Pets and humans invited to state park hikes

Those whose pets are feeling the urge to get outside this winter can take them on a hike. Delaware Seashore State Park is inviting pet owners to a naturalist-guided hike in January and February. Humans and their pets can socialize while they all enjoy the salty winter air at the beach.

Two hikes have been scheduled for Saturdays at 1 p.m.:

• Jan. 4 at Fresh Pond, Hickman Road, Ocean View.

• Feb. 1 at Holts Landing State Park, 26909 Holts Landing Road, Dagsboro.

These are the first hikes that the parks have geared specifically toward pet owners. But pets (and sometimes horses) are already allowed on many trails and guided hikes.

“More and more, people … want to take their pets outside, and they’re asking, ‘Where can I take my pet for a walk?’” said Laura Scharle, a Delaware State Parks interpretive programs manager. “They want their pets to socialize.

“There’s more pet traffic in the park, and it seems like there’s a lot more questions. We always run into people who don’t know the rules,” she said, noting that some don’t pick up after their pets. “We’re just trying to connect with pets in a friendly way.”

The hikes are open for any pet, not just dogs. For instance, Delaware Parks staff have seen cats and even a pig on a leash. However, participation in the group outing is up to the owner’s discretion.

Both events last a little over an hour, although there are variations for longer or shorter trails.

Although the program is free, RSVPs are requested at least 24 hours in advance. Programs may be canceled due to lack of registration.

“Winter is our hiking season here at the beach,” Scharle said. There are fewer mosquitos, ticks and chiggers, and “It’s not crazy hot and humid, and because there’s no foliage on most of the trees, you actually end up seeing more wildlife than you would in summer.”

As a bonus, the parks do not charge entrance/parking fees in December, January or February.

Guests may want to bring shoes for the sometimes-muddy trails; a towel for muddy paws; plastic bags to collect pet waste; and water bottles or other necessary supplies.

Animals must be on least at all times in Delaware parks. Humans must pick up pet waste and transport it out of the park, since Delaware State Parks are “carry in, carry out.”

“You’re really encouraging visitors to be stewards of their public lands,” Scharle said.

The event is free, but pre-registration is required and can be done by calling the Indian River Life-Saving Station at (302)-227-6991. Details are online at

People can take advantage of cultural and scientific programs all season, including the Winter Hike Series on Thursdays and Winter Lecture Series on Tuesdays, all of which are free or low-cost.


By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter