Getting outside is fantastic, and it can be even more enjoyable when your dog goes with you. For this reason, many pet owners have dreams of taking their pups out to explore our country’s beautiful national parks. Unfortunately, because it is important to keep wild animals and other visitors safe, there are only a few truly dog-friendly national parks out there. This makes it a bit more difficult to live out this dream than you might imagine.
The good news? There are some national parks that allow dogs and even welcome them with open arms! In this article, we will discuss the top 12 dog-friendly national parks in the US and give you some tips for visiting these parks with your pet.
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The Top 12 Dog-Friendly National Parks
First, let’s talk about which are the more dog-friendly national parks out there. These are the national parks that allow dogs in a large portion of the park, making them some of the most exciting NPS sites to visit with a canine pal.
Congaree National Park
As far as dog-friendly national parks go, we absolutely love Congaree National Park. This park allows pups on all of the park trails and boardwalks, so you can take Fido wherever you go. To make a good thing even better, pets are allowed in park campgrounds and on park tours through Carolina Outdoor Adventures.
Acadia National Park
Another awesome park for dogs is Acadia National Park. Not only is this place 100% gorgeous, they also allow dogs on 100 miles of trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, meaning you won’t run out of places to explore with your pup anytime soon. With the exception of Duck Harbor, campgrounds allow pets as well.
Just avoid taking your doggo to Sand Beach, and don’t let them swim in any of the lakes!
Grand Canyon National Park
Everyone should visit Grand Canyon National Park at least once, and this includes pets. Fortunately, dogs are allowed on all of the popular trails on the South Rim as well as the Bridle Path, along with a portion of the Arizona Trail on the North Rim.
While your dogs cannot ride shuttle buses or go below the canyon’s rim, they will be welcomed at some in-park campgrounds and there is a kennel available on the South Rim should you want to hike into the canyon or hop on a bus.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of the best places to take your pets. Of the national parks that allow dogs, this is one of the most pet friendly. You see, while the park is home to over 500 miles of hiking trails, only 20 of those miles are inaccessible to hiking pups. The cherry on top? Dogs are also allowed in all in-park campgrounds as well as the pull-outs along Skyline Drive.
Petrified Forest National Park
Another favorite of the dog-friendly national parks, Petrified Forest National Park loves its furry visitors. This place allows guests’ canine friends to wander all park trails and roads, as well as the official wilderness areas in the park. Obviously, you will need to keep Fido on a leash and avoid taking him into buildings, but otherwise you’re free to roam.
New River Gorge National Park
Haven’t had the chance to visit the country’s newest national park yet? If not, now is the time to head to New River Gorge National Park and you will definitely want to take your dog along for the adventure. This park allows pets on all in-park trails, including the famous Endless Wall Trail as well as the spectacular Grandview Rim Trail.
White Sands National Park
At White Sands National Park your pup can accompany you pretty much anywhere you might wander (with the exception of inside buildings, of course). This includes the nine miles of in-park trails as well as the incredible white dunes themselves.
That said, you will want to be aware that the sand can get extremely hot in summer and could be dangerous for your dog’s paws.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Another fantastic addition to the list of national parks that allow dogs, Cuyahoga Valley National Park lets pups explore 110 miles of in-park trails. This includes 20 miles of the multi-use historic Towpath Trail. That said, dogs are not allowed in the East Rim mountain bike area or on the Scenic Railroad that runs through the park. Of course, the park buildings are also off-limits for pets.
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park may not seem like an obvious choice when looking for national parks to visit with your furry friend. That said, it’s actually surprisingly perfect for dogs.
Obviously, Fido won’t be allowed in the bathhouses themselves, but they are welcome to hike all 26 miles of trails and walk along Bathhouse Row (where you’ll find handy pet waste stations). The in-park campground also welcomes pets.
Indiana Dunes National Park
At Indiana Dunes National Park, dogs can go on a hike and then cool off in the lake. Your furry friends will be welcome on any national parks trail with the exceptions of Great Marsh Trail, Pinhook Bog Trail, and Glenwood Dunes Trail.
As far as lakeside beaches go, dogs are welcome at most during the off-season. That said, from Memorial Day to Labor Day you will want to check with a Ranger to learn which beaches allow pets.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Okay, so your dog can’t go on a cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park. That said, the Mammoth Cave Lodge runs a kennel where your pet will be well taken care of while you go tour the cave. When you’re done with that, pick your pup up and take them hiking on the 70 miles of tree-covered trails that wind their way over the surface level of the park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Last but not least, there is Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. This park allows dogs to wander the Dunes Overlook Trail as well as the Mosca Pass Trail. Want some off-trail adventures? Pets can splash in Medano Creek and play in the amazing sand dunes all the way up to the first high ridge.
Just remember that, like in White Sands NP above, the dunes here can get very hot on your pup’s paws, so you might want to plan your trip for a cooler time of year.
Things to Know When Visiting National Parks with Pets
Making sure you choose national parks that allow dogs is only the first step in ensuring you plan a fun and safe national parks getaway for you and your pup. Below are more steps you should take to keep your pet safe and happy for the duration of your visit to the dog friend national parks.
- All national parks require that dogs be kept on a six-foot (or shorter) leash at all times.
- Know your boundaries. Know that pets are never allowed in federal buildings. If you aren’t sure where dogs are allowed, ask a ranger.
- Give wild animals their distance. Your dog may want to chase animals. Obviously, you should not allow this.
- Always clean up after your dog after they do their business.
- Do a heartworm treatment before you leave home in order to protect your dog from heartworm, which can be carried by mosquitoes. Also do a flea and tick treatment!
- Make sure your dog never has a chance to run away. (For example, keep car windows rolled up.) Even the most well-behaved dogs might be tempted to dart if they see another animal nearby.
- Carry plenty of water. Hiking can make pups really thirsty and you definitely don’t want your furry friend to get dehydrated.
- Be aware of how hot paved paths, sand, and gravel can get, and avoid walking in places that may hurt your dog’s paws. Paw pads like these could also be a good preventative measure.
- If you’ll be visiting a park at night (some parks are excellent for stargazing) make sure you grab a light-up harness so you can see them in the dark.
What to Bring
- Harness and Leash
- ID Tag
- Dog Bug Spray
- Collapsible Water Bowl
- Biodegradable Poop Bags
- Food and Treats (for energy while hiking)
- Dog Coat (if applicable)
Take Advantage of the B.A.R.K. Ranger Program
One awesome thing about taking your dog to national parks? The B.A.R.K. Ranger Program.
This super fun program is offered in many of the national parks and encourages dog owners to learn the importance of following the rules while enjoying the NPS sites with pets. It also gives pups the opportunity to be sworn in as a B.A.R.K. ranger. Once a dog becomes a B.A.R.K. ranger, their owner will have the chance to purchase a special ranger badge collar tag.
Wondering what B.A.R.K. stands for? Only the most important rules for pet owners visiting national parks that allow dogs:
- Bag your pet’s waste.
- Always leash your pet.
- Respect wildlife.
- Know where you can go.
Finding National Park Alternatives
It can be really frustrating to plan a trip to a national park only to find out Fido isn’t welcome. The good news? Dogs are welcome to ride in your car and walk roads and paved paths in almost every national park, so you can probably take your pup for a drive to see the sites from the comfort of your vehicle.
Craving a hike? If there are no pet-friendly trails available in the national park you’ll be visiting, look for nearby trails. A huge number of national parks are situated right next to national forests and other beautiful natural areas, meaning trails are usually pretty easy to find. Not sure if a trail is pet friendly? AllTrails usually has that information readily available.
You could also consider changing your travel plans and heading to one of these amazing pet-friendly vacation destinations instead!
Where to Stay when Visiting National Parks with Pets
The last remaining question about visiting dog-friendly national parks with your furry travel buddy is, where should you stay?
We will always, always recommend RV camping when visiting national parks. Camping allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of these parks and the areas surrounding them, and staying in an RV means you get to do so in complete comfort. We recommend this option even more strongly when traveling with a dog, as it means you can keep your pet safe and sound at night while still fully enjoying nature.
Don’t have an RV of your own? A rental RV is just the thing! Concerned about staying in an RV rental with your pet? Don’t be! We have plenty of pet-friendly RV rentals to choose from, so you and Fido can relax in comfort while enjoying the wilderness together.