National Parks: Going To The Dogs!

What dog doesn’t like going for a W-A-L-K?

According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 62 percent of households in the United States have pets, which include about 78 million dogs. Many people include their dogs in their travel plans, since placing a dog in a kennel for an extended period of time can be quite expensive, as well as stressful for the dog.

Many national park sites allow dogs on specified trails, and some national park concessioners allow dogs in some lodging facilities, like Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Yellowstone National Park and Delaware North Companies at Shenandoah National Park.

If you plan to bring your dog with you on a visit to a national park, you should be prepared. An important thing to remember is that heat can kill. Be sure to carry enough water for you and your pet. If you travel to a park where dogs are allowed only in specific areas, don’t leave your dog in a hot vehicle or RV while you explore parts of the park that restrict dogs. This practice is generally prohibited at national park sites, and your pet could be impounded.

Buckeye Belle

Buckeye Belle, a retired Search and Rescue, therapy, assistance, champion squirrel/coon/ show and field champion dog. This picture was taken after a long day of visiting Muir Woods National Monument in CA, swimming at Stinson Beach.

Hot sand and rocky terrain can injure the sensitive pads on a dog’s feet, so be sure that Fido’s precious paws are protected. Hiking through wooded areas in parks can pose a danger of ticks, which can spread diseases to you and your pet. Wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself, and check your dog thoroughly after a visit to a park to prevent any ticks from latching on to your dog. Don’t deviate from trails while visiting a park with your dog, since harmful insects and reptiles such as poisonous snakes and spiders can hide in tall grasses and shrubbery.

Some national park sites do not allow dogs, and there are several reasons:

* Dogs can potentially carry diseases that could affect the park’s wildlife. Unvaccinated dogs could spread diseases to park wildlife. Unfortunately, not all pet owners are responsible about keeping their dog’s vaccinations up to date.

* Dogs can unknowingly threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.

* Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dogs, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively. Domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, and their instincts can take over in a situation where they feel threatened or frightened.

* Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in some of the larger wilderness parks. Additionally, if a dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to the owner. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease, and plants that are poisonous or full of thorns and burrs.

* Historic structures, archaeological sites, and sacred grounds are no places for dogs. Fido could unknowingly damage historic buildings or artifacts, disturb important archaeological sites, and walk over or relieve themselves in places that are sacred to Native Americans and other groups.

* Not everyone is a “dog person.” In fact, some people are afraid of dogs, and it is the responsibility of park officials to provide a safe, enjoyable environment for all visitors, even if they aren’t “dog people.” These rules are in place not only to protect your dog, but to protect you and other visitors as well as the environs of the park.

Failure to adhere to a park’s pet policy may result in a citation (minimum fine is $75). 36 CFR 2.15 (Code of Federal Regulations) provides more details concerning pets in National Park Service areas.

Here is a list of a few national park sites that allow dogs, and their specific rules. Check the National Park Service’s website or contact a park directly for individual rules regarding dogs in parks before visiting– each park may have different stipulations based on the location, resources, and environment of the park.

Saratoga National Historical Park, with its rolling hills and gorgeous scenery of the Hudson Valley in New York, is a wonderful place for leashed dogs and their owners to explore. Although dogs are not allowed in the visitor center or inside park buildings, the park offers a tie-up area adjacent to the visitor center entrance, and provides water and waste bags in certain areas.

Horseback Riding at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, via

Horseback Riding at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, via

Dogs are welcome at Cape Hatteras National Seashore! Horses are allowed at Cape Hatteras as well, and can travel anywhere vehicles are permitted to drive except in campgrounds. Horses are required to use ORV (Off Road Vehicle) ramps when crossing dunes. There are some understandable restrictions at Cape Hatteras: Pets are not allowed on designated swim beaches or in buildings, nor are they allowed in protected resource areas such as sea bird and sea turtle nesting areas.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, situated between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is a great place to take your dog. It has more than 100 miles of multi-use trails! Dogs must be restrained on a leash that is six feet or shorter in length on park lands at all times, and they are not permitted in park buildings or on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (exception for service animals).

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, leashed dogs are welcomed throughout the park’s 24,000 acres. Horses are permitted on designated trails and at the Hensley Camp, White Rocks, and Martins Fork backcountry campsites.

Devils Postpile National Monument in California is so dog-friendly that it includes dogs in its volunteer program, called the “Paw Patrol.” Volunteers patrol the park with their canine companions to help keep visitors educated on the rules associated with dogs at the monument, and to serve as ambassadors on the trails, sharing information with visitors and answering questions.


Clover shows off her Bark Ranger bandana.

Eastern National, a cooperating association at more than 150 national park sites, has introduced the “National Bark Ranger” product line for dogs, which will allow them to show their national park pride. There are several items available in multiple colors, including a leash, collars, bandanas, a poo bag dispenser, a pull toy, and a collapsible water bowl, all emblazoned with the fun “Bark Ranger” logo. These items are available at some national park sites and on Click here to see the full product line.

So get out there and take your dog for a W-A-L-K in a park—it will be great fun for both of you!

Featured Image: Sprocket, a volunteer dog at Devils Postpile National Monument, greets visitors to the park.