Picture this, you’re driving across the country with nothing but open road ahead of you. Your favorite tunes are on, windows down, and your canine best friend is in the passenger seat with their head out and tongue lolling to the side. You both are ecstatic to be away from home on a grand adventure. Now you need to decide where you are headed. You can’t go on a road trip without seeing some of the United States’ beautiful National Parks. There are so many incredible places to visit but which are the most dog-friendly National Parks?
After researching through all of the United States National Parks, I learned that not all are created equal for dogs. Some allow dogs on paved areas but are not allowed on any trails while others freely share the trails and campgrounds. I have found the most dog-friendly National Parks that you can confidently bring your dog to without worry that you will miss out on the experience.
If you are looking for National Parks to visit where you can explore the land, hit the trails, and even go swimming don’t miss out on the list of the 12 most-dog friendly National Parks to visit!
- Tips and Tricks for Visiting a National Park with your Dog
- What to pack when visiting a National Park with your Dog?
- Best National Parks for Dogs
- Acadia National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Indiana Dunes National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- White Sands National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Pin for Later: The 12 Most Dog-Friendly National Parks
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Tips and Tricks for Visiting a National Park with your Dog
Now that you have decided you want to bring your dog with you on your road trip to a National Park it’s time to prepare. You don’t want to arrive ready to explore only to find out you are completely unprepared and your idea of what your trip would like is ruined. Make sure and read through these tips and tricks to have a wonderful experience when visiting a National Park with your dog.
Do Your Research
The most important thing you can do before visiting a National Park with your dog is to fully research the park you are visiting. Each National Park has its own set of rules when it comes to dogs. Some parks have many trails they allow dogs on and others only allow dogs on paved trails. It’s important to know which trails you can go on and then you can choose which trail you want to go on with your dog.
The last thing you want to do is quickly search if a National park is dog friendly only to arrive and find you cannot go on a single trail. Prevent this mishap by fully researching the park you are visiting and plan out your visit.
Not only should you research which trails are dog friendly, do your research to learn the hikes difficulty level. Every human is different from different skill levels and this is just as true for your dog. Really think about your dog and their specific capabilities and whether the hike you are looking at is a safe choice. You don’t want to get on a hike with a scramble at the top only to have your dog hurt themselves trying to keep up with you.
So many dogs are pretty low maintenance, they need food, water, a toy, and some attention from you. It can be easy to forget their needs when you take them on long hikes or adventures. Even if you are only going on a short hike, bring common sense items with you, just in case.
When you are out hiking miles away from civilization you do not want to have a thirsty, hungry, or even hurt pup without the proper supplies to help them. They rely on you to take care of them, so don’t let them down!
Each season can change your experience at the park you are visiting. Sometimes sections of the park will close down or specific trails close due to the season or construction. Make sure you have a backup plan in case the dog-friendly trail you had planned on going on, is now closed. Also, remember that not all National Parks have the best cell service so its best to have a few options picked out before heading into the park. Think through which trails you want to see and plan according to the time you have and then have a back-up trail that is nearby, just in case. If all else fails, you can head to the visitor center and speak to a ranger to help you pick a trail.
What to pack when visiting a National Park with your Dog?
- Collapsible Bowl – Just like their humans, dogs need food and water on their National Park adventures. From hiking to camping, having a dog bowl is important to keeping your dog happy and well-fed and hydrated on the trail
- Check out this lightweight collapsible bowl.
- Water – Water is important to pack for your dog. Don’t let them drink from streams and lakes if possible. Dogs can get water-bourn pathogens like giardia. Filter your dogs water just like yours. Most dog packs include collapsible water bottles that fit in those packs.
- Food – Food is fuel for the day. Pack enough food for the trip plus some extra so your pup doesn’t go hungry.
- Snacks – National Park adventures are hard work. Be sure to keep a stash of treats ready to help keep your dog’s energy up.
- Get some 100% Lamb treats here.
- Let your pup savor the flavor of salmon, sweet potato and blueberry.
- Dog Pack – With a dog pack, your dog can help carry it’s adventure supplies. Depending on your dog’s size and fitness level, your dog can carry between 10% and 25% of it’s body weight. Dogs are like humans start small and work up.
- Click HERE for a great day hiking pack for your dog.
- Check out this pack for backpacking with your dog
- Pick-up bags – Dogs can not sweat and given they have a fur coat, they are at risk of heat-related illness on hot days or warmer environments. Helping them keep cool with a cooling jacket. Dip it in water and it will help wick heat away from their backs.
- Click here to get biodegradable pick-up bags
- Get a Pack Out Bag to carry the pick-up bags
- Collar or Harness – Keep your dog under control with a collar or harness. There advantages and disadvantages of both. Pick the best one for controlling your dog.
- Check out this hiking harness.
- Leash – Dogs are required to be on leash in most situation in the National Parks. This is for your dog’s protection and the protection of wildlife.
- If you are planning to hike with your dog consider getting a Hands Free Dog Leash
- Click here to get a versatile leash that can be hand held or click on to packs.
- Identification Tag or Microchip – Make sure your contract information is up to date just incase your fur baby gets loose. Make it easy for someone to contact you when they are found.
- Cooling Vest – Dogs can not sweat and given they have a fur coat, they are at risk of heat-related illness on hot days or warmer environments. Helping them keep cool with a cooling jacket. Dip it in water and it will help wick heat away from their backs.
- Get your cooling vest HERE.
- Insulated Dog Jacket – Keep your 4-legged friend nice and warm on those chilly days in the park.
- Click here to get your insulated dog jacket.
- Paw Protection – Dog’s paw needs protection the same way our feet need protection. They can develop abrasions, bruising, or even punctures while hiking. Be sure to protect their feet.
- Click here to get a rugged set of dog boots for ultimate paw protection.
- If booties aren’t for your dog, consider using paw wax to provide similar protection.
- Canine-Specific First Aid Kit – Even with careful planning, your dog can get hurt in the National Parks. It is best to be prepared for any injuries or bug bites/stings or thorn removal.
- Get a First Aid Kit specific to your adventure pooch.
- Dog PFD – Dogs can be at risk of downing when near water. Help keep your dog safe around the water with a personal flotation device.
- Get your doggie PFD.
- Dog Bed – No one likes to sit or lay on the hard ground. Your pooch will appreciate a nice comfy bed to lay on after a hike or a day of adventure.
- Get your pooch a comfy bed.
- Doggie Seat Cover – Keep your car clean after you fur-baby has had too much fun and gotten covered in mud or soaking wet.
- Click here to protect your car.
Best National Parks for Dogs
Not all National Parks are made equal when you want to bring your dog along. It can be very confusing when you trying to find the best National parks for dogs when there are so many that claim to be dog-friendly. Some National Parks let dogs into the park but they are confined to the parking lots and if you are lucky, the paved trails. However, there are a few National Parks that allow dogs on many of their trails and some even allow them in the backcountry! This list will help separate the two and narrow down the most dog-friendly National Parks to bring your dog while still having the full experience.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is set in Northern Maine about three hours North by car of Portland, which you can visit year-round. Acadia National park is a contender for the most dog-friendly National Parks, as they have one hundred miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads that are all dog-friendly. This alone gives you miles and miles of hiking opportunity for you and your pup. Not only that, but Acadia is also set up in a loop that allows you to easily pop in and out of the car with mostly paved sites where even a less-agile pup could enjoy the park with you.
There is dog-friendly camping available with short trails connected to the campgrounds so you can enjoy brisk mornings by the ocean cliffs with your pups. If you aren’t into camping, there are many dog-friendly cabins available inside and near the National Park where you can have your pup and enjoy modern amenities too!
There are a few rules to consider including keeping your dog on a 6 foot or less leash at all times inside the park, picking up and disposing of any pet waste, and dogs (or humans) are not allowed to swim in the lakes. There are however two beaches that dogs are allowed to swim in from September 16th through May 14th. Of the 120 miles of hikes, dogs are only banned from 20 of those miles including some of the more difficult hikes which have ladders and iron rungs.
Get help planning your trip to Acadia National Park
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- All about Acadia National Park
- 5 Books to Read Before Visiting Acadia National Park
- The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Acadia National Park
- 15 Amazing Acadia Airbnbs: Best Options in Bar Harbor and Beyond
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
A short 30-minute drive from Cleveland Ohio, running alongside the Cuyahoga River is Ohio’s one and only National Park. The park offers over one hundred miles of dog-friendly trails and even allows dogs on twenty miles of their famous bike trail, the Towpath Trail. From rolling hills, waterfalls, and wetlands you will quickly see why Cuyahoga is on our list as one of the most dog-friendly National Parks.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park can get very hot during the summer and it is not advised to leave your dogs in the car at any time. Alongside the heat can come ticks plus other bugs and it is recommended that you use a flea/tick preventative before arriving and keep your pets on the trails at all times. Pets are expected to be kept on a leash 6 feet long or shorter, pet waste should be picked up, and pets are not allowed in any park building (not including service dogs), Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Train, and the East Rim mountain bike trails.
It should be noted that Cuyahoga does not allow any camping inside the park but there is plenty of dog-friendly lodging and camping nearby.
Get help planning your trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is the second most visited National Park in America which comes at no surprise with its stunning landscapes and breathtaking views. Although you won’t be heading down into the canyon rim with your dog, the park still has found ways to allow you to take in its beauty while keeping your dog with you.
Dogs are allowed on trails above the South Rim giving you 14 miles of scenery to enjoy, and they are also allowed in developed areas. At the North Rim, you are able to use the Bridle Trail which is a 3.2-mile quiet walk through the woods with a few canyon views at the beginning of the trail. Dogs are allowed at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, and Trailer Village. The Yavapai Lodge is the only lodge that is pet-friendly inside the park.
Make your dog an official B.A.R.K ranger by heading into the visitor center!
Get help planning your trip to Grand Canyon National Park.
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Great Sand Dunes National Park
Ranging from miles and miles of sand dunes, wetlands, mountain peaks, and forests, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a must-see for any pup. Experience many of the dog-friendly trails on the sand dunes, splash in Medano Creek and stay a night at Piñon Flats Campground. The park is open 24 hours which means you and your favorite canine can enjoy the dunes even under the stars.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place to explore with your dog, however, beware that the sand dunes can get extremely hot. During warmer months make sure to start early or later in the evening and be prepared with booties to protect your dog’s paws. Dog’s can explore the preserve, Dunes Overlook Trail, and Medano Pass with you as long as they stay on leash and attended. Make sure to avoid the visitor center and bathrooms, paths off of the Dunes Overlook Trail, Sand Ramp Trail, and areas of the backcountry. NPS has provided a full list of places dogs can and cannot visit as well as a map to highlight the areas.
Get help planning your trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park
Hot Springs National Park
Visit the Nation’s oldest park (although it didn’t officially become a National Park until 1921) with over 26 miles of trails, all dog-friendly. Hot Springs National Park features 37 thermal springs and combines nature with trails running through the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The trails run from under a mile up to 13 miles giving you plenty of ground to cover depending on your needs, some popular trails include Goat Rock Trail, West Mountain Trail, and Sunset Trail a more difficult hike coming in at 13 miles. A big bonus is that visiting Hot Springs National Park is completely FREE.
Although none of the undeveloped Hot Springs are available to soak in, they offer two developed bathhouses where you can experience a relaxing soak. Of course, this does mean you would need to leave your pup at a petsitter like Rover or at your Airbnb. Don’t miss the opportunity to drink from the springs, which were once thought to be medicinal.
To get a full experience stay for a few days at Gulpha Gorge Campground which connects to many of the park trails. Make sure to keep your dog on a 6 foot or shorter leash and clean up any pet waste.
Get help planning your trip to Hot Springs National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park
A dog-friendly National Park with 15 miles of beach to splash around in and 50 miles of trails to explore, Indiana Dunes National Park is a year-round experience that should not be missed. Dogs are allowed at almost all the hikes and are allowed on the beach east of the state park making it pup-approved. Check out one of the more popular trails, Cowles Bog Trail, which offers 4 miles of trails with a stunning view of Lake Michigan and a beach to run on. For a trail that will get you straight to the beach, head to West Beach – Dune Succession Trail, a 1-mile trail that will get some of your dog’s energy out before enjoying the water.
The park is open year-round making it a great option for summertime swimming, fall foliage, or winter snowshoeing. To experience Fall Foilage visit Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm which offers a short trail with original homesteads.
Make sure you keep your dog on a 6 foot or shorter leash and pick up all dog waste. Dogs are not allowed on the Pinhook Bog Trail, the equestrian portion of the Glenwood Dunes Trail system, and should not be left unattended in cars or otherwise.
Get help planning your trip to Indiana Dunes National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Another great option for you and your pup is Mammoth Cave National Park. Known for the longest underground cave in the world, Mammoth Cave has plenty more to see for any visitors that want to bring their dogs along with them. Set in Kentucky, the park has 70 miles of trails that are ready for you and your pup to explore. From views of the Green River, waterfalls, underground rivers, and lakes this is another must-visit.
Dogs are not allowed down inside the caves but they do have outdoor hourly kennels available if you want to go on a tour by yourself. Dogs are allowed at campgrounds and at the Woodland Cottages. Make sure and keep your dog on a 6 foot or shorter leash and pick up all pet waste. Summertime can get hot so come prepared with water for you and your dog.
Get help planning your trip to Mammoth Cave National Park
North Cascades National Park
Washington State is full of dog-friendly activities and the North Cascades National Park area falls right in line with that theme. High mountain snowy peaks, rocky rivers, vibrant green moss, and ferns, with miles upon miles of an enchanted forest to explore, the North Cascades National Park and surrounding area are one of most magical parks out there. You can’t miss the experience of listening to the fast-flowing rivers, swimming in the bright blue Diablo Lake, and hiking to the top of Mount Baker for stunning views.
If you have the time, take the Highway 20 loop and enjoy the ever-changing scenery. Enjoy the snow-capped mountains at Steven’s pass, stop for schnitzel in Leavenworth a Bavarian village, explore the Columbia River Valley, and loop back around where you can see Diablo and Ross Lake from atop the mountain, right off the highway.
Although we mention the North Cascades National Park, it is really the surrounding area that will take you by surprise. Since dogs are only allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail and within 50 feet of roads at the National Park, it is no surprise that the forests surrounding the park are so popular. Bordering the park there are miles upon miles of trails in the Ross Lake Recreational forest and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area that is dog-friendly. Not to mention the forest land surrounding that park that has dog-friendly options. Be sure to check out WTA.org which makes it super easy to find dog-friendly hikes in Washington State.
Get help planning your trip to North Cascades National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
If you are looking for a National Park where your pup can go on any trail you desire or even the backcountry, then stop by the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. The Petrified National Forest is known for its colorful landscape made up of over 200 million-year-old petrified trees. Take a scenic drive to explore the park before finding one of the many trails to hike or explore the backcountry with your dog, which is a rare treat at National Parks. The park is a perfect detour to take if you are planning on visiting the Grand Canyon and is less than two hours east of Flagstaff.
Make sure to keep your dog leashed at all times and avoid bringing them to any buildings. Beware that it can get very hot so be prepared by coming in early in warmer months and bring plenty of water for both you and your dog.
Get help planning your trip to Petrified Forest National Park
Shenandoah National Park
Another one of the most dog-friendly National Parks is Shenandoah National Park, a true gem in Virginia. You and your dog can explore all but 20 of the 500 miles of trails at Shenandoah National Park. Enjoy the Skyline Drive which runs along the Blue Ridge mountains giving you expansive views of the park all while behind the wheel. After that pick from the miles upon miles of gorgeous scenery to hike on.
Dogs are allowed at all campgrounds and has dog-friendly lodging available as well. Make sure to keep your dog on a 6 foot or shorter leash and pick up pet waste.
Get help planning your trip to Shenandoah National Park
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White Sands National Park
One of the newest National Parks, White Sands is sure to be a favorite for you and your dog since they are allowed to explore all of the park with you! Bring a sled and bring back memories of childhood snow days as you and your pup slide down one of their many dunes. Stay for sunset and enjoy the views of the colors bouncing off the sand. A cool fact about the park is that although the area can get extremely hot, the sand made of gypsum is cool to the touch so you don’t have to worry about burning your dog’s paws.
White Sands, New Mexico can get extremely hot and dogs should not be left in the car unattended and are not allowed in the facilities. Make sure and keep your pup on a 6-foot leash or shorter, pick up pet waste and bring plenty of water.
Get help planning your trip to White Sands National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite may not be the most dog-friendly National Park on this list but it still deserves some attention for having dog-friendly trails available. You can still visit this esteemed park and walk away knowing you truly got to explore some of the park. Explore Glacier point, take a quick stroll to Bridalveil Fall, and explore the Wawona Meadow Loop. These are just a few of the trails that dogs are allowed on at Yosemite National Park.
Dogs can explore any of the paved roads, developed areas, and in all campsites other than group or walk-in campsites. For dog-friendly lodging, there are plenty of lodging options throughout the region. Dogs are not allowed on trails (unpaved), buildings, and buses. Make sure and keep your dog on 6 foot or shorter leash, pick up all dog waste, and keep your dog food locked up safe from animals.
Get help planning your trip to Yosemite National Park
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