Dogs and the SHT
December 18, 2018
Here at SHTA, we love dogs. We hike with our dogs. We even have an official “office dog” named Watson, who will match your gift to the Trail.
But doggone it, we also recognize the impact that these wonderful, energetic, loving companions — and how they’re handled by their owners — can have on fellow SHT users, the Trail itself, and the land and water that surround it. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to reduce their footprint on the Trail and avoid harmful encounters with other trail users and their furry hiking partners.
Piling Up (On) The SHT — Please Pick Up Your Pooch’s Poo
We’ve reached a tipping point on the Superior Hiking Trail: with increased use of the Trail, dog owners must take responsibility and practice Leave No Trace on behalf of themselves and their loyal companions. Nobody wants to carry around a bag of dog droppings, especially when they always seem eager to relieve themselves shortly after leaving the trail head. Unfortunately, we’ve all come across those abandoned bags, left behind as if the doggie doo fairy was on its way to pick them up later. (We’re looking at you, Duluth trail users.)
This is not an acceptable practice. Please, for the integrity of the Trail and the experiences of those with whom you share the Trail, find a way to carry that poo bag with you all the way off the Trail and into the nearest waste receptacle. Here are a couple ideas of convenient, scent-proof ways to carry a baggie out with you on your hike:
- Repurpose a plastic peanut butter jar: it’s lightweight and scent-proof.
- Carry an all-purpose, air-tight waste bag: a place for dog droppings, food waste, and garbage to call home in your pack.
- Purchase a container that hooks to your dog’s leash: two words — “Poo Vault.“
Especially as we enter winter, where those frozen piles disrupt the scenery and stand in contrast to the beautiful white snow underneath, please pick up and pack out your dog’s piles on the SHT.
The Leash Rule
You’ve seen it at every SHT trailhead. You’ve read it on the website. Maybe you’ve commented on a dog-related post in the SHT Facebook group. By now, you surely know one of the few rules of the SHT is to “Keep your pets on leash.” This rule is critical for you, your dog, the safety of other trail users, their dogs, and, again, the integrity of our Trail and the land through which it passes. The Superior Hiking Trail is unique in that it passes through many unmarked sections of private land, and we’ve assured those generous private land owners that you will respect this rule at all times. Please help us keep our word and our access to the incredible landscapes along the North Shore.
“Yeah, but it’s not the law.”
Inside all Minnesota’s state parks (the SHT passes through eight of them), there is a legally enforceable pet leash and waste disposal rule. The City of Duluth (over 40 miles of the SHT), prohibits dogs off-leash, except in specific off-leash parks, and certain recreational areas of the Superior National Forest (including much of the northern section of the the SHT) require dogs to be on-leash. Please respect the laws and rules of our public land partners.
We Must Share This Gem of a Trail
Beyond the rules and laws, it is simply the right thing to do to remain in control of your dog while using a shared, sometimes very busy, public trail. Dog attacks, and the lingering trauma that they cause to both people and other dogs, are preventable. Please try to understand what it’s like to be in the shoes of your fellow hikers before you try to explain how your dog is perfectly trained or incapable of harming a flea. Your fellow trail users don’t know that when they see your dog on the trail, and, frankly, you can’t know that either.
We’ve heard from some folks that the Trail is their place to let their dog run free after being confined to the house or yard all day. Unfortunately, the reality for our Trail is that dogs running free is simply not sustainable. We suggest you take advantage of off-leash dog parks (Duluth has two of them) and the swaths of unrestricted county and forest lands away from the Trail to set your wild beast free from the confines of modern society.
We believe firmly that our existing rules, grounded in the principles of Leave No Trace, are both reasonable and effective to ensure the Trail remains a wonderful experience for you, your pooch, and the many other hikers, runners, and furry friends you’ll encounter along the way. Whether you travel on two legs or four, be sure to leave only your foot (and paw) prints behind you on the SHT.