Watching someone else’s dog can feel overwhelming when they have tons of energy and you’re not sure where to take them. Luckily, there are a handful of safe trails and open spaces to take a dog you’re sitting, on or off leash. Before we introduce the list, let’s go over some common courtesy and safety protocols when taking a dog out in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.
To leash or not to leash?
Something we love about the Truckee and North Lake Tahoe trails is that most of them are open to mixed recreation! That means there could be hikers, bikers, skiers or horseback riders out on the trail at the same time, depending on the season. That being said, it is important to practice awareness and courtesy to other folks and critters on the trail. While getting to know the dog you’re watching, it’s a smart call to keep them on leash at all times on most trails to avoid bicycle accidents or unfriendly dog interactions. While there are open spaces with fewer crowds that may be safe to unleash, you still may not be familiar with all the pup’s quirks. Even if the dog is a good listener, they could find a squirrel to run after and head out of sight or towards a nearby road. The goal is to keep the dog you’re watching, their owner, and others on the trail in mind while out on a trail.
Pack it in, pack it out
Always keep a couple of doggy bags with you to make sure we all do our part to keep Tahoe blue and our trails clean. Some trailheads will have litter receptacles to drop the doggie-bags off, while others will not, so always be prepared to take the droppings with you to throw them out later. If the trail you take doesn’t run along a creek or stop by one of the lakes, you will need to take water, and possibly a bowl, to keep yourself and the dog you’re watching hydrated. Always remember to pack back out whatever bottles or trash you acquire throughout your trail time and recycle when possible!
It’s trail time
Donner Lake - East Shore
During the winter and shoulder seasons when Donner Lake’s east shore isn’t too crowded, this National Forest basically becomes a dog-friendly haven. Locals, in fact, refer to this beach as “Dog Beach”. A gravel path will take you along the south end of the lake, or you may walk along the shore where possible. Despite State Park recommendations, you will find a lot of dogs off leash on this beach so make sure the pup you’re walking is friendly with other unleashed animals. Once you’re far enough away from Donner Pass Road, you and the dog should be safe to practice off leash play. Note that while walking the dog into the State Park proper, then all dogs are required to be on leash. Communicate with the dog’s owner about the dog’s off-leash behavior to make the best call for yourself and have fun!
Prosser & Boca Reservoirs
Another favorite, and safe, watering hole for dogs is at the Prosser and Boca Reservoirs. These neighboring bodies of water are surrounded by open space and hugged by the woods. Sitting just north of Truckee, Prosser and Boca are typically pretty quiet, leaving tons of space to set up camp for the day to let the dogs roam. Keep in mind, due to this being a multi-recreational space, there may be snowmobiles, dirt bikes, small boats, and even mountain bikers coming through the area, depending on the season. Talk to the dog’s owner beforehand to get a better understanding of the dog and if they like to chase or bark at other types of recreationalists. Stay courteous of the other nearby users and enjoy watching the pup splash around in the water!
Truckee River Trail
This heavily populated and increasingly popular trail system starts in Downtown Truckee and ends at the Glenshire neighborhood. Though you may see some off-leash dogs here, it is strongly recommended to keep a dog you are watching on leash as this trail is always packed with cyclists, runners, and other dog walkers. The River Trail is paved with asphalt and is occasionally plowed in the winter for year-round use. You may branch off the trail at any given footpath to take the dog down to the river for a drink or have a moment of respite from a busy day on the River Trail.
The Tail End
Though there are close to a hundred trails around the Truckee-North Lake Tahoe region, it’s best to stick to one of the three recommended areas if you’re taking out an unfamiliar dog you are watching. Always remember to bring dog waste bags, some water, and to pack it all out. Communication with the dog’s owner beforehand is key to get a better understanding of the animal’s behavior but starting every trail with the pup on-leash is a guaranteed way to keep everyone safe. Enjoy getting out there and happy trails!