As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic and we tire of confinement, pet owners are planning for vacations their best friends. If fresh air and camping or hiking in a national park is your thing, and you plan to take your furry friend with you (of course you do because, for sure, it is their thing), then consider enjoying the wonders and beauty of nature by visiting one of the great pet friendly national parks in the United States.
While there are many parks that allow your pooch to explore trails and other park attractions with you, ignoring rules and regulations imposed on both pets and their owners while planning your travel is not wise. Keeping everyone safe and happy is important. Don’t try to avoid park rules as they are posted for very good reasons.
The first rule to know when visiting any national park is that your dog must be leashed at all times. Federal regulations require all pets to be restrained on a leash no longer than six feet (2 m). This is for your dog’s safety as well as the safety of others. Why? Because you never know what type of animal you will bump into when hiking in national parks. Also, straying off trails can be dog-gone dangerous! Make sure your dog as well as other dogs, people, and wildlife stays safe by obeying all park regulations.
As with bringing your dog any public place, make sure you clean up after your pet. No one wants to step in a smelly mess when walking along the trails. Outdoor activities bring fleas and ticks, so make sure you take proper precautions to protect your dog.
Acadia National Park – Maine
At 3.1 million visitors per year, Acadia National Park is, not surprisingly, one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the country, and there is a good reason why. Referred to as the Crown Jewel of the Atlantic Coast, its rich cultural heritage and natural habitats make for a beautiful place for both you and your dog to be in summer or winter.
When bringing your dog to this beautiful park, there are a few limitations as to where they can explore.
The park has 158 miles of hiking trails total, and there are 100 miles (161 km) of hiking trails and 45 miles (72 km) of carriage roads in the park where pets are permitted. Make sure to check with park rangers to find exactly which trails your pet is permitted to explore with you.
There are also some areas that are off-limits to all dogs except for seeing-eye dogs and service dogs.
- All lakes
- Some trails
- Sand Beach – from June 15 to Sept 8.
- Echo Lake – from May 15 to Sept. 15
- Duck Harbor Campground (dogs are permitted in Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds)
- Public buildings
- Ranger-led programs.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Ohio
Located only a short distance from Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great place to escape. Its namesake, the Cuyahoga River winds its way through all sorts of surroundings, from forests to hills to farmlands.
There are some rules for your pup at this Ohio park. There are many trails your pet can walk with you on a leash, including 30 miles of the Towpath Trail. This trail follows a historical canal and was once used for mules to pull boats through the canal.
Even though your furry friend is like family to you, they will not be allowed in any public building, or the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Train, or the East Rim mountain bike trails.
There are no restrictions as to when you can bring your pets to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most famous pet friendly national parks in the United States. There is no need to describe the beauty of the Grand Canyon. Its immense size, picturesque geologic color and amazing erosional forms are jaw-dropping, but it is extremely important that you follow all park guidelines for your dog to avoid any issues.
Your pets are allowed on the trails above the South Rim, Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas.
The Grand Canyon only has one lodge with pet-friendly rooms. That is the Yavapai Lodge. If you are planning a day trip to hike down to the Colorado River or the North Rim, boarding them at the South Rim Kennel may be the best solution as this hike is not suitable for our furry friends.
You and your pet can visit at any time, however, proof of vaccinations is required before entering this pet friendly national park. The North Rim is closed during the winter; however, the South Rim is open year round.
Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas
Something out of paradise is best used to describe Hot Springs National Park. Located just north of the city of Hot Springs in Arkansas, this national park has 143 degree thermal waters to relax and soothe your every aching muscle. The park even provides pet waste stations for your convenience. Amply nick named “The American Spa,” you will leave this park in a better frame of mind.
The only places pets are not allowed are the visitor’s center and other public buildings, and of course, the hot springs. Rest assured, your dog will be ready for a rest after exploring all of the trails in this park and so will you!
This is another park that welcomes you and your pet, and there are no restrictions on when pets can enter.
Mammoth Cave National Park -, Kentucky
With over 400 miles of underground caves, Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the world’s longest known cave system on earth! But that’s not all. There are over 70 miles of trails, 13 back country campsites, three campgrounds, and a river that is over 20 miles long for you and your pet to explore and enjoy.
If you are thinking of bringing your pet to this park, you should know that service animals are the only pets permitted in any of the caves; however, there is a kennel for your dog available. You can crash with your pet at the Woodland Cottages.
Check the park website for more information. It looks like this is another pet friendly national parks in the United States that would love your pooch anytime!
Natchez Trace National Parkway – Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee
Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. This historic road follows the “Old Natchez Trace” a road used by American Indians, European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and even past presidents.
While you and your best friend cruise along this parkway, you can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. This is a great place for a vacation, and if you bring your dog, there are very few restrictions. You can enjoy the park trails and viewpoints with your dog; however, keep them out of public buildings. You must always keep your pet on a leash and remember to pick up after them.
Shenandoah National Park – Virginia
Two hundred acres of protected lands are awaiting you and your pup at Shenandoah National Park. This is a pristine place with cascading waterfalls, vistas, and wooded hollows and well worth a visit. It is a beautiful park and very pet friendly.
There are over 500 miles for you and your four-legged hiker to enjoy and only a mere 20 miles are off limits to pets. Check the website for exact locations.
The other pet-friendly areas in the park are the campsite and pet friendly lodging locations. Remember to always keep your dog on a leash and to pick up their mess.
Unfortunately, the Ranger family programs such as The Wild About Bears program and Shenandoah Kid Explorers are off limits to pets.
Although there are no limits on what time of year your pet can accompany you, keep up to date on the weather conditions, and make sure you have enough water for you and your pet at all times.
White Sands National Park- New Mexico
Known as one of the world’s great natural wonders, the 275 square miles of white gypsum sand in White Sands National Park is truly worth your time to visit.
If you are heading here and are bringing your pet, there are a few things you should know.
Although there are not a ton of restrictions for your dog, you may not bring them into any public building such as the visitors center. Keep in mind that the temperatures may be high; so remember to bring plenty of water for both you and your dog to avoid overheating and dehydration. Of course, never leave your pet in the car unattended, not even for a minute.
There are only a few simple rules, but these rules can make a huge impact on the safety of your pet. White Sands National Park would love to have your pooch visit any time of the year. Keep in mind the hot, dry climate, especially in the summer.
Yellowstone National Park- Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the United States. Hosting millions of visitors each year, both winter and summer seasons offer an abundance of hydrothermal and geologic wonders. After all, who hasn’t heard of the famous geyser, Old Faithful?
As this park is so popular and your dog will be around many other people, park pet policies are very important.
Pets are only allowed in developed areas. They must remain within 100 feet from roadways and campgrounds to lessen the chance of getting lost. For the safety of your dog and others, it is necessary to keep your dog either on a leash, in a crate, or secure in your car.
Because this park hosts so many “look but don’t touch” natural attractions, and, because the park is full of wild animals, your dog will not be allowed on trails, in thermal areas, the back country or on the boardwalk. These rules are made for the safety of all people and animals.
There are no kennels in Yellowstone National Park. Pet owners will need to find accommodations for their pets in nearby communities should they want to venture into the back country or wander along the boardwalk.
Lassen Volcanic National Park – California
Lassen Volcanic National Park is full of geologic wonders like clear mountain lakes, jagged peaks and, of course, many volcanoes. There are also fumaroles which are holes in the ground where steam escapes. (Who knew?)
Generally, your pet can go anywhere in the park in an automobile. It can be in the campgrounds, picnic areas, and along the shoulders of roads. Because the wonders of this park can also be dangerous, your dog is not allowed on any hiking trail, in the back country, or anywhere that is snow-covered. Swimming is also out, so if your furry friend loves to swim, best to distract them with other attractions.
You need to keep your pets physically restrained overnight at your campsite. They may be left unattended in your vehicle, providing the temperatures are safe to do so. Your pet is welcome anytime; however, in order to get the full experience, it is probably best to come during the summer. Fewer snow-covered areas equals more exploring!
These are just a few of the pet friendly national parks in the United States. You can enjoy the wonders of nature with your pet in 61 recognized parks in the national park system. Just make sure you are aware of the pet policies beforehand. Remember, clean up after your pet, and keep them on a leash. It is respectful and makes for a better trip experience for all.
Marina Yoveva is originally from Bulgaria but she considers herself a citizen of the world. Having traveled to over 20 countries and counting, she loves writing about her adventures, experiences, and advice on her blog Exploreist.