There’s no better companion in the outdoors than your trusted canine friend but visiting a national park with your dog can sometimes present a challenge.
In most parks, pets are not allowed on trails and in wilderness areas — this is for their own protection as well as that of the local plant and animal life. But there are some areas within national parks that are pet-friendly, where you can spend quality time with man’s best friend. Explore just some of the national parks that welcome pets, and remember — it’s important to follow B.A.R.K. ranger principles when taking your pet on a park trip!
Acadia National Park
Few pet-friendly national parks offer more opportunities to take a hike with your pooch than Acadia National Park. Spanning several islands along the rugged Maine coast, Acadia National Park features 100 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads where leashed pets are welcome. Dogs are also permitted at the Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds, and on Isle au Haut for day hiking.
Ticks are prevalent in this park, especially from late spring to early fall. To limit your exposure to ticks, walk in the middle of trails, away from vegetation, wear light-colored clothing to make them easier to spot, tuck your pants into your socks, and use repellent on your shoes and clothing (vest and bandana repellents for dogs are also available!). Make sure to check yourself and your dog thoroughly for ticks after a visit to Acadia.
Yosemite National Park
Pet visitors to Yosemite National Park can enjoy walks along fully paved roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths (except those signed as not allowing pets), as well as visits to developed areas and campgrounds (except walk-in campgrounds). Leashed pets are also allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop trail, an easy-going 3.5-mile trail where you can spot wildflowers blooming in the spring months.
Yosemite is home to hundreds of bears, so it’s important to remember that pet food is also bear food. Make sure to pack and store your pet food as if it were human food to ensure that you don’t have an uninvited furry friend joining your trip.
Shenandoah National Park
Of the 500 miles of marked hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park, only 20 are off-limits to pets, giving you and Fido plenty of room to explore. Some of the best short hikes to take with your dog are accessible along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Pets are allowed at Shenandoah’s campgrounds as well, and the park even has pet-friendly lodging available.
In Shenandoah, as well as any other pet-friendly park, make sure you follow the first principle of a B.A.R.K. ranger and bag your pet’s waste! Be sure to have a bag or canister to put it in until you find a trash can — do not leave waste bags in trees, on trail posts, or discarded in the woods.
North Cascades National Park
Another important B.A.R.K. principle is ‘Know Where to Go,” and in North Cascades National Park, this is critical. While pets are not permitted throughout most of the park, they are allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the park’s most challenging and spectacularly scenic footpaths. The Pacific Crest Trail stretches all the way down to Southern California and provides a rare opportunity to take your dog on an overnight backpacking trip.
If you’re in the area but Pacific Crest Trail is too challenging for you, try nearby pet-friendly spots. Leashed pets are permitted in the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, which share borders with North Cascades National Park. Pets are also allowed on most surrounding national forest lands.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The lush forests and rolling meadows of Cuyahoga Valley National Park are cozy and familiar and, best of all, Cuyahoga is a park that allows dogs. Four-legged friends are permitted throughout 110 miles of the park’s hiking trails, including the 20-miles of the Towpath Trail, which follows the course of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal. Pets are not allowed on the park’s Scenic Railroad Train, so make sure to enjoy that on a separate visit!
Like in Acadia, ticks can be found in the tall grasses, ground cover, and near structures or woodpiles in this park from spring to fall. Avoid such areas when hiking the trails with your pet and be sure to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your pet safe when visiting the park.
Mammoth Cave National Park
With the exception of designated service animals, dogs aren’t allowed in the caves, which means they miss out on Mammoth Cave National Park’s main attraction. However, pets are quite welcome on the park’s above-ground hiking trails and in the park’s pet-friendly Woodland Cottages. Pets may be day boarded at the Mammoth Cave Kennels if you’re planning on a multi-day visit to the park and want to explore the caves yourself.
Another B.A.R.K. ranger principle is to respect wildlife, and that’s especially true if you’re enjoying a backcountry trail with your pet at this park. Pets and their owners may encounter horse riders on backcountry trails. It’s important to move yourself and your pet to the side of the trail and keep your pet calm as riders pass by to keep everyone safe and enjoying their visit!
Grand Canyon National Park
Pets are not permitted below the rim of the Grand Canyon, but you can take your dog for a stroll on any of the hiking trails that stay above the perimeter, including the spectacular South Rim Trail. Pets can also enjoy trips to Mather and Desert View campgrounds, Trailer Village, or throughout developed areas. Yavapai Lodge even offers pet-friendly rooms.
Safety is a major concern around the canyon, so follow the B.A.R.K. principle of “Always Wear a Leash” to keep your pets safe when visiting Grand Canyon National Park. Pets are not allowed on park shuttle buses, so make sure to plan ahead. The park even offers a kennel for dogs near the South Rim Trail; please note that proof of pet vaccinations are required upon entering the kennel.
Requirements for visiting a national park with your dog vary, so be sure to check each park’s regulations before you visit. In most cases, pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Even in parks less pet-friendly than those listed here, leashed dogs are still permitted on roads and in developed campgrounds. Make sure you’ve brought enough water for yourself and your pet, and don’t forget those B.A.R.K. ranger principles!
Photo credits: Loki the @AdventureBeagle at Acadia National Park by @JasonHeritage; National Park Service
Last updated March 22, 2021.