Take Your Furry Friend to These Dog-Friendly National Parks

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A woman sitting with her dog in a national park.

Have you taken your dog to a hiking trail or out for an adventure in nature? They may like getting out and exploring the great outdoors. If you want to know the best dog-friendly national parks to take your dog for a walk, keep reading. 

Today, we’ll share which national parks in the United States provide the best recreation for your pet. Grab your leash, and let’s get started!

What Are National Parks?

National parks are lands protected by the federal government. They protect the natural and cultural heritage of the land and the environment for future generations.

While each park is unique, they generally provide some of the premier landscapes in the country.

They also provide opportunities for guests to enjoy recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and more. The parks also educate the public on protecting the environment and the impacts human activities can have on it.

All the plants, animals, and geological formations within a park are under federal protection. Some units managed by the National Park Service allow hunting, but this is generally on a case-by-case basis.

To keep yourself out of hot water, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations specific to the park unit you’re visiting.

Are All National Parks Dog-Friendly?

Unfortunately, not all national parks allow dogs to roam freely. The National Park Service is responsible for maintaining a natural environment and protecting the plants and animals within it. Pets are not a part of the natural environment and could hurt it.

Rules and regulations vary from park to park about when and where dogs can be with their owners. While some allow pets full access to the park, numerous locations have strict rules and restrictions.

In general, pets are often welcome in developed areas but not inside any facilities. This means you can bring your pup but can’t enter a visitor center or hit the trails.

Again, we recommend you consider the specific rules and regulations before visiting any national park. This can allow you to devise a plan so you and your pet can stay safe and have a great trip.

Explore These Dog-Friendly National Parks

Thankfully, only some parks have strict rules and regulations regarding pets. Let’s look at some of the most dog-friendly parks and some of the adventures you can enjoy with them.

Acadia National Park

Regarding the most dog-friendly national park, you can’t beat Acadia National Park.

This sits along the coast of Maine and offers 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, all of which allow dogs. The park only restricts dog access if the path requires climbing on ladders or iron rungs.

As you might expect, dogs must remain on a leash, owners must clean up after them, and you should never leave them unattended. The area has a reputation for ticks, so ensure you thoroughly check yourself and your K9 friend throughout your trip.

A woman walking her dog in a national park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most visited national park in the country is also a great park to visit with a dog. However, pets are not allowed on any of the park’s trails. They are only allowed in the campgrounds, picnic areas, and along the roads.

The Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail provide options if you need to get in a short walk. Additionally, a few national forests nearby are pet-friendly and offer a tremendous amount of hiking.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Pisgah National Forest, and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area provide great options.

We wouldn’t hold our breath for those hoping this policy will change. These rules have been in place throughout the park since the 1930s. Officials recognize that dogs carry diseases and can threaten wildlife in the park. 

Pro Tip: Does your furry friend have anxiety while traveling? Try these tips to Soothe Your Anxious Dog!

A man sitting in a national park with his two dogs.

Grand Canyon National Park

Another one of the busiest national parks is the Grand Canyon National Park. Dogs here are not allowed on trails below the rim or shuttle buses. However, there’s still plenty to see and do during your visit.

The rim trail travels 13 miles and follows the canyon’s rim. You’ll find plenty of incredible access points where you and your dog can enjoy the view. Just ensure you keep them on a leash and stay away from the edge.

Additionally, campgrounds and some lodges in the area accept pets. If you plan to hike down into the canyon and bring your pet, you’ll want to book a spot at the Grand Canyon Kennel. This provides a safe place for your furry friend to wait while you go and explore as much of the Grand Canyon as possible.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has various wildlife, including bison, horses, and other animals. This park also welcomes dogs but does not allow them on trails.

They can hang out on roads, shoulders, sidewalks, parking areas, and campgrounds or picnic areas.

Many people enjoy bringing their dog to the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. Your dog can walk and enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape. Just ensure you clean up after them and bring lots of water for those hot days. 

Keep in Mind: Can RVers With “Aggressive Breed” Dogs Stay at RV Parks? Let’s dive in and see.

A woman on top of a mountain with her dog in a national park.

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is one of our favorite places for their incredible architecture and hospitality towards pets. You can bring your furry friend with you every mile of the park’s 26 miles of trails. They even have waste stations along Bathhouse Row and throughout the campground.

While pets are welcome on the trail system and campgrounds, you cannot bring them into Federal Buildings. So make sure you plan accordingly and, as always, clean up after them while you’re navigating the trails.

Unleash Fun at Dog-Friendly National Parks

While we understand the importance of protecting the environment and animals, we love dog-friendly parks.

Carmen has enjoyed miles upon miles of trails with us in national parks, and having her with us gives us one less thing to worry about. She enjoys exploring and experiencing the parks with her eyes and nose. 

Do you hike with your furry friend?

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