Editor’s Note: Always check the park’s website before heading out in case policies have changed. All parks require pets to be on a 6-foot leash at all times. All U.S. National Parks websites can be found at nps.gov.
Having a dog means having a constant sidekick who is always up for an adventure. While there are many spots around the country where dogs are more than welcome, national parks are a bit more restrictive. And it makes sense — national parks often have fragile ecosystems with a rich wildlife population, so rules are in place to protect the park, its wildlife and your pet.
Many national parks and historical areas/monuments only allow on-leash dogs within a certain distance from the road, picnic area or campground (like at Joshua Tree National Park), but some parks have something for everyone, including dogs! Here are a few of our favorites.
Acadia National Park, Maine
If you’re craving the salty, ocean air and sound of waves crashing, head to Acadia National Park and you won’t have to leave Fido at home. Dogs are allowed on all 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, as well as the Blackwoods, Seawall and Schoodic Woods campgrounds. (Fun fact for you early birds: Acadia is the first place in the United States where you can watch the sun come up in the morning!)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Who doesn’t have the Grand Canyon on the bucket list? Luckily, your dog can tag along, too — on any trail above the rim as well as the Mather Campground, Desert View Campground and Trailer Village. If you want to explore the trails in the canyon, many hotels in the area are pet-friendly, and the South Rim Kennel is available if you need to board your dog.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Dogs are only allowed on certain trails in this park on the Olympic Peninsula, but it’s worth the trip to take in the lush forest and driftwood-laden beaches. Pets can accompany you on a trek on Peabody Creek Trail, Rialto Beach parking lot to Ellen Creek, the beaches in the Kalaloch area between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations, Madison Falls Trail, Spruce Railroad Trail and July Creek Loop Trail.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia
You and your dog can go anywhere in this Civil War historical park — except on the park shuttle or in buildings — so explore wherever you’d like. Another perk to bringing your dog here is you have plenty of additional hiking options along the famous Appalachian Trail — it runs right through town!
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Tucked away in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Southern Colorado lies a 30-square-mile sand dune field. This unique spot allows dogs on many of the designated trails in the Main Use Area of the park, including Piñon Flats Campground and even out on the dunes (just not beyond the first high ridge). The sand can get very hot in the summer, so only take your dog out in the morning or evening.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Dogs are allowed on more than 110 miles of hiking trails and 20 miles of the Towpath Trail along the Cuyahoga River. Known for its beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous fall colors, the national park should be on any road-trip list.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Dogs are allowed pretty much anywhere here. The only place they can’t go are inside buildings, but with more than 60 miles of beach to explore and five camping areas, there is plenty of room for everyone to romp.
Follow these rules to make sure dogs can continue to visit our national parks for years to come:
➼ Keep your dog on a 6-foot leash. Off-leash dogs can be a danger to wildlife or themselves (many parks are in rugged areas) or might bother other visitors, even if they’re trying to be friendly.
➼ Respect wildlife. Even on-leash, don’t let your dog dig or otherwise disturb nests, holes or habitats.
➼ Always pick up your dog’s waste and properly dispose of it.
➼ Never leave your dog in the car. Cars heat up much faster than the outdoors, so make sure your dog is allowed to hit the trails before you go to the park to avoid any issues.
➼ Never tie your dog up at the campsite.
➼ Get a GPS tracker for your dog’s collar. If your dog happens to get loose, a GPS tracker can help you find him.
➼ Train your dog to follow basic cues, like Stay, Come and Heel. Not only is it good manners, but it will help keep everyone safe.
The next time you are going on a family trip to a national park, don’t worry about leaving your dog at home — with a little extra planning (and maybe some new ideas from this list), everyone can join in on the fun.
Top photograph: Try Media | Getty Images