Dog Friendly National Parks for Hiking With Your Best Friend

You love the outdoors, Fido loves the outdoors, and you want to give your dog the most exciting and adventurous life possible. But, as you may already know, many National Parks and public areas are not pet friendly.

Many National Parks don’t allow pets for many reasons—protecting wildlife, the topography, etc… so where can you take your dog? If you hate leaving your pets at home but still want to get out and see some National Parks this summer, you can!

Acadia National Park 

Used under Creative Commons License credit Ken Rowland on Flickr

Acadia National Park is located on the East Coast in Maine and features a variety of stunning landscapes and topography. Acadia features mountains, ocean shoreline, woodlands and lakes—and dogs are allowed in most of the park! There are 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park for hiking with your best friend—on a leash, of course. Most lakes in the park are public water supplies,meaning they’re off limits to dogs AND humans.

There are a few trails off-limits and not recommended for dogs due to the nature and difficulty of the trails. Acadia National Park also features a B.A.R.K. ranger program—a fun and educational program for exploring the park with your dog safely and responsibly. Pick up an information packet at the visitor center of the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park 

Used under Created Commons License credit to Yi-Liang (Lucas) Liu on Flickr

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in Ohio and preserves the natural landscape along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland. Pets are permitted in the Stanford Campground of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as on over 110 miles of hiking trails throughout the park. Dogs must be kept on a leash that is 6 ft or shorter in length. Service dogs are allowed to accompany their owner to all park locations.

Grand Canyon National Park 

Used under Creative Commons License By fPat Murray on Flickr

The Grand Canyon, located in Arizona, is one of the most pet friendly National Parks in the United States. Dogs must be kept on a leash that is 6ft or shorter at all times and are allowed on all hiking trails on the South Rim (above the rim). Dogs are also permitted at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas. Yavapai Lodge is the only in-park lodge that has pet-friendly rooms. Pets are not permitted below the rim on inner canyon trails or on park shuttle buses.

On the North Rim, leashed pets are allowed only on the Bridle Trail that connects the North Kaibab Trail and the portion of the Arizona Trail north to the park entrance station.

Great Sand Dunes National Park 

Used under Creative Commons License credit to Sandy Daze on Flickr

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in Colorado and is open all day and all night, year round. Pets are permitted in the preserve (including Mosca Pass Trail) and main areas of the park. Pets are not permitted in the backcountry beyond the first high ridge of dunes, inside the visitor center, off of the overlook trail or in the backpacking sites.

If you plan on bringing your dog in the summer months, plan on exploring early in the day or late evening because sand temperatures can reach up to 150 degrees or higher. Protect your pets’ feet with booties and take a splash in Mendano Creek and a run on the wet sands to cool off!

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs Nat’l Park used under Creative Commons License by Dan Thibodeaux on Flickr

Hot Springs National Park surrounds the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hot Springs has been attracting people for centuries to come heal and relax in the thermal waters and believed the hot springs had medicinal properties, turning the area into a spa town. Pets on a leash are welcome on all trails in Hot Springs National Park and in the campground but are not allowed inside the visitor center and other park buildings.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Used under Creative Commons License by Al on Flickr

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the worlds longest known cave system with over 400 miles explored, earning it the name “Mammoth.” While pets are not allowed inside the caves, dogs are allowed in campgrounds and on the over 70 miles of beautiful hiking trails on the surface.

Petrified Forest National Park

Used under Creative Commons License by Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr

Petrified Forest National Park is located in northeastern Arizona and is named for its large deposits of petrified wood found throughout the area. Pets are allowed on any paved road or trail as well as all official Wilderness areas in the park.

Petrified Forest National Park offers a B.A.R.K Ranger program—inquire in the visitor center!

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah Nat’l Park used under Creative Commons License by Stefan Serena on Flickr

Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. With cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, and quiet wooden hollows, there is something for everyone (person and dog) in this beautiful National Park. Pets are allowed on most of the 500 miles of trails in the park, with the exception of a few that are too difficult for dogs to access. Pets are allowed in campgrounds and pet-friendly lodging is available.

Tips for Visiting a National Park with Your Dog

B.A.R.K. Rangers by National Park Service on Flickr

No matter which National Park you decide to visit with your dog, there are a few main tips you need to keep in mind.

  • Never leave your dog unattended in your car. Temperatures can rise very quickly and your dog is susceptible to heat stroke.
  • Always bring enough water for you and your dog on the trails.
  • Protect your dogs feet in the warm summer and cold winter months with booties.
  • Be prepared for encounters with all nature: bug bites, snake encounters, sharp plants, etc.
  • Always bring a bag for your pet’s waste. Protect the environment.
  • Respect wildlife. These areas are protected for the animals and the plants that are native to the area. Keeping your dog on a leash and trained with basic commands will help protect the flora and fauna in National Parks.
  • Always keep your pet on a leash. Not only is it a rule, it is for your pets safety as well as the safety of other visitors.
  • Know where you can go. This article outlines some of the places you can or cannot go with your pets in these National Parks, but it is up to you as a responsible pet owner to do your due diligence and research further before you go.

Trail Etiquette for Hiking With Your Dog

  • Always use a leash that is 6ft long or shorter. Retractable leashes are not suitable for hiking with your dog. Not everyone is okay with dogs, because of that you need to keep your dog leashed and close to you.
  • Yield to all others when hiking with your dog. Keep your dog out of sniffing or jumping range when crossing paths with other hikers, hikers with dogs, cyclists, horses, etc. Horses are spooked easily and this can be dangerous for them and their riders, be sure to keep your dog far away and still as horses pass by.
  • Keep your dog on the trail. Protect the environment and hold your dog to the same rules as humans – don’t let them leave the trail.
  • Pack out pet waste. Pet waste is not natural to ecosystem of the trail and it needs to be packed out just as human waste would. Never forget your doggie bags!

There are hundreds of miles of National Park Trails, National Lakeshores and Seashores that will welcome you and your beloved pets! Just do a little research, know before you go and be sure to follow all rules and trail etiquette.

Dog friendly national parks for hiking with your best friend

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