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Feature Article: September 2002

In Search of the Best National Parks for Dogs
by Tara Kain

Photo at the Grand Canyon
National Park, Arizona


National parks are one of the most visited destination spots in the United States for vacation travelers. Every year, millions of people visit their favorite national parks. But have you ever tried to bring your best friend along? The majority of national parks are not very welcoming to pets. But fortunately there are some exceptions, and some nearby dog-friendly national forests.


The general policy for national parks is that dogs must be on a 6 foot or less leash at all times, are only allowed in parking lots, in your car, or within 50 to 100 feet of the road. Most of the parks allow dogs in campgrounds and in developed areas, but there can be exceptions to these rules. The majority of national parks do not allow dogs on any hiking or walking trails, any backcountry trails, any beaches or inside buildings. There are even a few lesser known national parks that do not even allow you to drive into the park if you have a pet in your car. This does not sound like a fun vacation to most dogs and dog owners.

But before ruling out a vacation to a national park, it is important to note that some national parks have exceptions to these stringent pet rules. Parks like the Grand Canyon National Park and Acadia National Park, allow dogs on some trails and are well worth a visit even with your pooch. For the majority of national parks that do not allow dogs on any trails, a fair amount of sightseeing can still be done. Keep in mind that the majority of visitors to national parks do not venture too far from their cars. This means there are typically many sites and points of interest to see right from the comfort of your own car (where dogs are welcome). But for people who actually want to go on a hike, dog-friendly national forests are adjacent to or located nearby many national parks.

So how much can you really see at our national parks when bringing your pet along? Below is a list of the Top 10 National Parks from the National Park Service. These parks are rated based on the number of visitors per year, NOT based on dog-friendliness. To give you a flavor of what to expect at these top ten parks, under each park name are rules regarding dogs, exceptions to these rules, and if necessary, mention of a nearby dog-friendly national forest. also offers a Top 5 National Park list which highlights the best national parks in the United States to bring a dog, based on sights to see and places to walk with your best friend.

Top 10 National Parks
(Ratings based on number of visitors per year, NOT based on dog-friendliness.)
Look here for park names AND where dogs are allowed.'s Top 5 National Parks
(Ratings based on sights to see and places to walk or hike with dogs)
Look here for park names AND where dogs are welcome.

Myths and Misunderstandings about Dogs on the Trail
Here are some claims by park systems and responses to those claims.


To voice your opinion on this article or subject, please fill out our form. We will include some of the comments or letters in next month's Letters to the Editor section.'s
Top 5 National Parks

(Ratings are based on sights to see and places to walk or hike with dogs)

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Acadia, ME
3. Shenandoah, VA
4. Yosemite, CA
5. North Cascades, WA


Before you visit an establishment or place, please contact them and verify that they are still dog-friendly and available, as policies and management change frequently. All places listed on require your dog to be leashed and under your direct control unless specified  otherwise by an establishments (including parks and beaches) management. Please be aware of local Breed-Specific Laws that may be in place where you are visiting. The information on this site is not a recommendation., Inc. makes no warranties or representations of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation of the site or the information, content, materials, or products included on this site. If you find an establishment that no longer allows dogs, please let us know so that we may remove them from our list. For full Rules and Regulations for Use of This Site, including the legal disclaimer and copyright notices,  click here before using the site

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