9 Most Dog Friendly National Parks

dog national parks
Author: Taylor Ritz

It’s no secret that traveling with a dog can be a rewarding, yet challenging experience. When planning trips through national parks, for example, you are faced with the many rules and regulations regarding where your pet may and may not go. From strict pet policies to limit your dog’s access to developed areas only, finding dog-friendly national parks you can visit with your pooch can be quite difficult. Don’t fret, there are a few dog-friendly national parks that are a bit more friendly than the rest, and we’ve gathered them all here.

Let the road-trip planning begin!

Note: Unless otherwise posted, assume that dogs must be leashed at all times on a leash 6 feet or shorter and always clean up after your pet.

1. Acadia National Park

Located on the coast of Maine, 250 miles from the nearest large city, Acadia consists of hundreds of miles of hiking trails, lowland paths, and mountain climbs. The scenery ranges from mountain summits to beach shores. If driving is more your style, there is a 27-mile long scenic loop that offers incredible vistas and overlooks.

Where Dogs Can Go?

Acadia National Park allows dogs on almost all 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads located within the park boundaries. There are few trails where dogs are not allowed and it requires climbing up iron rungs and ladders that would be difficult to impossible for a dog to traverse without being carried.

Dogs are allowed on the free shuttles that take you around the park, an option many national parks do not offer for dogs. 

Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds all allow pets. There is even an off-leash area at Little Long Pond, which is adjacent to the park itself.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Dogs are allowed in almost all public areas of Acadia National Park. Exceptions are Duck Harbor Campground and Wild Gardens of Acadia, as well as Echo Lake Beach and Sand Beach during the peak season of mid-May to mid-September. Pets are also not allowed in public buildings and must be kept leashed at all times.

2. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park located along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, and was designated in 2000. The river traverses deep forests, open farmlands, and rolling hills, providing a refuge for all types of flora and fauna.

Where Dogs Can Go?

Dogs are welcome in Cuyahoga Valley National Park along all 125 miles of trails. The trails offer passage through wetlands, woodlands, and even oil fields. Some trails require stream crossings utilizing log bridges or stepping stones, but the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath is completely flat and accessible to all.

3. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is located in northern Arizona. The canyon is a natural sculpture carved by the Colorado River at 5,000 feet deep and between 10 and 16 miles wide.

Where Dogs Can Go?

Dogs are allowed on any of the hiking trails above the perimeter in Grand Canyon National Park. This includes the breathtaking and popular South Rim Trail and the Greenway Trail.

Your pets are also permitted in the Mather, Desert View, and Trailer Village Campgrounds. There are pet-friendly rooms available at the Yavapai Lodge for a $25 pet fee.

Pets should be leashed at all times, especially due to the dangerous terrain. Leashes should be no longer than 6 feet.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Pets are not permitted below the rim of the Grand Canyon, but there is a kennel available for dogs near the South Rim Trail so that you may enjoy the canyon while your dog is well-cared for. Pets are also not allowed inside public buildings or on shuttle buses.

4. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado and comprises 30 square miles and the tallest dunes in North America. The park contains a tremendous diversity in landscapes including wetlands, tundra, alpine lakes, forests, and grasslands.

Where Dogs Can Go?

You’re welcome to bring your beloved pet to the top of the first ridge of the dunes, between High Dune and the Castle Creek Picnic Area. They are also allowed throughout the surrounding Sand Dunes National Preserve.

Pets must be leashed and may enter any day-use areas, including the play area and Piñon Flats campground.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Pets are not allowed in any backcountry areas of the park.

5. Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National park in Arkansas is comprised of 47 protected hot springs that have been enjoyed by humans for over 200 years. The park was designated by Congress in 1832 to protect the springs flowing from Hot Springs Mountain, making this location the oldest area in the National Park System.

Where Dogs Can Go?

Leashed dogs are permitted in the park on leashes no longer than 6 feet. They may accompany you on a walk down Bathhouse Row, the Grand Promenade, and the other 26 miles of interconnected trails nearby.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Pets are not permitted in public buildings.

6. Mammoth Cave National Park

Located in southern Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is characterized by 336 miles of underground cave trails and part of the Green River Valley. This cave system is the longest in the world.

Where Dogs Can Go?

Dogs are welcome on all 70 miles of above-ground hiking trails and in the woodland cottages of Mammoth Cave National Park and must be leashed at all times on a leash no longer than 6 feet. The hotel maintains a kennel to keep your dog happy and safe while you explore the cave systems.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the Mammoth Caves themselves or in the Visitors’ Center.


7. Padre Island National Seashore

The Padre Island National Seashore is located in southern Texas along the Gulf of Mexico, where its designation protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, tidal pools, and prairies. Padre Island is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, protecting a large and diverse population of threatened and endangered species of wildlife. 

Where Dogs Can Go?

Leashed pets are welcome everywhere in the park, including its 60+ miles of beachfront.

8. Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is located in eastern Arizona and gets its name from the deposits of petrified wood located within its boundaries. 

Where Dogs Can Go?

Dogs are permitted throughout the park, including all trails and backcountry areas, making it incredibly pet-friendly. Dogs must be leashed at all times.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

The only place dogs are not allowed is in the visitors’ center and museum.

9. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park encompasses a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the U.S. state of Virginia.  At the west, the long and narrow park has Shenandoah River and its broad valley, and at the east, you can see the Virginia Piedmont. 

Where Dogs Can Go?

Of the 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, only 20 of them are off-limits to dogs. These off-limit trails contain rock climbs or difficult passages that would challenge even the most in-shape pooch. Dogs are also allowed in all of the campgrounds. Your fur babies must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

Where Dogs Can’t Go?

Pets are not permitted inside buildings or on a designated 20 miles of, especially difficult trail.

Traveling With Your Dog

These are the few famous dog-friendly national parks. No matter what dog-friendly national parks you choose, exploring with your dog is an incredibly fulfilling experience; there’s nothing quite like a road trip through the eyes of a canine. Their excitement and joy for life are contagious, and no matter where you choose to roam, it’s often the journey that you will remember, far more than the destination.


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