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Are Dogs Allowed in US National Parks?


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?

sitting in a mountain hiking trail

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 in the backcountry to protect wildlife, natural resources, and other visitors.

Dog-friendly activities at national parks

dog in a paddle boat that is swimming in a lake

Though some areas are off-limits to dogs, 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 can enjoy hiking, camping, questing, paddling, geocaching and self-guided tours with your pooch. In parks with lakes or rivers, you can often go fishing or boating. Visit the National Park Service website for a list of more pet-friendly activities.

Health and safety tips

pile of colorful towels

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 and ID tag 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

  • Food and water
  • Food and water bowls
  • An extra collar and leash
  • Doggie waste bags
  • Towels 
  • Insect repellent

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. 
  • 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?

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