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Feature Article: September 2002

In Search of the Best National Parks for Dogs


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Top 10 National Parks
(Ratings based on number of visitors per year. Ratings are NOT based on dog-friendliness.)

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, 865-436-1200

Pets must be leashed or restrained at all times and are not allowed on hiking trails. They can accompany you in your car and at lookouts and stops near the road. However, there is one trail from the park headquarters to the city of Gatlinburg that allows leashed dogs. It is a nice 2 mile long dirt trail that follows a creek. There are spots along the way where your dog can take a dip in the water. If you want a longer hike, try the nearby dog-friendly Pisgah National Forest or the Nantahala National Forest. Both are in North Caorlina, and they are located about a two hour drive from the national park.

2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 928-638-7888

This is one of the best national parks to exercise and sightsee with your pooch. Leashed pets are allowed on South Rim trails throughout the developed areas in the park. Dogs are not allowed on any trails below the rim. But do not feel too left out, as the majority of all visitors to the Grand Canyon never go on trails below the rim. One of the dog-friendly South Rim trails is about 2.7 miles long, follows the edge of the Grand Canyon, and offers excellent, awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon. Well-behaved dogs are even allowed on the Geology Walk, a one hour park ranger guided tour which consists of a leisurely walk along a 3/4 mile paved rim trail. The following is the rest of the park's doggie regulations. Dogs are not allowed in park lodging, or on park buses. Pets are not permitted at all on North Rim trails with the exception of a bridle path which connects the lodge with the North Kaibab Trail. If you are looking to stay near the canyon, pet-friendly lodging is available one hour away in Williams, Arizona.

3. Olympic National Park, Washington, 360-565-3130

Pets are not permitted on park trails, meadows, beaches or in any undeveloped area of the park. There is one exception. Dogs are allowed on leash, during daytime hours only, on Kalaloch Beach along the Pacific Ocean and from Rialto Beach north to Ellen Creek. For those folks and dogs who want to hike on a trail, try the adjacent dog-friendly Olympic National Forest. Leashed dogs are allowed on the national forest trails. Of particular interest is the Mt. Mueller Trail which offers great views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mountains. Maps for this 13 mile loop trail and other trails can be picked up for free at a Forest Ranger Station including the one located at 551 Forks Avenue South, Forks, Washington.

4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 307-739-3300

Pets are only allowed in your car, on roads and road shoulders, campgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, etc. Dogs must be leashed. Dogs are not allowed on any park trails or in the backcountry. With national parks like this, it is very nice to have an adjacent national forest that allows dogs on trails. The Bridger-Teton National Forest offers miles of trails for you and your pooch to enjoy.

5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 307-344-7381

While this national park is not dog-friendly, you will still be able to see, in a limited fashion, some of the major attractions. Dogs are allowed in parking areas, campgrounds and within 100 feet of roads. Pets must be on a 6 foot or less leash or crated or caged at all times. Pets are not allowed on the trails, boardwalks, or in thermal areas where the geysers, including Old Faithful, are located. While dogs are not allowed next to the Old Faithful Geyser, you and your pooch will be able to view its large eruptions from about 200 feet back. And if you drive the Grand Loop Road, you will be able to view some points of interest and perhaps see some wildlife including black bears, grizzly bears, bison and elk. If you are looking for some hiking trails, there are numerous dog-friendly trails in the nearby Shoshone National Forest, located between the town of Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

6. Yosemite National Park, California, 209-372-0200

This national park offers a fair amount of dog-friendly walking areas and sights to see with your dog. Leashed dogs are allowed on the approximately 2 miles of paved trails located on the floor of the Yosemite Valley. Dogs are not allowed on any other trails in Yosemite. However, there are many sights to see from the dog-friendly paved trails in the valley. Yosemite Valley is world famous for its impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations. From the paved trails, you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You can pick up more trail information from the Visitors Center in the Yosemite Village area. The park's website also offers an online map which shows the paved trail path (green dots). Other pet rules are as follows: Pets are only allowed in developed areas, on roads and on paved trails (like the trails in Yosemite Valley). Dogs are not allowed on other trails, in wilderness areas, or on the shuttle buses. Owners must clean up after their pets.

7. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 970-586-1206

Dogs cannot really do much in this park, but as you drive through the park, you will find some spectacular scenery and possibly some sightings of wildlife. Pets are not allowed on trails, or in the backcountry. Pets are allowed in your car, along the road, in parking lots, at picnic areas and campgrounds. Dogs must be on a 6 foot or less leash. You can still take your dog for a hike, not in the national park, but in the adjacent Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. There are numerous trails in this national forest that allow dogs. Some of the trails are located off Highway 34 or Highway 36, near Estes Park. The trails, rated easy to difficult, are over 2.5 miles to 4.5 miles or more in length. Some of the dog-friendly trails include the North Fork Trail, the Lions Gulch Trail/Homestead Meadows Trail, and the Round Mountain Trail.

8. Acadia National Park, Maine, 207-288-3338

This national park ranks high on the tail wagging meter. In this park, dogs are allowed in the majority of the park. Dogs are allowed on most of the hiking trails and carriage roads. Pets are also allowed at the campgrounds, but must be attended at all times. They are not allowed on sand beaches or on the steeper hiking trails. Pets must be on a 6 foot or less leash at all times. There is one exception to the leash rule. There is an area in the park that is privately owned where dogs are allowed to run leash-free. It is called Little Long Pond and is located near Seal Harbor. Overall, this is a pretty popular national park for dogs and their dog-loving owners.

9. Zion National Park, Utah, 435-772-3256

Dogs are allowed on one walking trail at this national park. Dogs on a 6 foot or less leash are allowed on the Pa'rus Trail which is a 1.5 mile long trail that runs from the South Campground to Canyon Junction. You and your pooch can also enjoy a 10-12 mile scenic drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway which goes through the park. If you are there from November through March, you can also take your car on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. If you arrive during the summer months, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed and only allows park shuttle buses. Other pet rules include no pets on shuttle buses, in the backcountry, or in public buildings. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds and along roadways.

10. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, 270-758-2251

At this national park, leashed dogs are allowed on hiking trails and in campgrounds. There are over 70 miles of hiking trails which go through valleys, up into hills, and next to rivers, lakes and waterfalls. However, dogs are not allowed in the cave, which is the main attraction at this park. The park does offer kennels that are located near the Mammoth Cave Hotel. The kennels are outdoor and not heated or air-conditioned. I have not been to this park, so I am not sure about the condition of the kennels, except to say that outdoor kennels at some national parks can be less than desirable. For example, when I visited Yosemite, the kennels were in a remote, overgrown area. If you want to try the kennels at Mammoth Cave, be sure to check them out first. You will need to make a reservation for the kennels and there is a $5 key deposit fee for the cage lock and a $2.50 fee for half a day or a $5.00 fee for the entire day. To make kennel reservations, call the Mammoth Cave Hotel directly at 270-758-2225.

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Top 10 National Parks
(Based on visitors per year, NOT based on dog-friendliness.)

1. Great Smoky Mtns, TN
2. Grand Canyon, AZ
3. Olympic, WA
4. Grand Teton, WY
5. Yellowstone, WY
6. Yosemite, CA
7. Rocky Mountain, CO
8. Acadia, ME
9. Zion, UT
10. Mammoth Cave, KY

Source: NPS




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