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Best Dog Friendly National Parks in the US

For Americans and their pups, visiting a pet friendly national park is a great vacation. Unfortunately, finding national parks where our furry travel companions can have fun too is ruff!

Many national parks have strict pet policies, limiting pets to the most developed areas. But there are a few that make it easy to bring Fido. Let’s take a look at our country’s best pet friendly national parks!

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from GoPetFriendly.com at pet-friendly Grand Canyon National Park

 

Best Pet Friendly National Parks

Acadia National Park

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from GoPetFriendly.com on Cadillac Mountain in pet-friendly Acadia National Park, Maine

Ty and Buster on Cadillac Mountain – Pet Friendly Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia is a pet friendly national park on the coast of Maine, and it’s an absolute gem! Pets are welcome on nearly all 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads within the park. The only exceptions are a few trails that require climbs using iron rungs or ladders.

Dogs are also allowed in most of the public areas at Acadia. The only places your pup can’t go are Duck Harbor Campground, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and Echo Lake Beach and Sand Beach during high season (mid-May to mid-Sept). Everywhere else your dog is welcome to join you – even on the free shuttles that run around the park!

READ MORE ⇒  Maine’s Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Acadia National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Arched bridge in dog-friendly Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Arched Bridge in Pet Friendly Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

A more recent addition to the national park collection, the pet friendly Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cleveland, Ohio was designated in 2000. Following the Cuyahoga River, pets are welcome to join you on all of the 125 miles of trails in the park.

Passing though woodlands, wetlands, and old fields, some trails require stream crossings with stepping stones or log bridges. Others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and easily accessible to all visitors. Check with the rangers to determine which trails best suit your hiking style.

For the best scenery, head for Bradford Reservation. This five-mile trail offers views of the Tinkers Creek Gorge, Ohio’s most magnificent canyon. Short spurs off the main trail will also take you to Bridal Veil Falls and the Hemlock Creek Loop Trail.

 

Grand Canyon National Park

Ty the Shar-pei and Buster the German Shepherd from GoPetFriendly.com at pet-friendly Grand Canyon National Park

Buster and Ty – Pet Friendly Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

By any measure, the Grand Canyon is a pet 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 lead to dehydration. Even if you’re only planning a short stroll, bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl.

READ MORE ⇒  Arizona’s Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The Grand Canyon

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sand dunes with mountains in the background at pet-friendly Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Pet Friendly Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

If we were giving awards for pet 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.

Pets are welcome up to the top of the first tall ridge of dunes, between High Dune and the Castle Creek Picnic Area, and throughout the adjoining Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. Remember that the sand here can be hot, so pack an old towel to dry off and enjoy a splash in Medano Creek with your pal!

READ MORE ⇒  Visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park with Pets

 

Hot Springs National Park

Buster the German Shepherd, Rod the human, and Ty the Shar-pei walking a brick path in dog-friendly Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Buster, Rod, and Ty – Pet Friendly Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Pet friendly Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas may not be on your radar, but if you’re looking for a gorgeous setting with a plenty of places to enjoy with your pooch, it should be! Popular for the steaming water that seeps from 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 the early resort town.

Your pet 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 the trails were originally created for spa guests, who were encouraged to exercise daily to maximize the health benefits of the baths.

READ MORE ⇒   Visiting Pet Friendly Hot Springs National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park

Shar-pei and German Shepherd dog on the beach at Indiana Dunes National Park

Ty and Buster – Pet Friendly Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Cool breezes off Lake Michigan. Caribbean blue waters rolling up on the shore. And a beach that stretches for miles. These are the things you’ll find at pet friendly Indiana Dunes National Park!

It might sound like a tropical island, but the 15-mile stretch of sand is just the beginning. This dynamic landscape, formed by retreating glaciers, includes the lake and beach, but also dunes, ponds, marshes, creeks, prairie, and forests. The variety of habitats makes this one of the most botanically diverse of all the national parks.

Leashed pets are welcome on the beaches east of Indiana Dunes State Park, in the picnic areas, and the campground. They can also explore all trails, except Glenwood Dune, Great Marsh and Pinhook Bog. At nearby Indiana Dunes State Park leashed pets are welcome on all trails, in the picnic areas, campground, and on the beach east of the life-guarded area. Pets cannot go on the swimming beach in the State Park.

READ MORE ⇒  Visiting Indiana Dunes National Park With Pets

 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Buster the German Shepherd and Ty the Shar-pei resting in front of a locomotive at dog-friendly Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Buster and Ty – Pet Friendly Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Naturally, the attraction at pet friendly Mammoth Cave National Park is the 336 miles of underground passages. But with over 70 miles of pet friendly trails, it’s a great choice for dogs who love the outdoors!

Though pets aren’t allowed below ground, you’ll find several short trails around the Visitors Center. Check out the Green River Bluffs Trail, which winds through the hardwood forest and ends with 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.

National Mall and Memorial Gardens

Buster the German Shepherd & Ty the Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com at the U.S. Capitol on the Dog-Friendly National Mall and Memorial Gardens in Washington, D.C.

Buster & Ty at the U.S. Capitol – Pet Friendly National Mall and Memorial Gardens, Washington, D.C.

There are few places in the United States more inspiring than the pet 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.

The National Mall and Memorial Gardens stretch from the the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and, while pets are not allowed inside most of the monuments, they will enjoy admiring some of the most famous structures in the world with you!

READ MORE ⇒  Washington, D.C.’s Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The National Mall

 

Natchez Trace National Parkway

Roadway lined with red wildflowers in the pet-friendly Natchez Trace National Parkway in Mississippi

Pet Friendly Natchez Trace National Parkway, Alabama & Mississippi

Before highways were constructed, trails marked the passage between places, and few were as well-traveled as the Natchez Trace. Now the pet 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 hiking and self-guided trails are just steps away.

READ MORE ⇒  Mississippi’s Top Pet Friendly Attraction: The Natchez Trace

Padre Island National Seashore

Purple flowers on the beach at dog-friendly Padre Island National Seashore in Texas

Pet Friendly Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Protecting 70 miles of coastline, prairies, dunes, and tidal pools along the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas, Padre Island National Seashore is also very pet friendly. Leashed pets are welcome almost everywhere in the park – including 60 miles of beaches!

Padre is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, and the diversity of wildlife found here is stunning. A number of rare, threatened, and endangered species make their homes in this environment, so it’s extremely important that pets remain on leash at all times.

Padre Island provides two established campgrounds and more than 64 miles of beaches open to primitive camping, so pack your bags and plan to spend a few days exploring this incredible setting!

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Two women and two dogs overlooking dog-friendly Petrified Forest National in Arizona

Pet Friendly Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

From the deposits of petrified wood that give this park its name, to the colorful badlands, the pet friendly Petrified Forest National Park is truly 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!

READ MORE ⇒   Petrified Forest National Park Is Truly Pet Friendly

Shenandoah National Park

View across the mountain tops from Skyline Dive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

View from Skyline Drive – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive may be the most famous attraction at pet 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 of rock climbs or 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!

 

White Sands National Park

Shar-pei and German Shepherd dogs at White Sands National Park in New Mexico

Buster and Ty – White Sands National Park, New Mexico

The name “White Sands” may be misleading, but that doesn’t make this pet friendly national park any less impressive! These shimmering dunes are actually made of gypsum – not sand. Thanks to an ancient sea and some very fortunate geography, this gypsum dunefield the largest in the world, covering 275 square miles!

You and your pet can explore the entire park together, and there are plenty of trails to check out. The Playa Trail, Dune Life Nature Trail, and Interdune Boardwalk all have interesting exhibits about the geography and plant and animal life. For some lighthearted fun, bring a sled (or buy one in the visitors center) and scoot down the dunes. Or, if you want to experience the vastness of the dunefield, hike the Alkali Flat Trail. Be aware that this trail is not flat. The 5-mile loop runs up and down dunes the entire way, which can make the hiking strenuous, but the views are priceless.

 

Other National Parks

We’ve visited a number of other national parks, monuments, and seashores on our travels. Even at those that were less pet friendly, 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

Buffalo National River – Arkansas

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico

Colorado National Monument – Colorado

Crater Lake National Park – Oregon

Effigy Mounds National Monument – Iowa

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

Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming

Zion National Park – Utah

 

Looking for more pet friendly adventures? Find out which national parks allow your dog to become a BARK Ranger!

 

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  • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

    Hi Maryann! You can check the GoPetFriendly.com database of lodging, attractions, restaurants, and more at GoPetFriendly.com. Good luck, and safe travels!

  • Janice says:

    Loving this web site as a guide, just found it a few days ago. My dog and I have traveled to many National Parks in the past 3 years and I have a few to add to the Pet friendly list: Pecos and El Morro in New Mexico and Hovenweep in Utah. Also Fort Caroline and Kingsley plantation in Florida. While they do not have anything official, they do allow dogs on trails through the parks.
    Now, for my main complaint about the National Parks-not allowing dogs in buildings. I travel alone with my dog. I enjoy gift shops, I collect passport stamps and I may need to use a bathroom. What do I do? Leave my dog in the car? It is a very real problem. I have contacted the NPS to ask them to reconsider this policy. Their response was that it was a law and sited legal numbers. I suggested they look to change the law. Then was told some people were afraid of dogs. Only in buildings? And wouldn’t someone afraid of dogs be afraid of service dogs as well and they are allowed in buildings. I will admit I have brought my dog into NP gift shops and no one minded. An example of a pet friendly gift shop is at Natural Bridge in Virginia, now a state park. They told me to bring him right in, just could not go into the food section. The NPS is trying to get into that park, they have a section in the back, and I sincerely hope they don’t cause then my dog won’t be allowed in! this is something maybe a web site like yours could look into….

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Thanks so much for your note, Janice! I’m glad you’re enjoying the site and really appreciate you for your insights on those additional national parks. I’ll be looking into them for our future adventures!

      I also completely agree with your assessment of the difficulties of traveling alone to the national parks with a pet. Actually, traveling alone in general is more complicated than it should be. I’d like to see changes at rest areas, for example, so people don’t have to leave their pets in the car while they use the facilities. We definitely have a way to go, but traveling with pets is getting easier all the time! Wishing you and your pup safe travels and waggin’ trails!

  • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

    Thanks so much for your note! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the website – we love knowing that we’re helping other people have fun with their pets. Waggin’ trails!

  • Here is a great one- Morristown NHP, Jockey Hollow Unit. Great trails and open fields

  • Congaree National Park in South Carolina is also dog friendly! Our pup loved walking on the boardwalks and got lots of love from the rangers. However, we don’t recommend going in the summer…too hot and buggy! Winter is a great time to enjoy the swamp :)

  • Pam Woolcott says:

    Sleeping Bear Dunes Natl Lakeshore in Michigan is dig friendly on quite a bit of the shoreline. Clearly marked yes or no for dogs. Beautiful sand beaches on Lake Michigan.

  • Joyce Cole says:

    Devils Postpile National Monument in California is a good place that allows dogs on the bus to get there as long as they wear a muzzle and then once you get off the bus you can take the muzzle off and hike the trails on leash.

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