8 best National Parks for dogs
The best National Parks for dogs in the US let you take your canine companion on your hiking and camping adventures
There’s no denying that as a dog owner, you want to take your furry friend with you on all of your adventures, especially those that involve walkies. US National Parks make unforgettable hiking vacations, but with big crowds and lots of wildlife and delicate ecosystems to protect, they’re not always so keen on your dog romping through the undergrowth in pursuit of squirrels.
Many National Parks will allow you to bring your pet, but often they’re not allowed on the trails themselves, which isn’t ideal if you were planning on packing your best hiking boots. While we always recommend checking ahead on park-specific pet regulations, we’ve compiled a list of the best National Parks for dogs to help you plan.
This isn't a complete list of every park that allows dogs, just the ones that allow some freedom for your and your canine companion to roam on the trails, and trails where you might actually want to take your dog. Please note that for all of these parks, the following stipulations always apply:
- Your dog must be kept on a leash at all times
- The leash may not be longer than six feet
- You must pick up after your dog
- You must not leave your dog unattended at any time
Like any dog owner, of course you think your dog is perfect, but please remember that these rules are in place to protect your dog as much as it is for other visitors and wildlife - the last thing you want is your dog returning full of porcupine quills, ticks or having been bitten by a snake. Make sure you also read our guides on hiking with your dog and camping with dogs before heading out to these pet-friendly parks for hikers.
1. Acadia, Maine
Acadia National Park protects areas of coastal Maine, including 19 of its outlying islands and the highest rocky headlines of the Atlantic Coastline. The majority of the most popular spots are on Mount Desert Island which at 108 square miles is the largest off the coast of Maine. The best hikes in Acadia National Park take you from salty sea to soaring summit with 158 miles of extraordinarily scenic hiking trails making it one of Advnture’s picks for best National Parks for hiking, and best of all, there are 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park where pets are permitted.
Pets are allowed in the following areas:
- Carriage roads
- Most trails
- Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds
- On Isle au Haut (day hiking only)
Pets are restricted from the following areas:
- Most lakes in the park are public water supplies
- Sand Beach (June 15-Sept 8) and Echo Lake (May 15-Sept 15)
- Public buildings
- Ranger-led programs
- Wild Gardens of Acadia (Sieur de Monts)
- Duck Harbor Campground
2. New River Gorge, West Virginia
The New River is actually one of the oldest rivers on the continent, and through time has carved this deep gorge through the Appalachian Mountains that is home to rugged whitewater currents. The park is the country’s newest National Park and protects 53 miles of the river and its splendid canyon walls, high cliffs, dense forests and spectacular views that make a natural adventureland for hikers, rafters and bikers. This park is remarkably dog-friendly, and pets are allowed on all trails here.
3. Congaree, South Carolina
Down in South Carolina along the Congaree River, this park protects the largest portion of old-growth floodplain forest remaining in North America, and the tallest trees in the eastern United States. The Boardwalk Loop Trail is the main hiking attraction, taking you on a raised wooden path through the swamp and diverse forest, but you can explore deeper into the backcountry with trails made for tree and bird viewing. Congaree National Park also welcomes pets. Dogs are allowed on all trails, including the boardwalk, as well as in the campgrounds.
4. Wrangell-St Elias, Alaska
Not only does this vast wilderness span over 13 million acres, making it the country’s largest National Park at six times the size of Yellowstone, its landscape rises from the sea all the way up to 18,008ft offering boundless opportunities for adventure. Major peaks, glaciers, rivers, wildlife and coastline abound here, while there is even one active volcano, Mount Wrangell. Dogs are allowed on both trails and in the backcountry here, which is highly unusual.
5. Olympic, Washington
Few of America’s National Parks offer as diverse a landscape as Washington's Olympic National Park, which protects a vast wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula and boasts three distinct ecosystems. It has four regions each with a distinct flavor. To the west are temperate old-growth rainforests and to the drier eastern side are pine forests. The Pacific coastline region protects 70 miles of rocky shoreline and the alpine area has high snow-capped peaks offering views of the Olympic interior. Several of the best hiking trails in Olympic National Park are pooch-positive:
- Peabody Creek Trail (Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles)
- Rialto Beach parking lot to Ellen Creek (1/2 mile)
- The beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations (Kalaloch area)
- Madison Falls Trail (Elwha)
- Spruce Railroad Trail (North shore of Lake Crescent)
- July Creek Loop Trail (North shore of Lake Quinault)
6. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is located in Arizona, and is about 3.5 hours from Phoenix, or 4.5 hours from Las Vegas. The canyon was carved by the Colorado River on its journey from the Rockies to the Gulf of California, though at over a mile deep you can rarely see it. The canyon is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, making it one of the biggest canyons in the world. Scientists don’t know how old it is, but some estimate parts of it may be 70 million years old. Though your dog is not permitted below the canyon rim, it can get some pretty spectacular views from the rim itself.
On the South Rim, leashed dogs are allowed on trails above the rim, Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas. They are not permitted on park shuttle buses or in park lodging, with the exception of those staying with their owners in a pet friendly room.
On the North Rim, leashed dogs are only allowed on the bridle trail (greenway) that connects the North Kaibab Trail, and the portion of the Arizona Trail north to the park entrance station.
7. Shenandoah, Virginia
Just over an hour’s drive from DC, Shenandoah takes you from the bustle of the capitol to the tranquility of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Range. These lower elevation mountains are rich in vegetation and wildlife and often shrouded in an atmospheric haze. Hiking here takes you to cascading waterfalls and rocky lookouts, pioneer settlements and even a section of the Appalachian Trail. The best times to visit are spring and fall. Shenandoah National Park is one of the few National Parks that allow dogs on trails.
However, dogs are prohibited on the falling trails:
- Fox Hollow Trail (mile 4.6)
- Stony Man Trail (mile 41.7) except for portion that follows the Appalachian Trail
- Limberlost Trail (mile 43)
- Post Office Junction to Old Rag Shelter
- Old Rag Ridge Trail
- Old Rag Saddle Trail
- Ridge Access Trail (Old Rag area)
- Dark Hollow Falls Trail (mile 50.7)
- Story of the Forest Trail (mile 51)
- Bearfence Mountain Trail (mile 56.4)
- Frazier Discovery Trail (mile 79.5)
8. Hot Springs, Arkansas
The natural hot springs of Arkansas’ Garland County have been drawing health-conscious visitors to the area for centuries. A visit here today reveals historic bath houses centered around the thermal springs, as well as geological curiosities, forested trails, babbling brooks and mountain views. Though it doesn’t have as many miles of hiking trails as some other of the parks on this list, dogs are welcome on all 26 miles of the Hot Springs National Park trails. There are Pet Waste Stations located on both ends of Bathhouse Row and in the campground.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.