Activities For Dogs In Yosemite National Park

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Introduction

For anyone unfamiliar, Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular for good reason: it has loads of natural beauty from the towering peaks of Half Dome and El Capitan (also some of the most popular climbing spots in the country) all the way down to the crystalline waters of Mirror Lake, not to mention everything in between. And while it may be semi-restrictive when it comes to dogs, there are still plenty of activities and areas to check out. With some planning and a little determination, Yosemite can be an ideal destination for adventure for both you and your canine companion.

Hiking

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Easy
1 - 4 hrs
Items needed
Leash
Dog Bags
Map
Water
Activity description
We know that hiking seems pretty standard for National Park activities, but that also doesn't mean it needs to be overlooked. Yosemite has a rich diversity of plants and animal species as well as numerous different environments to explore, all with Instagram or desktop-worthy backdrops. Hiking can be a bit limited because of current restrictions (dogs can only be on paved trails or roads), but that doesn't mean there isn't good space to walk them. In fact, between the long stretches of paved roads that stretch the park, numerous fire roads and other developed areas, there are plenty of spaces to get in a good walk or hike. It's relatively cheap at only $35 for entrances fees (we recommend just paying $70 for the annual), is perfect for comfortable hiking weather and can take several hours if you and your dog have the energy.
Step
1
Identify and familiarize
As we mentioned above, areas for dog-friendly hiking can be a bit limited, but it doesn't take much to find appropriate roads. Start by downloading a digital map or getting a physical one from one of the park's visitor centers. To get familiar with the park, use the Pets page of the website to outline which roads and trails are appropriate. Our best suggestion, however, would just be stopping in a station or visitor's center beforehand and talking to a park ranger, as they will easily be able to identify the sometimes hidden fire roads (and let you know if they're open), plus they can highlight all pet-appropriate areas in general. It will likely save you a lot of time and hassle in the planning process. This is also a good time to review the park's basic rules on pets.
Step
2
Pick your hike
Once you've outlined all the possible areas you can go, it's time to do a little research. Much of this can be as simple as hopping online and typing in the names of the roads or trails. Users on various websites are often quite detailed in their trail descriptions, which means you can see each trail's length, approximate hike time, difficulty and what it offers for you to see (and sometimes even photos!). This is the BEST way to pick which trails will be best for your and your dog's skill levels. Consider how much time you'll have available, how far apart some of trails are and general travel times. If you only have 1 to 3 hours, you may only fit in one, but if you have 6 instead, careful planning may allow you to hit up to 3 (as long as you have the energy!).
Step
3
Road and trail
Once you've got your trip outlined, double check the weather for any last minute changes, grab your supplies and your dog and hit the road. Pay the necessary entrance fee and head in towards your first location. Make sure you have enough water for the trip and then you're off!
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Camping

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Easy
12 - 48 hrs
Items needed
Tent
Sleeping Bag
Warm Clothes
Food and water
Leash
Dog Bags
Bear-appropriate Food Storage
Activity description
While dogs may only be allowed on certain trails, they are pretty widely welcomed throughout the parks more well-developed areas, namely, many of its campgrounds, which can be great places to both experience nature firsthand and explore. Of course, it doesn't hurt that your Yosemite plans can be lengthened from a few hours to a few days, giving you that many more options as to what you can do, or at least do more of it. Outside of the $35 entrance fee, the costs are pretty minimal, as most sites cost only $6 to $18 and as long as the weather is stable, can be done for a majority of the year.
Step
1
ID and outline
If you've participated in the hiking above, or at least read through it, you'll be in a much better place for camping, as you'll most likely already know which trails and roads are dog-friendly. For those who aren't familiar with it, the same process is encouraged: get a physical or digital map and outline dog-friendly areas, as it will help you determine where to stay and what is close in proximity. Once you've outlined the campgrounds, figure out what other activities you plan to participate in, then try to pick a campground that minimizes your travel time and maximizes activity time. If you have all day and are good at getting up early, this may not be a factor, but it's always better to prepare better beforehand. Additional guidance can always be sought out in the form of a ranger or informational guide in the visitor's centers.
Step
2
Reservations and regulations
Before you start packing your supplies, it's a good idea to read through the park's pet rules and camping guidelines. We can't list them all, but it's good to be familiar with food storage to minimize interactions with bears, as well as waste disposal to keep the park clean and safe for others. Once you've looked at what areas are dog-friendly and their respective rules, consider making a reservation. Some campgrounds are walk-ins, but given that it is the 5th most popular park in the country, sites often fill up quick, making reservations a good idea unless you're flexible (which is harder with a dog). Then, you'll want to pack supplies appropriated to your specific campsite including a tent and sleeping bag but without forgetting your dog's needs too!
Step
3
Depart for the park
Once you've outlined your activities and campsite and gathered your supplies, you can pack the car, grab your dog and hit the road. Make sure to double check the weather before making any long drive. It's also a good idea to check the condition of areas of the park internally, as fires, washouts, and many other natural events can change availability quickly (website and calling the park are both good options). Make sure to pay your entrance fee, head to your site and get set up. When all is said and done, you'll have shelter for the night and tons of time to explore the park with your dog!
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Wheel and Paw

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
1 - 6 hrs
Items needed
Vehicle
Map
Dog Bags
Leash
Camera
Activity description
While hiking is the best way to get in touch with nature at Yosemite, the most all-encompassing way to see it all, especially if you're on some kind of time crunch, is to tour it by car. Because of the way the roads were laid out and constructed, there are tons of viewpoints and turnouts throughout the park that are perfect for hopping out, taking pictures, and taking short walks. Since many of the viewpoints and roadside stops are well-developed, they're also dog-friendly, giving you and your dog tons of options. It costs only the $35 ($70 annual) entrance fee and some gas, but otherwise, you have the breadth of the park at your fingertips.
Step
1
Map it out
If you're limited on time, it may be a good idea to first map out your route. Start by picking what you really want to see most, then adding in stops along the way. Many of the park's great views can be seen from the road, so look at points of interest on the map and consider getting suggestions from rangers as to the best viewpoints to see them from. Generally speaking, because of the road layouts, it's either best to start in the Northeast, drive west across the park, then south and back east into the Yosemite Valley Loop, then back out and south out of the park (or vice versa). This is the most all-encompassing route, but feel free to come up with your own that is suited to your specific interests.
Step
2
Break it up
Once you've outlined the main points you'd like to see, look on the park's website and other informational sites about point-to-point drive times, as this should give you a better idea of how much you can see in a given amount of time. If you end up with extra time on your hands, you'll know you can stop at more locations that strike your fancy in between. We also suggest checking out Yosemite Village at the near eastern end of the Valley Loop, as you can even have lunch on the picturesque patio of the Village Grill or have a prepackaged lunch in one of the nearby picnic areas.
Step
3
Road trip
Once you've got everything outlined, grab your supplies (including your camera!), your dog and hit the road. Pay your entrance fee and begin your four-wheeled adventure! Don't forget to stop to give your dog bathroom breaks and provide plenty of water and walks to keep them as happy, healthy and entertained as you are.
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More Fun Ideas...

The Firefalls

Yosemite has some stunning natural beauty, one of the most impressive of which is Horsetail Falls. But if you want something truly special, visit on certain days in February and you'll see the setting sun perfectly reflect off the rushing falls, turning them into a glowing firey orange flow.

A Piece of Horror History

If you're a fan of horror movies, you can't miss stopping in at The Ahwahnee Hotel. Believe it or not, the interior of the Overlook Hotel from the legendary movie The Shining was based on this hotel.

Conclusion

Yosemite might not be outfitted head to toe with dog-friendly trails, but that doesn't mean you won't find some fun for you and your tails. Between the expansive road system, fire roads, dog-appropriate trails, campgrounds, viewpoints and other well-developed areas, you can still experience much of the majesty Yosemite has to offer on foot and paw or by car, through the lens or just the naked eye.