Dog owners who travel with their pets usually resign themselves to the fact that most U.S. National Parks are not very dog-friendly. However, the new BARK Ranger program is taking hold in some National Park Service properties, and that is opening up the possibilities for bringing your dog to a national park!
As more Americans are traveling with their pets, some sites within the National Park Service are finding ways to welcome dogs without compromising their rules or affecting the wildlife. The B.A.R.K Ranger program was introduced in 2015 at Olympic National Park as a way to encourage responsible National Park travel with dogs. BARK stands for Bag your poop, Always wear a leash, Respect wildlife, Know where you can go.
Bailey and I were happy to learn that Arizona has two locations offering the BARK Ranger program, and we were able to visit both of them on a 2-week road trip around the state.
As our pals Cool Whip and Hercules recently discovered, Petrified Forest National Park in Northeastern Arizona is super pet-friendly! This cool National Park is very diverse for a desert park – you can see petroglyphs, petrified forests, a painted desert and the historic Painted Desert Inn.
Before I even asked about the program, the friendly ranger at the entrance offered us the BARK Ranger card, some dog-treats and information about where to buy a Bark Ranger tag. While it was too hot for any long hikes during our visit, we took a stroll around some of the petrified logs near the visitor’s center. Dogs are not allowed inside the visitor’s center, but there is a doggy drinking fountain outside, which was super convenient!
Our second stop was between Flagstaff and Phoenix at Montezuma Castle, another National Park site offering the BARK Ranger program. This is a great stop on an Arizona road trip as it’s not far from the highway, and you can see the “castle” on a very short walk from the park entrance.
Montezuma Castle was one of our nation’s first National Monuments, designated to protect this 50-room pueblo ruin built by the Sinagua people over 600 years ago. Bringing your dog here can be a little tricky, as the entrance station where you pay is actually inside the visitor’s center, where dogs are not allowed. They were flexible enough with me, but if you are traveling with someone else, one person can stay outside with the dog while the other pays the entrance fee. Touring the monument is done on a paved path with decent shade, but bring water as it can be very hot!
Be sure to visit the park gift shop and pick up your very own BARK Ranger dog tag! These can also be ordered online. Petrified Forest was sold out so we got ours from their website, PetrifiedForestBookstore, and it was waiting for us when we got home.
Some additional NPS sites offering the BARK Ranger Program include:
When you visit any national park, monument, or historical site, be sure to ask about the BARK Ranger program when you check in at the ranger station. The program is still expanding, and asking about it may encourage more parks to participate.
We are so lucky to have so many wonderful national parks, and even luckier when they allow pets – so please be sure to follow all the rules and be a good model for other pet owners, so we can all continue to enjoy the parks with our furry travel companions!
Other national parks and monuments that are especially pet friendly include the following, and check this list of the most dog friendly national parks in the country.
Note: Some national parks, such as Glacier and Denali, have a Bark Ranger program that employs dogs to control wildlife. If you are unsure which program is offered by a particular park, a quick phone call to the visitor center will clear things up!
Is your dog a BARK Ranger?