Are Dogs Allowed On National Park Trails? A Helpful Guide


I love to bring my dog camping and hiking. I’m sure that you do too. What I have noticed (and maybe you have too) is that National Parks have a lot of rules when it comes to pets. Specifically when it comes to taking dogs on their hiking trails. I did some research to find out why this is and where we can actually take out dogs in National Parks.

So, are dogs allowed on National Park trails? In most circumstances, dogs are not allowed on National Park Trails. The two main reasons for this are:

  • To protect your dog from wildlife.
  • To protect wildlife from your dog.

The good news is that not all National Parks ban dogs from going on their trails. Some parks are very dog-friendly Read on for why most parks ban dogs from trails and where you can bring your dogs in most National Parks.

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For The Protection Of Your Dog

National Parks are great, but it is well known that they are more “wild” than most places your dog will ever go in their lifetime. Therefore they can come into contact with things that they are not used to that can make them sick such as heartworm, fleas, and ticks. These things thrive in the wild and it is important to make sure your dog is properly vaccinated against all of these dangers. Allergies may be another problem for your dog in a new environment with plants that they are not used to being exposed to.

Beyond that, there are many plants that can present a danger to your dogs. These plants can be abundant in National Parks and so in order to protect your dog the National Park Service has closed off many trails to dogs. We all know that dogs like to occasionally eat grass and other plants, doing so on National Park hiking trails may lead to disastrous consequences for your dog so it is better safe than sorry.

Other animals can present a danger to your dog. National Park hiking trails often venture deep into wilderness areas where all kinds of other animals live. Some animals are predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, wolves, just to name a few. Those animals could see your dog as prey. Other animals that could be dangerous to your pet include Snakes, Lizards, Racoons, Opossums, Insects, etc.

Some of these animals may be venomous, poisonous, or contain diseases harmful to dogs such as rabies. As you can gather, there is a lot of potential harm present in National Parks, especially on trails. this brings up a good reason to not bring your dog on the trails, and the National Park Service knows this and so they enforce these special rules.

For The Protection Of Local Plants And Wildlife

Not only are there dangers present for your dog, but your dog could also be a danger to local plants and wildlife. Many of the plants and wildlife in National Parks are not used to dogs being present in their environment and they can receive harm from them in various ways.

Plants in National Parks can be especially susceptible to dogs because they could be crushed by your curious dog. Your dog’s urine could also spell disaster for some local plants, especially if dog traffic is high and the plants receive continuous exposure to dog urine.

Animals in National Parks could be exposed to new diseases from dogs. Even if the dog is not sick they could still be carrying something harmful to other animals. Wolves, for example, are closely related to dogs and they can catch many of the same diseases that dogs can such as the parvovirus. Keeping your pet vaccinated could be a huge help to this problem, but it does not prevent everything. Your dog could also be directly harmful to other wildlife by chasing them and attacking them or even digging up their homes. Some animals in National Parks are protected because they are endangered or at high risk of becoming endangered. Dogs could potentially make the situation worse for these delicate local animals.

Can You Bring Dogs Into National Parks?

Now for the good news, a large majority of National Parks do allow you to bring your dog. In general, dogs are allowed outside of your car in developed areas, campgrounds, lodging, and roads in national parks. This, of course, does vary by park, but luckily the National Park Service has an awesome interactive map of all of the National Parks and their rules on pets that you can find here.

Always make sure to keep your pet on a leash in the parks, most parks require a leash to be 6 feet long or less. Never leave your dog in the vehicle alone for extended periods of time (especially when it is hot outside!) and ALWAYS clean up after your pet. Be prepared because many National Parks are not well developed and you will have to closely manage your dog while within park boundaries to ensure you are following the rules.

Realize that because you have a dog with you in a National Park, your activities are more limited and someone must be with the dog at all times at the campground or developed areas. For a whole lot of more information on dogs in National Parks, you can visit the National Park Service website here where they have general guides for bringing dogs into parks with some specific examples.

Can You Go Camping With Dogs In National Parks?

Camping with your dog can be a lot of fun, but it takes more responsibility when you are visiting National Parks. Most campgrounds in National Parks do allow pets, but it is best practice to always double-check the rules and regulations of the campground before committing. Even if campgrounds do allow you to bring your dog, only you know how your dog will behave or react while they are camping.

If your dog is aggressive or a frequent barker, then It may not be a good idea to bring them camping. Not only do you have to take into consideration your own experience and your dog’s experience in a National Park, but you need to take into consideration the experiences of everyone else that is in the campground. Please be courteous to other campers by not bringing your dog if they cannot behave. Also make sure to keep your dog with you at night to keep them safe, especially from other animals because predators often come out at night. 

Are There Hiking Trails In National Parks That Do Allow Dogs?

While we now know why dogs are not allowed on most National Park trails, it is good to know that a limited amount of trails do allow dogs to hike on them. Some of the most dog-friendly National Parks that allow hiking are Acadia National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, just to name a few. There are many others, but it is your responsibility to check the National Park Service website here to see the rules and regulations for where you are going.

Please note that even though some trails do allow dogs, that does not mean that there is no danger for your dog or to the local plant and wildlife. The same dangers still apply as mentioned before, but it is your responsibility to mitigate them as much as possible. Remember to keep your dog on a leash with you at all times, bring food, bring water, and clean up after them. If you follow the rules you and your dog will have a great time in any National Park.

Conclusion

National Parks do not allow dogs on most trials in order to protect the plants, wildlife, and your dog. The National Park Service has done an amazing job of publishing their specific rules on pets on their website so there is no excuse to not know the rules. You can still bring your dog into most National Parks and have a good time camping with them as long as you are respectful to others and to the rules and regulations of the park. So go forth and explore your National Parks with your dogs, but be well informed on what you need to be prepared for and the rules you must follow before doing so.

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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