Many of us travel with our 4-legged best friends. They are the best companions to have and love nature just as much, if not more, than we do. Unfortunately it can be hard to find areas where you can go with a dog due to strict rules. Many National Parks only allow dogs in specific areas such as roads, parking lots, and very few campgrounds. This leaves the trails off limits. We’ve done some research and found what dog owners themselves say are the best places to visit with their pooch! Here are the best dog-friendly National Parks to put on your bucket list!
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, located in Arizona, is one of the most pet-friendly parks out there. Their only rules on pets are that they need to be kept on a leash six feet or shorter, cleaned up after, and cannot be left tied up anywhere for longer than five minutes unless it’s an emergency situation. The only areas they cannot go are in buildings unless they’re a service animal. This leaves the entire rest of the park for you and your best friend to roam! Check out the trails or wander through the wilderness area! Visit their pets section of the website to see the refreshingly short list of rules!
Congaree National Park
Found in South Carolina, Congaree National Park is #2 on our list! Just like Petrified Forest National Park, they have pretty lax rules on pets in the park! They need to be kept on a six foot or shorter leash, cleaned up after, and cannot be left unattended at all. Once you have these rules down you’re free to roam any of the trails, hit the boardwalk, or enjoy the campgrounds! With nine different trails adding up to almost 40 miles, you can plan your hike in many different ways! Find the full list of rules regarding pets here!
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Located in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve offers plenty of space for your K9 friend to wander! While they won’t have full run of the park, there is a large area they are welcome! Leashed pets are allowed in the entire preserve side of this park as well as a few other common areas of the National Park side. You’ll find plenty of trails, streams, and other areas to get into! Just be sure you watch out for potential dangers! You can find a map of where your furry buddy can go as well as a full list of rules and dangers to watch out for here!
Olympic National Park
Head out to Washington to visit Olympic National Park! While dogs can’t enjoy every area of this park, they are welcomed on a good portion of the trails and some of the beaches! You can hit Spruce Railroad, Peabody Creek, and Madison Falls trails or splash around on any of the Kalaloch beaches or a portion of the Rialto beach! Again, they must be leashed at all times on a leash six foot or shorter, cleaned up after, and never left unattended. Check out the full list of where they can and cannot go here!
Acadia National Park
Explore 100 miles of trails in Acadia National Park! You’ll find this park in Maine and it’s a perfect place to head with your pooch! There are also some campgrounds where your best friend can camp out with you! If you like to bike while your dog runs at your side (or hangs out in a bike trailer for the ride) there are plenty of carriage roads where they’re allowed as well! Click here for the full list of regulations and where they can and cannot go! They also have a very cute video explaining these rules from the eyes of their K9 “Bark” Ranger, Drift!
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Located right here in the Mitten State is Sleeping Bear Dunes! Michiganders rave about this National Shoreline in general and it’s also an amazing place to visit with your pet! You’ll find tons of trails and beaches here where you can run and explore! One thing you need to be aware of when you visit Sleeping Bear Dunes is that this is a place of nesting for the Piping Plovers. They nest on the beaches and are an endangered species. Please keep your dogs away from these birds and their nests! Even if your dog is on a leash, if they go near these nests they may scare the birds away, which could result in them leaving their eggs abandoned. Visit their site for more information on available areas for pets!
Rules and Regulations
Leashing your pet is a rule for any park! These rules are enforced not only for the sake of other visitors, but the sake of the wildlife and your pet! Unleashed pets may find their way into a confrontation with a wild animal which can result in an injury to your dog or the possible contraction of a disease from the wild animal. Curious pets could also end up running off where they can get lost, which would be devastating to your family.
Ensure for all pet owners’ sake, you adhere to the rules. Even if your dog is well trained and walks off leash no problem, leash them while in the park. The rangers do not have time to see who’s dog is good off leash and who’s isn’t. Disobeying the rules, even with a well-behaved dog, could not only get you a fine and kicked out, it may end up ruining it for everyone. It’s likely that many of the parks with strict “no pet” policies, are due to those that do not follow the rules.
Many people wonder why they need to clean up after their pet in the wilderness where wild animals deposit their own waste. Dog poo can contain diseases that wild animals won’t have immunities or vaccinations to protect them against and it can spread and cause some serious problems. So even if your dog goes off the trail in an untraveled area, clean it up to protect the wildlife that call this area home.
As always, rules can change! Be sure to check the website of the National Park for any possible changes that have been made since this article was posted. We would not want you to end up with a fine due to a change shortly after posting this! To find this information on any of these or any other National Parks, visit the National Parks Service’s website, locate your park, and then find the posted rules under “Plan your Visit.” If you’re struggling to locate the information, a Google search of the park name followed by the word “pets” will usually find you the information.