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Dog Hiking Challenge Pushes Humans to Explore Vermont With Their Pups

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Published April 24, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.


Robin Miller and her chocolate lab, Millie - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Robin Miller and her chocolate lab, Millie

There's nothing that dog mom Robin Miller enjoys more than exploring a new hiking trail with her chocolate lab, Millie. Now she's helping others find the same joy.

The VT Hiking Dog Challenge, which Miller launched in January, invites hikers and their hounds to traverse 35 handpicked bike paths, rail trails and summits all around the state. Finish at least 10 of them and you'll get a certificate and a "pawsome prize." It costs $10 to sign up, though Miller said she'd waive the fee if it's a hardship.

The program is modeled after the ADK-9 Challenge, a collection of nine dog-friendly peaks in the Adirondacks. To curate her own list, Miller crowdsourced spots from her colleagues at the Vermont Department of Health, whose selections are in nine of Vermont's 14 counties.

The hikes range from the 0.3-mile Boreal Forest Trail in Brighton State Park to a 16-mile section of the West River Trail, a former railbed linking Londonderry to Townsend. Thirteen of them are wheelchair accessible, including Middlebury's Otter View Park Trail and the Colchester Causeway in Miller's hometown.

Miller has hiked just three of the trails to date. Her favorite so far is the Camp Charles M. Smith Trail, a lesser-known pathway where housing once stood for the 3,000 Civilian Conservation Corps members who built the Waterbury Dam in the 1930s.

"This is a trail that I never would have done if someone hadn't suggested it, if it hadn't made the list," Miller said. "Not only is it beautiful nature, but you're also learning some amazing Vermont history."

There's no deadline to complete the challenge, and bringing a dog isn't required, Miller said. People can hike in memory of a late pooch or as a fundraiser for their local humane society.

"It's a fun way to discover new parts of Vermont," she said.

For more, visit vtdoghikingchallenge.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Pub Paradise"

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