The Best National Parks to Visit with Your Dog

Last updated on August 30th, 2021 at 09:54 am. Originally published on November 30th, 2020

If your canine companion goes everywhere with you and is considered a part of your family, you’re likely not going to want to leave him behind on a trip to explore the country’s national parks. You’ll want him to come along with you on this trip, just like on any other.

But which national parks are the best to visit with your dog? We have a few pointers.

a dog on a leash getting ready for a hike

Tips for visiting national parks with your dog

If you are going to bring your furry pal along to a national park, you’ll want to make sure he’s ready for the excursion.

1.) Know where your dog is allowed on the park grounds

In a lot of national parks, dogs aren’t allowed in the backcountry, or on many of the hiking trails. Know which, if any, trails you’re allowed to bring your dog on and have a plan for what you and your pet will do at the park.

2.) Always keep your pet leashed

This is almost always a requirement at national parks, and is for the safety of your pet as well as the safety of the wildlife at the park. Your dog’s leash should not be more than six feet long.

3.) Make sure your pet has the appropriate vaccinations

Make sure your dog’s shots are up to date, and make sure he has a collar tag with identification and medical information on it.

a dog resting on a bed of leaves

4.) Never leave your dog unattended

Dogs should not be left unattended, and they should never be left in parked cars while you are away.

5.) Make sure your dog is trained

Your pup will need some basic training so he does not threaten wildlife or keep other visitors from enjoying the park. He should not bark excessively or for long periods of time and should be able to walk on a leash safely among other people.

6.) Always clean up after your pet

Make sure you have bags for your dog’s waste and that you throw it away in the correct containers (look carefully! Some parks have designated waste and recycling containers so don’t toss it in the wrong trash).

7.) Store your pet supplies safely

Your dog isn’t the only one attracted to his kibble! If you’re camping with your pet, make sure you store his food the same way you store human food, in containers that wildlife can’t smell or open. Don’t feed your pet outside your RV or camper or leave uneaten food in his bowl.

Once you’re assured your dog can behave at a national park, it’s time to decide where to go!

dogs shaking off after a swim in a lake

The Best National Parks To Visit With Your Dog

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful park to visit, with sweeping views of mountain peaks and sparkling lakes and waterfalls. It’s also teeming with wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and mountain lions, and smaller animals including marmots and pikas. Because of this, dogs are allowed only if they are on a leash, and only along established roads, in parking areas, and in established campgrounds and picnic areas. They must be on leashes no longer than six feet, and can’t make noise that impacts other visitors or wildlife. You must always clean up after your dog.

Just outside the park, the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west have many multi-use trails where owners are allowed to bring their pets. There are even a few trails that allow your dogs to be off-leash as they hike with you. These are good-sized towns that also have pet supply stores, grooming, and doggy daycare options if you’d like to do some activities without your beloved buddy. Grand Lake also has a dog-friendly beach if you have a water-loving pooch.

a dog gazing at Yosemite's Half Dome

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite should be on the bucket list of anyone interested in seeing the nation’s parks. The sheer cliff of Half Dome, the impressive rise of El Capitan, and the huge, rushing Yosemite Falls are awe-inspiring and well worth a visit. Fortunately, these attractions are also easily viewed from paved roads and paths on the valley floor, which means you can bring your pet along as you sightsee.

Leashed pets are allowed on most paved roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths and in most developed areas unless there is a sign saying they are not. Bridalveil Fall and the Lower Yosemite Fall Loop are both good walks that allow your dog.

If you’d like to do some exploring without your pooch, there are two kennels in the park, one at Yosemite Valley Stables and one at Tenaya Lodge, as well as dog-sitting at Tenaya Lodge. All of those services tend to book quickly so make reservations in advance.

a fall landscape at Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia has 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park where dogs are allowed. Dogs are also allowed in most public areas at Acadia, and they’re even welcome on the free shuttles through the park. Nearby Bar Harbor has pet groomers, kennels, and other amenities where you can pamper your pup. Bark Harbor is a pet supply store on Main Street if you want to get your furry friend a souvenir.

a waterfall at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley is one of the most pet-friendly national parks, perhaps because it’s also one of the newest. There are 125 miles of trails in the park and all of them allow you to hike with your dog. You can hike woodlands, wetlands, and fields and stroll past several of the 100 waterfalls in the park. Some trails have stream crossings with stones or log bridges, but there are many that are easy and accessible to everyone.

Dogs are required to be on a leash, are not allowed inside park buildings, and are not allowed on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Train or East Rim mountain bike trails. Keep your dog on designated trails, and consider getting tick prevention collars, sprays, or gels to apply before hiking with your pooch.

Grand Canyon National Park at sunset

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Leashed dogs are allowed on trails above the rim, at Mather Campground, Desert View Campgrounds, Trailer Village, and in the developed areas of the park. Yavapai Lodge has pet-friendly rooms, and the South Rim Kennel offers pet boarding if you want to do some activities without your dog. You cannot take your dog below the rim on inner canyon trails, on shuttle busses, or on many of the trails at the North Rim.

Be aware that your dog could scare or harm wild animals by making noise, chasing, or catching them and could possible scare other visitors. Make sure they don’t damage the ground by digging or rolling, which could crush native plants. Don’t leave your pet unattended inside or outside a vehicle, and be sure to pick up after your dog.

Finally, the Grand Canyon area can get very hot in summer. Make sure your dog has plenty of water, food, and protection for his paws on the hot pavement.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

These tallest sand dunes in North America are part of a very pet-friendly national park! Dogs are allowed in the Preserve, including Mosca Pass Trail, and in the main use areas of the park. They are not allowed inside the visitor center or bathrooms, beyond the first high ridge of dunes, or off the Dunes Overlook Trail. They are also not allowed in any backpacking campsites inside the national park.

Temperatures in the park can get hot in the summer, so never leave your dog unattended in your car. Plan to hike in the early morning or evening to protect your pet’s paws from hot sand, and consider socks or booties. Always bring water for your dog on any hike. Also, watch for cactus and keep your dog away, and consider carrying tweezers or pliers to pull out any spines if he does encounter one.

Shenandoah National Park

While many people drive the most famous stretch of Shenandoah National Park, there are over 500 miles of trails to explore as well…and fewer than 20 of those miles are off-limits to your dog. Make sure you have plenty of water for your furry friend and keep a close eye on him in case he encounters wildlife like skunks or snakes. Always pick up after your pet and deposit waste in one of the park trash cans.

With a little prep ahead of time, and some research to be sure you know where your dog is allowed and any other requirements, you and your best buddy can have a great time exploring the country and the beautiful national parks all over the U.S.!

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