Did you know that dogs are actually allowed in 61 of the 63 USA National Parks? Though there are certain restrictions, and dogs aren’t always permitted in every section of the parks, Isle Royale and Channel Islands are the only two National Parks to completely ban dogs. The rest allow dogs in some capacity!
For this blog post, I am going to reveal which National Parks are the most dog-friendly. I will also share why dogs are not allowed in some parks/areas, how to enroll in the B.A.R.K. Ranger program, and the dos and don’ts of dogs in the National Parks.
These dog-friendly National Parks that I’m going to list all allow dogs in many sections of the park. I will share which areas they are and aren’t allowed, but as always, make sure to always be respectful of the land and wildlife by picking up after your pet, keeping your pets leashed, and following all signs.
Why Are Dogs Not Allowed in Some Parks/Areas?
Rules are put into place not to cause inconvenience and not to show malice toward pets but to protect dogs, humans, wildlife, and the surrounding plants and landscapes.
Barking dogs can disrupt the natural environment and spur negative wildlife encounters while wild animals like coyotes, bears, and wolves can view dogs as threats and attack them.
Dog Safety in the National Parks
Taking your pup with you on a National Park adventure is an exciting experience! But before heading out to the park and venturing onto the trails, ensure that your dog is prepared for the adventurous feat.
Just as you prepare and pack for your National Park trip, your dog needs to be prepped and packed, too. I have an entire guide that outlines how to hike safely with a dog including tips on what to bring, how to find dog-friendly trails, how to prep your dog for the trail, trail etiquette, and more!
B.A.R.K. Ranger Program
Before sharing the most dog-friendly National Parks in the USA, I thought I would quickly mention the B.A.R.K. Ranger program.
The B.A.R.K. Ranger program teaches dog owners about the importance of following the rules of B.A.R.K. in the National Parks.
- Bag Your Poop
- Always Wear a Leash
- Respect Wildlife
- Know Where to Go
Dogs who complete this short program at each participating National Park can be sworn in as Bark Rangers, and their owners will be eligible to purchase a special Bark Ranger collar tag. Collect one from each park that has the program!
For each listed dog-friendly National Park that has the B.A.R.K. Ranger program, I will share a link so you can learn more about that specific park’s program.
13 Most Dog-Friendly National Parks in the USA
1. Acadia National Park – Maine
Acadia, the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, is known to be one of the most dog-friendly National Parks in the USA.
Leashed pets are allowed on 100 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, and three campgrounds in the park.
Two beaches, Sand Beach and Echo Lake, allow dogs in the off-season. From mid-September to mid-June dogs are allowed on Sand Beach. From mid-September to mid-May, dogs are allowed at Echo Lake.
Dogs are not allowed on trails with ladders and rungs; a full list of park trails that are closed to pets in Acadia National Park can be found here.
2. Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio’s riverfront National Park just outside of Cleveland, welcomes leashed dogs!
Dogs are permitted on over 100 miles of hiking trails and the multi-use Towpath Trail. Service animals are allowed in park buildings and on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Dogs are not allowed on the East Rim mountain bike trails, park buildings, or railway.
3. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
Grand Canyon, the second most visited National Park in the USA, welcomes dogs on both rims.
On the South Rim, dogs are allowed on all 13 miles of the South Rim, Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Villiage, and throughout developed areas.
The South Rim Trail, though mostly paved and easy to navigate, is located at a high elevation and contains many steep drop-offs at the canyon edge. Bring plenty of water for your dog so he doesn’t become dehydrated in the dry climate, and always keep him controlled.
Yavapai Lodge on the South Rim has some pet-friendly rooms. And your pets can even be boarded at the Grand Canyon Kennel while you explore the canyon!
On the North Rim (open only from mid-May through mid-October), leashed dogs are allowed on the bridle trail (greenway) that connects the North Kaibab Trail, and the portion of the Arizona Trail north to the park entrance station.
There is no kennel on the North Rim.
Dogs are not allowed below the rim (in the canyon), on park shuttle buses, or on most in-park lodging (Yavapai Lodge has some pet-friendly rooms).
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – Colorado
Great Sand Dunes contains the tallest sand dunes in America and is the ideal playground for your pup!
America’s largest sandbox is very pet-friendly, allowing dogs in the Preserve and main use areas of the Park, including Pinon Flats Campground, Dunes Overlook Trail, and along the Medano Pass Primitive Road.
Dogs are not permitted in the visitor center, bathrooms, in the backcountry of the dune field, beyond the first ridge of dunes, off of the Dunes Overlook Trail, North of Castle Creek Picnic Area, North of Point of No Return, and all backcountry campsites.
Beware that in the summer months, the sand can reach a staggering temperature of 150 degrees F. Avoid taking your dog on the sand in the summer between late morning and late afternoon hours. Plan on going in the early morning or late evening and bring plenty of water.
Splashing in Medano Creek (seasonal) would also be a great option for both dogs and humans!
5. Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas
Hot Springs, the smallest National Park, is very dog-friendly.
The park welcomes leashed dogs on all 26 miles of trails. Trail lengths vary from under a mile to 13 miles, so dogs of all physical abilities are encouraged to explore this under-appreciated natural area.
Pet waste stations are conveniently located at the campground and Bathhouse Row, so be sure to pick up after your dog.
Pets are not permitted inside the visitor center and other park buildings.
6. Indiana Dunes National Park – Indiana
Indiana Dunes, which hugs 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, is another very dog-friendly National Park.
Dogs, as long as they are on a short leash, are allowed on all trails, beaches, and day-use areas except for the following:
- Lifeguarded West Beach – Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend
- Glenwood Dunes Trail System – Equestrian section
- Nature Play Areas
- Pinhook Bog Trail
7. Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave is known for its extensive cave system, which is the longest in the entire world, but many people don’t venture onto the hiking trails.
Though pets aren’t permitted inside the caves, dogs can be boarded by the hour at Mammoth Cave Kennels while you explore the caves.
When you’re done exploring the underground portion of the park, venture to the surface with your dog. Leashed pets are allowed on all surface areas of the park, which includes over 60 miles of hiking trails.
If you wish to stay overnight in the park, Woodland Cottages, in-park lodging, offers pet-friendly rooms. The campground also allows dogs.
8. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve – West Virginia
New River Gorge, America’s newest National Park, contains one of the continent’s oldest northward-flowing rivers with rugged whitewater and deep canyons. Though you won’t be taking your dog down the river in Class V rapids, leashed pets are allowed on ALL hiking trails.
Visit the Sandstone section to explore the boardwalk and glimpse the park’s most impressive waterfall or venture to the Canyon Rim section to hike the popular Endless Wall or Long Point Trails.
9. Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona
Petrified Forest is full of colorful petrified wood and petroglyphs. Route 66 runs through this park, making it the perfect pitstop for your road trip to the Grand Canyon or Flagstaff.
Leashed dogs are allowed on all paved roads, trails, and official backcountry wilderness areas.
Take the scenic drive to scope out the perfect trail, and then get out and stretch your legs! Just don’t let your dog gnaw on the many fossil deposits you’ll probably encounter.
10. Shenandoah National Park – Virginia
Shenandoah, bursting with waterfalls and incredible vistas, doesn’t have many limitations when it comes to pet rules. Dogs are allowed on all campgrounds, pullouts, and picnic areas.
Most importantly, they are allowed on all of the park’s 500+ miles of hiking trails except for the following:
- Fox Hollow Trail (mile 4.6)
- Stony Man Trail (mile 41.7) except for the portion that follows the Appalachian Trail
- Limberlost Trail (mile 43)
- Post Office Junction to Old Rag Shelter
- Old Rag Ridge Trail
- Old Rag Saddle Trail
- Ridge Access Trail (Old Rag area)
- Dark Hollow Falls Trail (mile 50.7)
- Story of the Forest Trail (mile 51)
- Bearfence Mountain Trail (mile 56.4)
- Frazier Discovery Trail (mile 79.5)
The non-dog-friendly trails equal less than 20 miles of the over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park, and they’re only off-limits due to difficult rock scrambles. That leaves over 480 miles worth of trails that you can hike with your dog!
Aside from the incredible waterfall and wilderness hikes, you can hike a section of the Appalachian Trail with your dog! Make sure to take a trip down Skyline Drive and get out whenever a trail is calling your name.
11. White Sands National Park – New Mexico
White Sands is actually filled with gypsum, not sand, making it the largest gypsum dune field in the world! Covering 275 square miles, you and your dog can explore the entire park together.
The only off-limits area in the park is the visitor center.
Unlike the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, the White Sands gypsum doesn’t get very hot. Contrary to sand, gypsum doesn’t absorb heat from the sun. Even though the air temperatures reach around 100 degrees F in the summer, the sand remains cool and comfortable to walk on.
Although you don’t have to worry about your dog’s paws as much at this park, be mindful of the air temperatures and dehydration risks, and never leave your dog unattended in a hot car. If the outside temperature is 100 degrees F, the inside of your vehicle will reach 140 degrees F within 15 minutes, causing fatal damage to anyone inside.
12. Wrangell-St.Elias National Park – Alaska
Wrangell – St. Elias is the USA’s largest National Park! Its temperate rainforests, tundra, glaciers, and volcanoes prove that this park is wild and rugged and isn’t for the unadventurous. If you want to brave this wilderness, and you think your dog can handle the challenge, you can bring him along for the ride!
Dogs are allowed on all trails and in the backcountry, as long as they are on leashes. Wrangell – St. Elias is one of the only USA National Parks to allow dogs in the backcountry.
Be mindful of traps and snares that are perfectly legal in Alaska; they could cause your dog to become stuck, especially if he is unleashed and uncontrolled.
Avoid entering any public building with your dog unless he is a service animal.
13. Yosemite National Park – California
Yosemite, a vast valley teeming with waterfalls, meadows, rugged wilderness, and ancient sequoias, is surprisingly a more dog-friendly park than most give it credit for!
Dogs are allowed in developed areas, fully paved roads, sidewalks, bike paths, and most campgrounds. Watch for signs that indicate otherwise.
Keep your dog leashed, and if you are staying overnight, ensure all dog food is stored in a bear canister just as you would store your own food. Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is bear country!
Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on trails, unplowed roads, wilderness areas, public buildings, shuttle buses, lodging areas, and walk-in campsites.
Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley in the summer months so that you are free to explore the backcountry while your pooch is in capable hands!
Read about the dangerous algal blooms in the park that could pose a threat to your four-legged buddy.
Dos and Dont’s of Dogs in the National Parks
- DO leash your pets.
- DO pick up your pet’s waste.
- DO respect wildlife.
- DO pack enough water.
- DO follow signs.
- DON’T take your pet into restricted areas.
- DON’T leave your pet unattended in the park or inside a car.
This list proves that some National Parks are quite dog-friendly! While you might not be able to do everything with your pooch, you can certainly give him or her a nice preview of some of the trails, the campground, or the paved paths.
If there is a National Park that you are interested in visiting with your dog but it isn’t on this list, I encourage you to visit the park’s website to see what the pet rules and limitations are.
Just Remember: Never leave your pet in the car, always pick up after your dog, and always respect the wildlife and the landscapes.