Tag Archives: llamas

Hanging out with Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Hanging out with llamas and alpacas is nothing short of endearing as they peek out with their furry long necks. They are grand companions for the road, or “silent brothers,” as the Andean people call them. Llamas (pronounced “yama”) have been around for millions of years first originating in North America, then migrating to South America. Their close cousin, Alpacas are native to the Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They were mostly bred for their fibers, whereas the llamas were pack animals used during the pre-Columbian era. The Incan Empire in Peru heavily depended on the use of llamas  for transporting goods, crops and other materials between remote villages. Alpacas were vital to the Incas by providing one of the strongest and softest animals fibers, great for making sweaters, especially needed in the cold sierra mountains. They also served as companions for young children and small animals. Llamas and alpacas are symbolic to the indigenous cultures of South America and represent a way of life.

 

Affection for these animals has spread to North America and Europe thanks to hiking and farming initiatives. Hiking with llamas is not only environmentally friendly since they don’t damage the land when grazing or walking, they are also accustomed to high altitude, and are less stubborn than mules and horses. They can alert us when a herd of animals approach in the distance. Llamas are mostly peaceful, curious animals (although they can spit for hierarchical reasons within their herd) and great for people trekking long distance, who can’t endure heavy equipment such as older folks, children and those with disabilities. While an average llama of 300 pounds can carry about 75 pounds (25 percent its weight), it’s not recommended alpacas carry heavy loads since they’re smaller, and less accustomed to taking long hikes. However, many farms allow visitors to feed alpacas and take them for short walks. Alpacas are docile, calm, non-aggressive to humans, and they are able to learn tricks. They are especially therapeutic for children.

If you’re ready to embrace the alpaca’s or the llama’s chill attitude, walk along with them in one these parks or farms!

Llama Trekking

Jackson Hole Llamas offers llama trekking trips in Wyoming through five areas in Yellowstone National Park and Jedediah Smith Wilderness. Llamas will carry your gear as you walk with them, so you can enjoy views of wildflower meadows, forests, waterfalls, geothermal areas, and alpine lakes. Their website even shows off a variety of llamas each with a quirky character description. Similarly, Yellowstone Safari Company offers llama treks in the northern parts of the park, including Black Butte Creek Trail, Specimen Creek and Black Canyon. Swan Mountain Llama Trekking offers short trails and multi-day treks through Montana’s Glacier Country. Some of their longer trails go through Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Great Bear and the Mission Wilderness Areas. They even have a 3-hour wine & cheese llama trek.

The video below illustrates how backpacking with llamas can be a smooth hike.

 

 

Alpaca Walks

Alpacas on the trail. [Cynthia Via]

Alpacas on the trail. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Though alpaca trail packs are rare, some farms allow visitors to feed, pet and take them on short walks. Since most alpacas spend their time within farms, they’ll need a bit of training. If you have your own alpaca, walking is a great way to exercise and build a relationship with them. Walking with alpacas is beneficial for children especially those with autism. In the presence of alpacas, children tend to walk longer and be more invested in the moment.

If you’re in Garret County in Maryland, visit Blue Bell Farm where you can view and walk alongside alpacas as they graze picturesque hills and woodlands. The STARanch Alpaca Trek allows visitors to walk with alpacas through riverbanks and trails along the Caloosahatchee River and Cypress creek in Florida. Patchwork Meadow Alpacas in the Mohawk Valley of New York allows visitors to see alpacas up close and explore their mill-spun alpaca yarn.This 33-acre farm is home to 74 alpacas.

 

If you want to have these furry friends around all the time, maybe think about owning an alpaca or llama farm or volunteering in one like these folks.

For more animal encounters download our Pocket Ranger® Apps, and check out our Instagram.

Hiking With Your Pets

Both you and your pets love the outdoors. So, why not hit the trail together? Trekking with animals helps you slow down, relax, and explore the outdoors in a whole new way. Here are a few companions that would happily hike to the summit with you.

Hiking with Dogs


You bring your dog for walks, so it’s an obvious next step to bring them hiking with you. Sure, your dog probably won’t care about the scenic vista at the summit, but he’ll be pysched to just spend some woodsy quality time with you. Looking to get out more pent-up puppy energy? Have your dog carry their own water and snacks in a dog pack. On those longer, tougher treks, invest in some dog booties; these reduce the potential for ripped foot pads.

Hiking with Goats

A small herd of Alpine goats make their way through the woods

A small herd of Alpine dairy goats tackle the trail [Image: willowwittranch.com]

Don’t limit your goat to the barnyard! Goats are intrepid hikers, specially suited to tackling rough terrain with gusto. The best part about hiking with goats? Other than the inevitable cute, King-of-the-Mountain moments, a goat will carry gear for you. A goat can carry 25-30% of its body weight; that translates to about 35-60 pounds of gear per goat! Consider hiking with wethers (castrated males) or, if you’re camping and would like fresh milk for your morning coffee, bring along a milking doe. Since goats are social animals, it’s best to bring more than one.

Hiking with Cats


So, you can’t expect a cat to carry things for you nor can you milk them. And not all cats are going to be cool with the idea of wearing a harness and heading out into the woods. However, there are cats (especially breeds like Bengals, Pixie-bobs, and Savannahs) that are just thirsting for the mountains and other wild places in the world. How to start hiking with your cat? First, get your cat used to walking on a leash. Do this by heading out into the backyard a few times, and just milling around together. Once comfortable with its harness, you can journey out onto the trails. Wear a sturdy framed backpack, so when your cat is tired, you can shoulder your best friend and hike on.

Hiking with Llamas

A girl walks a llama in the woods

Image: blog.timesunion.com

For hundreds of years, people of the Andes mountain range have been hiking with llamas. Llamas are surefooted, agile creatures, well-suited for rocky terrain. They are adept at browsing for food while hiking, and cause no more impact in the high country than deer. Llamas are also great guardians. On farms, they are used to protect goats and sheep, but when hiking, they guard their human friends against bears, coyotes and panthers. Planning a backpacking trip? Consider taking along a llama or two. Your back will thank you! Just like goats, llamas make great pack animals. Llamas can comfortably carry up to 25% of their body weight, so an average of 75 pounds of equipment per llama. With a llama, you can say goodbye to the days of carrying heavy stuff, like camping stove and tent!

Hiking with Pet Pigs

A pot-belly pig with a backpack on hikes in Malibu

Romeo, the pot-bellied pig enjoys jaunts in Malibu Creek State Park, CA [Image: Jessica Feldman]

While your pet pig probably won’t be tackling the AT or the PCT, leashed pet pigs would be happy to amble down a woodsy path or two with you. Adult pot-bellied pigs and micro-pigs are often sedentary and are not particularly agile, but they still need exercise. Make sure to choose reasonable trails that both of you can appreciate. If your pig is especially spunky, consider buying a larger dog pack and saddling him with water and snacks to enjoy together at the summit.

Hiking with Parrots


Why leave your parrot home when you both could be climbing to new heights in the great outdoors? Admittedly, taking a bird hiking is a bit of an endeavor, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t be awesome. Unless your feathered friends are insanely well-trained, keep your parrots wing-clipped and on a leash so you won’t lose them. If you’re not comfortable with having your bird on your shoulder, get yourself a portable bird carrier. Some models are styled like backpacks, and are perfect for hiking. You can also add a perch or two to your backpack frame.

Hiking with Donkeys

A woman hikes alongside her pack donkey

Image: www.enlightened-traveller.co.uk

Donkeys make ideal hiking companions. Donkeys are friendly, child-safe, sure-footed, and adept at carrying heavy loads. Guiding a donkey along a trail has been compared to walking a dog; it is that easy to do! Donkey trekking is popular in Europe, but can be enjoyed just as much here in the States. A donkey can comfortably carry 88 pounds, and is a great buddy to have for longer excursions. If you and your family are hiking, donkeys are perfect for carrying younger, tuckered-out kids, so that way everyone makes it to the summit and back again.

Before hitting the trails with your furry friends, be sure to check the rules and regulations at your state parks by using your state’s Pocket Ranger® app. 

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Backpack
  • Camera

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and much more

Do you take your pets on hiking trips with you? We’d love to hear about your hiking adventures!