For many Americans, family vacation time means visiting a national park. But for people traveling with their pets, finding national parks where their dogs will have some fun too can be ruff! Many of our natural parks impose strict limitations on where dogs are allowed … but there are a few that roll out the red carpet for Fido. Here are our country’s best dog friendly national parks:
Acadia is a dog friendly national park on the coast of Maine, and it’s an absolute gem! Acadia welcomes dogs on all 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads within the park – with the exception of a few trails that require climbs using iron rungs or ladders. Dogs are also allowed in all the public areas, except Duck Harbor Campground, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and on Echo Lake Beach and Sand Beach during high season (mid-May to mid-Sept). Everywhere else you can go in the park, your dog can go with you!
A more recent addition to our national park collection, the dog friendly Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cleveland, Ohio was designated in 2000. Following the “crooked” Cuyahoga River, dogs are welcome to join you on all of the 125 miles of trails though woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require stream crossings with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and easily accessible to all visitors.
For the best scenery, head for Bradford Reservation. This five-mile all-purpose trail crosses the Tinkers Creek Gorge area, Ohio’s most magnificent canyon, known for its hemlock forests. Short spurs off the main trail will also take you to Bridal Veil Falls and the Hemlock Creek Loop Trail.
By any measure, the Grand Canyon is a dog friendly national park! Located in northern Arizona, you and your pup are welcome to enjoy all 13 miles of the South Rim Trail trail at the Grand Canyon. Skirting the edge of the canyon, the path is easy to navigate, but remember that the high elevation and dry climate can quickly lead to dehydration. Even if you’re only planning a short stroll, bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl.
If we were giving awards for dog friendly national parks, Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado would definitely be in the running! These are the tallest dunes in North America, set in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Dogs are welcome up to the top of the first tall ridge of dunes, between High Dune and Castle Creek Picnic Area, and throughout the adjoining Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. Remember that the sand here can be hot, so splashing in Medano Creek may be an option – just be sure to bring an old towel to dry off your pal!
Dog friendly Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas may not be on your radar, but if you’re looking for a gorgeous setting with plenty of places to enjoy with your pooch, it should be! Popular for the steaming water that seeps from the the lower west slope of Hot Springs Mountain, people have been visiting this location for centuries. Bath houses sprung up to allow visitors to take advantage of the “healing waters” and this unique national park protects the geothermic spring water and historic structures of this early resort town.
Your dog is welcome to join you for a half-mile stroll down Bathhouse Row and along the Grand Promenade. Once you’re warmed up, hit the 26-miles of inter-connected trails flanking the city, many of which were originally created for spa guests who were encouraged to exercise daily to maximize the health benefits of the baths.
Naturally, the attraction here is the 336 miles of underground passages … but with over 70 miles of pet friendly trails, we consider Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave a dog friendly national park! You’ll find several short trails around the Visitors Center, including the Green River Bluffs Trail, which winds through the hardwood forest to a nice overlook of the Green River. If you’re looking for a longer trek, the North Side Trails provide some good options that meander past waterfalls and cut through one of the last remaining old growth forests in Kentucky.
There are few places in the United States more inspiring than the dog friendly National Mall and Memorial Gardens in Washington, D.C. Our country’s history and future hang in the air, monuments commemorate celebrated visionaries, and memorials stand in silent remembrance of the many who’ve given their lives to preserve our freedom. Stretching from the the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, pets are not allowed inside most of the monuments, but they will enjoy admiring some of the most famous structures in the world with you!
Before highways were constructed, trails marked the passage between places, and few were as well-traveled as the Natchez Trace. Now the dog friendly Natchez Trace National Parkway preserves sites of archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic significance along its 444-mile route. The Trace is the perfect pet friendly road trip, because there’s something to sniff around every bend! Pet are welcome at the more than 100 exhibits, but not inside the buildings – and when it’s time to really stretch your legs, 28 different hiking and self-guided trails are just steps away.
From the deposits of petrified wood that give this park its name, to the colorful badlands, the dog friendly Petrified Forest National Park is a wonder to behold. Located in eastern Arizona, Route 66 runs through the park, and the northern border extends into the fabulous Painted Desert. Dogs on leash are welcome on all the parks trails, but the Petrified Forest is well-known for its fossil deposits – so don’t let your pooch gnaw on any bones he finds!
Skyline Drive may be the most famous attraction at dog friendly Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, but you’ll definitely want to stop the car and get out for hike! Of the more than 500 miles of trails in the park, only 20 miles are off-limits to dogs because they require rock climbs or have difficult passages. The stunning views, peaceful wilderness, and cascading waterfalls are all accessible to your pup – it’s the picture of serenity, just 75 miles from Washington, DC!
We’ve visited a number of other national parks, monuments, and seashores on our travels that we consider less pet friendly than those listed above. Still, we found a way to enjoy each one with Buster and Ty. If you’re planning a trip to one of these parks and are curious to see what we thought of it, click the name below.
Assateague Island National Seashore – Maryland
Badlands National Park – South Dakota
Big Bend National Park – Texas
Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah
Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico
Colorado National Monument – Colorado
Crater Lake National Park – Oregon
Glacier National Park – Montana
Grand Tetons National Park – Wyoming
Joshua Tree National Park – California
Northern Cascades National Park – Washington
Olympic National Park – Washington
San Juan Islands – Washington
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota
White Sands National Monument – New Mexico
Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming
Zion National Park – Utah