The U.S. Government’s land holdings cover 640 million acres, or about 28% of the nation’s total surface area. That’s an incomprehensible about of space, encompassing diverse landscapes and our most precious natural treasures. And some of these federal lands offer spectacular opportunities for off leash hiking with your dog.
Concentrated in the West, federal lands are managed by one of four government agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. When looking for off leash hiking, your best bet is to start with areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service. These two agencies manage a whopping 440.2 million combined acres, which is great news for dog lovers!
The four agencies that manage federal lands have different mandates to protect the land, wildlife, and resources. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service have multi-use directives that include recreation, sustained harvesting of resources, environmental and wildlife protection, and conservation. While the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service are both focused on the conservation of the land, plants, and animals.
The differing goals of the agencies lead to the pet policies they set. For example, the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service tend to be very restrictive toward pets, limiting them mostly to developed areas. Whereas the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management tend to balance their goals of recreation and conservation and take a much more pet friendly view. Generally, pets are welcome on all the trails in national forests and on BLM land, and many allow off leash hiking.
There are a handful of national parks that buck this trend and have welcoming pet policies. Visits to these parks are a special treat.
READ MORE ⇒ Best Pet Friendly National Parks in the U.S.
While many national forests and BLM lands have areas where off leash hiking is allowed, ask about and follow the rules at each location. Keep pets leashed in developed areas and campgrounds, and always pick up and pack out your dog’s waste. Also, keep your pets safely leashed where predators (like bears) are present and during hunting season.
READ MORE ⇒ 13 Tips for Hiking With Pets
Here are some other resources to help you locate off leash hiking on federal lands near you:
Fall is the perfect time for a pet friendly road trip for some fantastic off leash hiking! We hope you and your dog have a terrific time. Waggin’ trails!
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