Hike and Explore Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, VT

Overview of Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain is located in St. Johnsbury, Vermont on 150 acres of mountainside land. It was founded in the 1980s by artist Stephen Huneck as a place for people and dogs to enjoy nature and each other’s company. Huneck built many dog-themed attractions at Dog Mountain, including a Dog Chapel for pet memorial services and a gallery selling his dog-focused art. The main purpose of Dog Mountain is to celebrate the bond between humans and dogs through art, nature, and community.

About the Founder Stephen Huneck

Stephen Huneck was an American artist and writer who grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He started his career as a furniture maker, but eventually transitioned to creating folk art featuring dogs. This passion project led him to found Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont in the 1990s. According to the Dog Mountain website, “Stephen bought 150 acres on a mountaintop in St. Johnsbury and brought his furniture making and chainsaw skills to the property to build the Dog Chapel, Dog Cemetery, trails, ponds and dog art around the mountain” (https://www.dogmt.com/About-Stephen-Huneck.html).

Huneck was inspired to create Dog Mountain after he adopted a black lab named Sally shortly after falling into a coma due to an illness. He credited Sally with helping him find the determination to recover and saw the positive impact dogs had on human health. This led him to dedicate his life to celebrating the human-dog bond through his art and by providing a space for people to honor their dogs at Dog Mountain (https://www.dogmt.com/).

Visiting Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain is open year-round from dawn until dusk every day of the week. There is no admission fee to visit the grounds. Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash. The main parking lot, Dog Chapel, and Stephen Huneck Gallery are wheelchair accessible.

During peak wildflower season on weekends between late April and mid June, the main parking lot requires a permit for vehicle access due to high demand. Permits can be obtained through recreation.gov with a $1.00 transaction fee per permit. The 2023 dates requiring parking permits are April 29 – June 18 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Memorial Day Monday. Visitors without parking permits can still access the trails on foot or bike. Dog Mountain does not allow shuttle services to the main trailhead due to limited parking space.

Sources:

https://www.dogmt.com/Things-to-Do.html

https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10091444

The Dog Chapel

interior view of the stained glass windows inside dog mountain's chapel

The Dog Chapel is the heart of Dog Mountain. It was built in 2000 by founder Stephen Huneck as a place for people to celebrate the spiritual bond they share with their dogs (source: https://www.dogmt.com/Dog-Chapel.html). The chapel contains wooden pews facing an altar, where dog sculptures sit among lit candles. Stained glass windows lining the chapel feature colorful dog angels and dog saints.

Inside the chapel, visitors will find hundreds of photos, drawings, and letters honoring beloved pets who have passed on. These memorials decorate the walls and ceiling, providing comfort to those grieving a pet’s death. People come from all around to have their dog’s ashes scattered on the mountain or displayed in the chapel’s remembrance garden (source: https://www.dogmt.com/Dog-Chapel.html). The chapel provides a peaceful sanctuary to reflect on a dog’s unconditional love and celebrate the joy they brought.

Hiking Trails

The main hiking trail at Dog Mountain is considered one of the more challenging hikes in the Columbia River Gorge area. The trail gains over 2,800 feet of elevation in just 2.5 miles up to the summit of Dog Mountain. The trail starts out steeply and continues to climb via switchbacks through forests until reaching the viewpoint at the top.

From the summit viewpoint, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the Columbia River and the Cascade peaks such as Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier on clear days. The area is blanketed in wildflowers during spring and early summer. After taking in the scenic views, hikers can continue along the ridge to the upper meadows filled with even more flowers.

The overall difficulty of the hike is strenuous due to the relentless climb and steep sections along the way. Proper footwear, plenty of water, and hiking poles are recommended. The trail can be very crowded at peak times given its popularity. Early mornings and weekdays tend to be less busy. Parking at the trailhead fills up fast, so arriving early is key.

Those looking for a slightly easier alternative can take the Augspurger Trail, which branches off halfway up Dog Mountain Trail. Augspurger Trail climbs at a more gradual pace through meadows carpeted in spring flowers before connecting back with Dog Mountain Trail near the summit.

Dog Mountain Art

The galleries at Dog Mountain showcase the artwork of Stephen Huneck, the founder of Dog Mountain. Huneck was an accomplished artist known for his whimsical paintings and prints featuring dogs. His distinctive folk art style captures the playful spirit of dogs through bright colors and simple designs.

examples of stephen huneck's colorful dog-themed artwork

The Dog Mountain Art Gallery features Huneck’s complete body of original 2D and 3D artwork, including his famous serigraph prints. It contains over 1,000 original pieces covering his entire career from 1981 until his passing in 2010. Visitors can browse Huneck classics like the Dog Chapel prints, Prayers for Dogs, and his friendly Labrador sculptures.

In addition, the Stephen Huneck Gallery hosts revolving exhibitions of Huneck’s work. Popular recurring exhibits include “The Dog Chapel Collection” highlighting his chapel-inspired art and “A Stephen Huneck Christmas” featuring his festive holiday prints. Pieces from both galleries are available for purchase as perfect mementos from Dog Mountain.

Huneck’s art captures the unconditional love between dogs and humans. His signature whimsy and colorful dogs make Dog Mountain’s galleries a special place for dog lovers to connect with his vision.

Dog Adoption

Dog Mountain works closely with Mountain Pet Rescue to facilitate dog adoptions. Mountain Pet Rescue is a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to finding forever homes for pets in need, with a focus on active dogs.

Mountain Pet Rescue has many adoptable dogs available, including various breeds like Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and mixed breed dogs. Their adoption process includes an application, meet and greet, and home visit to ensure each dog finds the right match.

dog adoption event at dog mountain with available rescue dogs

In addition to dogs available directly through Mountain Pet Rescue, Dog Mountain hosts regular adoption events on-site. Their monthly “Doggy Speed Dating” event allows potential adopters to meet and interact with dogs in need of homes. Dog Mountain also partners with local shelters for special adoption days on major holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas.

By working closely with rescue organizations and facilitating on-site adoption events, Dog Mountain helps connect loving families with dogs in need. Adopting a dog from Dog Mountain saves a life and provides a companion animal its forever home.

Lodging Nearby

There are several lodging options located near Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, VT that provide easy access to the attraction. The nearest hotel is the Fairbanks Inn, located just 2 miles away in St. Johnsbury. This historic hotel originally built in 1891 provides classic New England accommodations.

For those looking for resort amenities, the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa is located 6 miles from Dog Mountain in Whitefield, NH. This luxurious resort features an on-site spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and excellent dining options.

Pet-friendly options close to Dog Mountain include the Comfort Inn & Suites in St. Johnsbury, just 3 miles away, and the Hampton Inn Littleton, 10 miles from the attraction.

Those looking to stay right at Dog Mountain can book one of the limited on-site cottages which provide the most convenient access to the trails and chapel.

Area Attractions

In addition to visiting Dog Mountain, there are many other interesting attractions and activities in the Saint Johnsbury area to make your trip complete. The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is a must-see with its impressive architecture and massive collection of books, artwork, and artifacts dating back to 1871. The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium is also a top attraction featuring natural history exhibits, space shows in the planetarium, and live animal habitats.

downtown main street area of st. johnsbury, vermont

For outdoor adventures, hike, bike or cross-country ski along the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, a 93-mile recreation path from Swanton to St. Johnsbury along a former railroad corridor. The historic downtown St. Johnsbury area offers quaint shops, restaurants, maple sugaring tours, art galleries and more to explore. Don’t miss Calvin Coolidge’s family homestead and the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site to learn about the 30th president’s roots in Vermont.

Planning Your Visit

The best time to visit Dog Mountain is during the spring, summer, and fall when the weather is mild and the trails are accessible. Many people like to visit in late spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. Summer offers pleasant temperatures for exploring the trails with your dog. Fall brings brilliant foliage with the backdrop of the mountains. Winters in Vermont can be harsh, so it’s best to avoid visiting then unless you plan to snowshoe.

Dog Mountain is open year-round from dawn until dusk. Make sure to check the website for any closures due to weather or events before visiting. Weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends.

Dogs are welcome throughout Dog Mountain, including inside The Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and behaviors well around other dogs before visiting. Bring cleanup bags and water for your dog.

There are no fees to visit Dog Mountain, but donations are encouraged to help with operating costs. Many people give $5 per person. Consider bringing cash for the donation box.

Pack appropriate gear depending on the season, such as sturdy shoes for hiking, snow boots, bug spray, sunscreen, and layers. The trails can be steep and rocky in areas.

You can make a full day visiting Dog Mountain, including hiking the trails, visiting The Dog Chapel, exploring the art galleries, and relaxing by the pond. There is a picnic area if you want to bring your own food. Or you can just stop by for a quick tour of the chapel.

Nearby lodging options include cozy inns, hotels, AirBnBs, and campgrounds if you want to extend your trip. Dog-friendly accommodations can book up far in advance, so plan ahead.

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