and some barking is to be expected. However, avoid letting your dog bark, growl, or howl excessively. Being aware of the other hikers goes a long way in making sure everyone goes home happy!

For many of us, we really do think of the family dog as part of the family. Sharing the trail with man’s best friend can make your hiking trip an unforgettable outing. Start planning a hike with your dog by visiting the trails section of our website for more information on the Meadowbrook Trail at Lake Dardanelle State Park or other trails found around the state. Keep these tips in mind to make the most of your hike and share your pictures with us on social media using #ARStateParks. Happy trails!