Dog Friendly (and Not) National Parks Across the Country
When visiting a national park with your dog, it’s important to check their restrictions.
It can put a real damper on your trip to travel somewhere only to realize your dog isn’t welcome. Each park has different restrictions, and some are much more accommodating than others. Before you head out on your next adventure with your pup, check out some of these dog-friendly (and not) national parks across the country.
The NPS has instituted a unique B.A.R.K. Ranger program throughout the parks that lays out some of the basic principles dog owners should follow when visiting any national park. The B.A.R.K Ranger program tenants are as follows:
- Bag your poop
- Always wear a leash
- Respect Wildlife
- Know where to go (what trails are dog-friendly or not)
Dog-Friendly National Parks
Acadia National Park, Maine
With 100 miles of trails and 45 miles of carriage roads where dogs are permitted, Acadia National Park is a top-rated national park to bring your dog. Popular spots to hike with a dog at this crown jewel of the Atlantic coast include the Bar Island Trail, the Cadillac Summit Loop, and the Wonderland Trail. Three campgrounds at Acadia accommodate dogs, including the popular Blackwoods Campground.
More Information: Acadia National Park
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Of the 500+ miles of hiking trails that wander throughout the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of this esteemed national park, fewer than 20 miles do not allow dogs. This makes Shenandoah one of the most dogs friendly national parks in the nation, and thanks to the stunning scenery that surrounds, it’s also one of the most popular for people too. All five campgrounds and some indoor lodging options all are happy to host you and your canine companion.
More Information: Shenandoah National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
This massive national park of southern Kentucky is a real underground treasure. As one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world, Mammoth Cave offers a variety of underground tours to experience the massive geological timescale on display. No dogs are allowed underground at the park, but leashed dogs can join their owners in hiking the park’s many above-ground hiking trails. When it comes time for the humans to explore underground, the Lodge at Mammoth Cave maintains a kennel to look after your dog.
More Information: Mammoth Cave National Park
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
With a panoramic landscape that catches the eye, the tourist-orientated South Rim of the Grand Canyon allows dogs to travel above the rim. Developed areas including the Mather and Desert View Campground also accommodate dogs, and the Yavapai Lodge is the only in-park lodging with pet-friendly rooms. When it comes time to hike below the canyon rim (where dogs aren’t allowed), the Grand Canyon Kennel is happy to keep your dog company.
More Information: Grand Canyon National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Between Cleveland and Akron in northern Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park presents a lush landscape of deep forest, winding rivers, and a very scenic railroad corridor. Leashed dogs are allowed on over 110 miles of hiking trails in Cuyahoga Valley, as well as portions of the historic and converted Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail. The Stanford Campground within the park is happy to host canine companions. A recommended hike to check out with your dogs? The Brandywine Falls Trail, a 1.5-mile loop, checks all the boxes with scenic appeal.
More Information: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Not-As-Dog-Friendly National Parks
It’s not that these national parks don’t like dogs, but their fragile environments have a hard time hosting extra animals, and thus can be unsafe for your dog to explore. For these national parks, consider leaving your pet at home or exploring nearby alternatives with fewer restrictions.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The complex ecosystem of hot springs, fumaroles, and wildlife at Yellowstone don’t allow much room for dogs. Not only can dogs and other animals disturb the natural environment, but with scalding thermal areas and an abundance of large wildlife, strict dog regulations—no dogs on boardwalks, hiking trails, or in the backcountry—are intended to keep your furry friend safe. Yellowstone’s park neighbor to the south, Grand Teton National Park, has similar restrictions limiting many places where dogs can go.
Alternative: Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton are surrounded by vast National Forest lands where dog restrictions are much less, including the 3.4-million acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
Much in thanks to the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through the park, the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country. Thanks to tightened regulations, many of these visits must be dog-free. Dogs are allowed on only two short hiking paths within the Great Smoky Mountains, a small percentage of all there is to see of this Blue Ridge Mountain getaway. Dogs are allowed at campgrounds within the Great Smoky Mountains, but since they aren’t allowed at much outside of them, owners have few options. Never leave your dog unattended at a campsite or in an RV!
Alternative: Many great recreation spaces surround Great Smoky Mountain National Park that delivers equal, less crowded natural splendors. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Big South Fork River & Recreation Area are two of the dog-friendlier parks well worth checking out.
Zion National Park, Utah
With steep cliffs, narrow canyons, and often stifling hot temperatures, the stunning environment of Zion isn’t always ideal for your canine companion. Leashed dogs are allowed on a single trail in Zion, the Pa’rus Trail (which is very scenic and awesome), where visitors can expect to share the path with cyclists and decent crowds of people. Dogs are not allowed on any other trails or backcountry areas of the park. Further, dogs cannot board the Zion shuttles, which are sometimes the only way to access the park.
Alternative: The adjacent Dixie National Forest is a welcoming playground for dog owners and adventure seekers. With over two million acres to explore and thousands of miles of hiking trails and fewer dog restrictions, there’s little limit to where you and your dog can trek surrounding Zion.