15 Best Dogs for Hiking and Climbing

Most Adventurous Dogs for Your Lifestyle

A German Pointer on a mountainside hike

Stephanie Jager / Stocksy

If you are a dog owner who brings your dog with you wherever you go, it helps if you have a dog with a similar disposition. If you're an ardent hiker, recreational climber, or like to go camping, it is a good idea to have a dog with a similar energy level and physical abilities. Most dogs love the great outdoors, and many, regardless of breed, are suitable as hiking companions. But, to have a wonderful outing—especially if your dog will be off-leash—make sure that your dog can follow your commands and stay with you. The dog needs to be responsive in precarious situations like wildlife encounters or run-ins with toxic plants.


Talk to your vet about your active lifestyle and confirm your dog is up for the challenge of your physical demands. Also, double-check that you are providing an adequate high-performance diet.

Breed Characteristics

Active dogs with high energy that have been bred for long hours of work outdoors during various weather conditions are probably your best bet as hiking companions. This group can include working dogs, hunting (sporting) dogs, herding dogs, and mountain dogs. In addition to endurance, these dogs need to be obedient, intelligent, and exhibit good recall skills before you let them off-leash.

If you’re an outdoor junkie looking for a loyal companion, these 15 breeds are tireless canines that should be able to join you on the trails.

  • 01 of 15

    Border Collie

    A border collie on a sofa

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    No list of energetic dog breeds would be complete without including the ever-popular border collie. Known the world over for its intelligence, work drive, and energy level, the border collie is a no-brainer for anyone in search of an exercise buddy. Hikers and climbers alike can benefit from the border collie’s smarts and trainability. Teaching it to hit the trails off-leash will be a breeze. As long as you can provide plenty of mental and physical exercise on days when you're not on the trails or summiting a peak, the border collie could be an excellent fit for you. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 28 to 48 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-sized; rough or smooth medium-length double coat; the body is slightly longer than it is tall; can be solid, bicolor, tricolor, merle, or sable. Usually seen in black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, or red merle (with or without patches of white)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 17 years

  • 02 of 15

    Treeing Walker Coonhound

    Treeing Walker Coonhound dog lying upside down on bed

    Lindsay Helms / Getty Images 

    If you do not mind a vocal dog while on a trail, the treeing walker coonhound is a strikingly agile climber that can easily navigate wild hiking terrain. Like its various siblings in the hound group, treeing walker coonhounds are lively dogs with a keen eye for prey. Because of its high hunting drive, you should keep this dog on a long leash until you are sure you can trust it around squirrels, birds, and other critters.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 20 to 27 inches

    Weight: 45 to 80 pounds

    Coat and Color: White, black, and tan coloring; smooth, shiny coat

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 03 of 15

    Rhodesian Ridgeback

    A Rhodesian Ridgeback sitting on a sofa


    olgagorovenko / Getty Images 

    The Rhodesian ridgeback could be a fantastic fit for the outdoors fan looking for a more rugged companion. The Rhodesian ridgeback was popularized by African lion hunters but is a popular house pet nowadays. Their strength and agility translate well from lion hunting to hiking and mountain climbing. Those new to dog ownership should be aware that the Rhodesian ridgeback requires plenty of socialization and obedience training during puppyhood. Its independent and aloof nature can make this dog wary of strangers, and its strength is nothing to bat an eye at. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hounds (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 26 inches

    Weight: 65 to 90 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat in light wheaten to red wheaten; may have small white markings; may have a black mask

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 15

    Australian Shepherd

    An Australian Shepherd on a sofa

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

    Another must-have on high-energy dog lists, the Australian shepherd is an active and agile companion that loves an outdoor adventure. Like its border collie cousin, the Aussie is a herder with seemingly endless energy. The Aussie is work-oriented and loves a job, so coming up with games to play along the trail will give this dog a well-rounded and exhausting day of exercise. Much like the border collie, an Aussie needs plenty of everyday activity—one hike a week will not cut it. But if it is kept well-exercised and trained, this dog will make a happy dog owner out of you.  

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 18 to 23 inches

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium to long coat in blue merle, red merle, black, or red; all colors may have white markings and/or tan (copper) points

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    German Shorthaired Pointer

    A German pointer resting

    Lea Csontos / Stocksy

    Another steadfast hunting companion, the German shorthaired pointer is an extremely high-energy dog perfect for bringing along on hiking trips. Like other hunters, pointers thrive when given plenty of exercise and are extremely friendly, loving companions. Best known for its agility and endurance, this dog needs plenty of daily activity to prevent it from becoming anxious and destructive.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 25 inches

    Weight: 45 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Tough, short coat, which is solid liver or a combination of liver and white in color

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 06 of 15

    Jack Russell Terrier

    A Jack Russell Terrier on a bed

    Javier Pardina / Stocksy 

    If big dogs are not your style but you still want an energetic hiking buddy, the Jack Russell terrier is the pup for you. High-energy, high-drive, and incredibly intelligent, the Jack Russell has the personality of a big dog in a compact, 15-pound body. The Jack Russell was bred for vermin hunting and has a high prey drive, so long stints of exercise like hiking trips are a dream come true for this breed. Though small, it's also mighty; the Jack Russell terrier is headstrong and incredibly intelligent. This breed can become destructive if not well-exercised both mentally and physically. But if you can dedicate the time to training and exercise every day, the Jack Russell is a great outdoorsy companion.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Terrier (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 15 inches

    Weight: 13 to 17 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat that can be smooth or rough; white with black, tan, or brown markings

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 18 years

  • 07 of 15

    Miniature Pinscher

    A Miniature Pinscher on a bed with toys

    Milles Studio / Stocksy 

    Another little dog with a big personality, the miniature pinscher—or min pin—is a spunky companion for the dedicated, strong-willed owner. Min pins are fearless beasts condensed into a compact 10-pound body. The min pin’s fun-loving, adventurous personality makes it a fantastic exploration buddy. Though the min pin does not have the same endurance as the Jack Russell terrier, its much smaller stature makes it easy for you to pick this dog up and carry it if it tires out.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 11 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, sleek coat; colors include red, black and rust, and chocolate and rust

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

  • 08 of 15

    Bernese Mountain Dog

    A Bernese Mountain Dog sitting on a rug

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    As the name implies, the Bernese mountain dog is an Alpine native that fares well outdoors, mainly in cooler temperatures. This wooly coated breed does not tolerate heat and hot summers as well as other dogs. The Bernese mountain dog is a Swiss working breed. It was bred to pull carts through the Alps, so it is no surprise that the Berner makes a great climbing buddy. Owners new to the breed should know that this breed genetically has some health concerns, including hip and elbow dysplasia and bloat. Before you bring this dog on a mountain hike, get it checked out by a veterinarian to ensure that strenuous activity is okay.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 28 inches

    Weight: 79 to 110 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick double coat with a longer outer coat and a wooly undercoat; colored black, rust, and white, the chest is usually white, as is the spot between its eyes and the tip of its tail

    Life Expectancy: 6 to 8 years

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Siberian Husky

    A Siberian Husky lounging on a rug

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    For the outdoors person who takes a laidback approach, the Siberian husky can be a great match. The husky’s personality is hilarious and unique—mischievous, independent, and deceptively clever. Bred in northeastern Asia, the husky is naturally cold-resistant and feels right at home on snowy mountain peaks and cooler temperature hikes. Its energy level makes it a tireless hiking buddy. A husky needs constant mental and physical challenges (preferably on a schedule), or else, your husky might get destructive or run away in protest. This breed's independent streak makes obedience training a big project. For example, you should not expect to have a husky hiking off-leash until you establish a deep connection with your dog, and it internalizes the recall command.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 20 to 24 inches

    Weight: 35 to 60 pounds

    Coat and Color: Huskies have a dense, double coat in a variety of colors, including black, gray, white and tan; markings may include black points, piebald, or pinto

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 10 of 15

    Labrador Retriever

    Upper view photo of a labrador looking up at camera waiting for something in a park on grass
    Strelciuc Dumitru / Getty Images

    Labrador retrievers are easy-going dogs always up for new adventures. Labradors can adjust easily to a variety of climates and terrain. Labs do well in cold climates and can tolerate heat as long as they are provided with plenty of water. Their water-repelling coats make these dogs perfect companions for a cooling dip in a lake. Labs love water sports and running. Most Labs are easy to train and are obedient, so you should be able to take these pups hiking off-leash year-round. This breed needs regular exercise. Otherwise, Labs will take out their pent-up energy in destructive ways.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21.5 to 24.5 inches

    Weight: 55 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, dense double coat in black, chocolate, or yellow

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 11 of 15


    Portrait of Vizla dog standing on a meadow.
    Mint Images / Getty Images

    Vizslas often develop a deep bond with their humans. They are loyal and love a task. These intelligent dogs need continuous training and enrichment, so they don't get bored or destructive. These dogs appreciate having space to run, making them great hiking or trail running dogs. Vizslas require positive reinforcement and socialization training to groom them into perfect companion pets. They are patient, loving, and get along with children when appropriately introduced.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 44 to 60 pounds

    Coat and Color: Smooth, short, dense coat; varying shades of golden rust

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 12 of 15


    Standard poodle
    dageldog / Getty Images

    Poodles are water dogs that were bred for hunting. They are highly intelligent, durable dogs. These dogs come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. The toy size does not have the stamina for long hikes, but the miniature can endure about 5 miles or so, while the standard can double that. Poodles thrive on going on long walks and pleasing their humans. Poodles groomed to maintain their curls long can withstand cooler temps, meanwhile, you can shave down a poodle to take along for summer hikes.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: Standard: over 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and under

    Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 pounds

    Coat and Color: Curly, dense single coat; one of many solid, including white, black, gray, brown, apricot

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15


    Beagle Harrier
    cynoclub / Getty Images

    If you have ever seen European classical paintings illustrating a rabbit hunt, the dogs you see on the canvas are harriers, named for their typical quarry, hares. They look a lot like beagles but are larger. Their stamina suits hiking since they can go all day long. Harriers can be headstrong, but you should get a harrier to be an excellent right-hand with continuous training. They have a strong prey drive and might get caught up on a scent every once and a while, but as long as your recall training is good, they should listen to you without question.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 21 inches tall

    Weight: 45 to 60 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, short coats that come in tri-color (black, brown, and white) or red and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 14 of 15

    Golden Retriever

    Golden retriever dog
    Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

    Generally speaking, goldens are smart, loyal dogs that maintain their spritely playfulness throughout their life. They bond strongly with their humans, follow commands well, and love to live an active life. Hikes are right up their alley—as well as a swim too. They are prone to joint problems, so make sure your vet approves rigorous hikes before hitting the trail.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21.5 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 75 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length double coat; light to dark gold

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 15 of 15


    Living with a Dog
    SolStock / Getty Images

    Dalmatians are unique black and white spotted canines that were bred to be companions alongside horses, stagecoaches, and early fire truck companies. It makes sense that these dogs can keep up with humans on the trails, and they relish the opportunity. They have endurance for days and should be easy to train to be off-leash.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 24 inches tall

    Weight: 45 to 65 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat with white with black or liver spots

    Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Breeds to Avoid

Though most dogs love the great outdoors, you should keep some dogs off the hiking trail. This decision is not breed-specific but, instead, depends on the dog's age, physical condition, and the weather conditions where you will be. Older dogs are more prone to older dog ailments like arthritis and kidney disease. Puppies should never go long distances. They are not developed enough, and long hikes could affect bone development.

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs like pugs, boxers, or bulldogs should steer clear of strenuous exercise since their respiratory systems tend to overheat.

If you plan to be in colder temperatures, a double-coated dog like a husky or Berner can handle the cold better than a single-coated, short-haired dog. Dogs like greyhounds, whippets, and chihuahuas may not last long in colder temps. Also, if you expect sweltering weather, it's best not to hike with your dog at all. Dogs are prone to heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

Article Sources
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  1. Canine Hip Dysplasia: What You Should Know. University of Notre Dame.