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Are Dogs Allowed in US National Parks?

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Written by Aurus Sy

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/12/2021, edited: 04/05/2023

National parks are a top destination for many people who are looking to take a break from everyday life. After all, these are where you can find some of the country’s most amazing landscapes, plus few things are more enjoyable than spending time in nature. And if you’re a pet parent, you’d likely agree that exploring the outdoors is even better when you’re with your pup. But are dogs allowed in US national parks?


Are US national parks dog-friendly?

woman and dog sitting on a trail in a national park

Outdoor-loving dog parents and their fur kids will be happy to hear that most national parks welcome canines! Moreover, many parks often have events and activities “pupared” just for four-legged visitors. 

Of course, there are some rules to follow to ensure everyone’s tails keep wagging. Rules vary across parks, so always check your destination’s website for specific information before you travel. But all pooch-friendly national parks adhere to the B.A.R.K. principles:

  • Bag your pet’s waste. Picking up after your dog helps keep parks clean and beautiful, as well as prevents the spread of parasites and diseases, including those that can be transmitted to wildlife. 
  • Always use a leash. Keeping your pup on a leash not only assures their safety; it also protects wild animals and reduces the possibility of conflicts with other visitors and their pets. 
  • Respect wildlife. Wildlife can catch diseases from pets, and vice versa, so remember to keep your distance. National parks are home to wild animals, therefore all visitors are expected to behave like polite guests when entering one. 
  • Know where you can go. Most national parks allow canines in developed areas, on certain trails and campgrounds, and in some lodging facilities. In general, dogs are not allowed on hiking trails or on backcountry trails to protect wildlife, natural resources, and other visitors. Check with the particular park to see which trails may be dog-friendly. 


Dog-friendly activities at national parks

brown Vizsla dog riding in a canoe in a national park

Though some areas are off-limits to dogs, including backcountry and other types of trails, US national parks still offer a number of things for Fido to do, including the B.A.R.K. Ranger program. In this short program, you and your pup will be asked to complete a few simple activities and demonstrate that you understand the B.A.R.K. principles. Once you have successfully completed the tasks and signed the pledge, your furry friend will be “sworn in” as a B.A.R.K. Ranger and receive an official B.A.R.K. Ranger dog tag or certificate! 

In addition to the B.A.R.K. Ranger program, you and your pup can also enjoy:

  • Hiking designated dog-friendly trails, including several front country trails
  • Camping
  • Questing
  • Geocaching
  • Paddling, fishing or boating in parks with lakes or rivers
  • Self-guided walking tours
Visit the National Park Service website for a list of pet-friendly activities within each park.



“Pawpular” dog-friendly US national parks

  

Ready to embark on an outdoor adventure with your four-legged pal? Here are some “grrreat” places to start! 

Acadia National Park, Maine

Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia often tops lists of the most dog-friendly national parks, and for good reason. Canines are allowed on 100 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, 3 campgrounds, and Isle au Haut (day hiking only). Puptastic!

Yosemite National Park, California

While dogs aren’t allowed on hiking trails at Yosemite (except on the Wawona Meadow Loop), Fido is allowed to set paw in most developed areas and on most fully paved roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. Luckily, many of the valley’s iconic attractions can be seen from these pet-friendly paths, including Bridalveil Fall and Glacier Point.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Hounds who love to hike are in for a treat at Shenandoah, where only 20 out of over 500 miles of trails are off-limits to canines! Dogs are also allowed in all campgrounds. For pampered pooches who aren’t used to “ruffing” it, pet-friendly lodging is available as well. 

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon welcomes furry visitors on all trails above the rim including the 13-mile Rim Trail, an easy hike with views down into the canyon. Dogs aren’t allowed on park shuttle buses though, so make sure to plan your hike. Your pup can also join you on some of the campgrounds and throughout developed areas. 

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Unlike most national parks, White Sands allows leashed dogs to tag along with their humans everywhere except inside buildings. Set out on any of the park’s five established trails with your pup to experience the unique landscape of this gypsum dunefield. Fido can even go on the sand!



Health and safety tips

yellow Labrador Retriever hiking with an older man and woman

Here are some tips to make your trip to a national park with Fido safe, fun, and memorable! 

Before you go

  • Evaluate your dog’s health. Ask yourself if they are physically capable of participating in the activities that you plan to do.  
  • Make sure your pup is up to date on all required vaccinations and protected against fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Do some research and talk to your vet about the area you’ll be hiking or camping in.
  • See to it that your dog’s collar, ID tag and harness are secure. For another layer of protection, have your dog microchipped if you haven’t already. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the rules of your park.

What to bring

On the trail

  • Stay on the trail and be mindful of restricted areas.
  • Bring extra water and give your dog plenty of opportunities to drink while hiking.
  • Always keep your pooch on a 6-foot leash and away from wildlife. 
  • Choose a shaded trail that’s not rough on the paws, or bring some dog booties. 
  • Reschedule your hike if it’s too hot.

At the campsite

  • Stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Never feed wild animals. Avoid attracting wildlife by storing food in airtight containers and keeping your campsite clean.
  • Always keep your pup on a leash. You can use a long leash tethered to a stake in the ground to let them explore the area while ensuring they stay within the campsite. 
  • Never leave your dog unattended, especially in a closed vehicle or if you’re camping in bear country. 

For specific concerns, see Wag!’s guides on how to protect your dog from insects, venomous snakes, venomous spiders, coyotes, and scorpions.


National parks offer a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Fortunately, you can bring your furry pal to most of them! Which one will you and your pooch visit first?


Whether your dog needs additional training to be trail-ready or a pet sitter while you explore, download the Wag! app for all your pet care needs!


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