A tour of America’s national parks is on many RV bucket lists, but bringing your pup to these destinations can be a challenge. It’s important to know pet restrictions in the national parks you’re hoping to visit in order to minimize your impact on these sensitive environments. But an easier alternative is to target the most dog-friendly national parks in the US. Some of these parks offer miles of pet-friendly hiking trails, as well as boarding services if you plan a hike to a location where your pups can’t go.
So let’s check them out!
Acadia National Park
The most northeastern park in the United States offers nearly 120 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails. The park’s multi-use carriage roads, which are popular for horse-drawn carriage rides and biking, also are open to dogs.
The only exceptions include technical trails that require ascending iron rungs or ladders, as well as several public areas in the park. Those exceptions include Duck Harbor Campground and the Wild Gardens of Acadia year-round, as well as Echo Lake and Sand Beach from mid-May through mid-September, the park’s busy season.
New River Gorge National Park
One of the newest areas under the management of the National Park Service is also one of its most dog-friendly parks. Dogs are welcome on all park trails, which provide spectacular views of the gorge.
Several trails lead to spectacular waterfalls where you and your pup can cool off during the summer. There are also several pet-friendly campgrounds down in the gorge if you’re looking for a beautiful place to camp right along the river.
White Sands National Park
Explore miles of ever-shifting dunes with your pup by your side in this unique New Mexico national park. Your pup has to remain on a leash with a maximum length of six feet, but dogs are permitted everywhere in this park, aside from public buildings.
Be aware that there is very little shade out on the dunes. So your best bet is to explore first thing in the morning or take your pup out for a sunset stroll if you’re spending the night in this otherworldly national park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Home to the tallest dunes in North America, this national park allows you to take your dog to the top of the first set of dunes between High Dune and the Castle Creek Picnic Area. Dogs are also welcome anywhere in the adjacent preserve.
The most popular choices for dog-friendly hikes in Great Sand Dunes include Mosca Pass Trail, the Dunes Overlook Trail, and the Medano Pass Primitive Road. The sand heats up fast here, so plan your hike around a dip in Medano Creek to cool off.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest is a unique stop just off Interstate 40 about two hours east of Flagstaff, Arizona. At one time, the environment here held the ideal conditions for preserving (well, petrifying) vast stands of now-extinct conifers.
You’re allowed to bring your dogs on all park trails and along paved roads, as well as into official wilderness areas off-trail. Just be aware that the park can be hot, offers minimal shade, and contains many fossil deposits that dogs should be discouraged from gnawing on.
Shenandoah National Park
In a park that boasts more than 500 miles of hiking trails, only a paltry 20 miles are off-limits to our four-legged friends. Dogs are also welcome in park campgrounds, picnic areas, and pull-outs along the park’s famous Skyline Drive.
Whether you and your pup are looking for some wilderness solitude, picturesque views or cooling waterfalls, you’ll find them here. Plus, you’re even welcome to explore sections of the famed Appalachian Trail.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Like New River Gorge, Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio is considered a newer addition to the national park system. All 125 miles of hiking trails in the park are open to dogs and many offer stream crossings for a chance to cool down during the summer months.
The only areas of the park where pets aren’t permitted are the mountain bike trails on the East Rim, the Scenic Railroad Train, and all public buildings. If you’re looking for a dog-friendly hike with excellent views, check out the five-mile trail in Bradford Reservation.
Congaree National Park
While a swampy sanctuary in South Carolina might not be your first thought for a pet-friendly vacation, Congaree permits leashed pets on all hiking trails and on all campgrounds. The fall and winter months are the best time to visit after the summer heat dwindles and flood waters recede.
Plus, you’ll avoid the height of mosquito season. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even rent a kayak or canoe to explore one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, so long as you don’t mind catching the occasional sight of an alligator.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Beautiful dog, Cane Corso breed, during a walk through a meadows and woodsNo, no, you aren’t allowed to bring your furry friend down into the caves, but this park offers several miles of surface trails that are dog-friendly. You can also take your pup on a canoe or kayak down several undeveloped miles of the Green River.
When you do want to take a cave tour, the Mammoth Cave Lodge runs a daycare service where your pup can rest while you head underground. For longer dog-friendly hikes, head into the northern section of the park to meander through one of the final remaining old-growth forests in Kentucky.
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs offers an intriguing combination of natural wilderness and urban development. The bathhouses are the park’s centerpiece, and they have been offering visitors a chance to soak in the area’s “naturally healing waters” for more than a century.
While your pup can’t soak with you, he or she is welcome for a stroll along Bathhouse Row and the Grand Promenade. Once you’ve explored that area, take your pick of the 26 miles of hiking trails just outside of town, which were largely developed for spa guests to exercise and enjoy nature before or after their hot springs visits.
Grand Canyon National Park
Heading down into the canyon with your pup may not be an option here, but walking on a leash along the paved South Rim Trail is permitted. So you can enjoy the views down into the canyon while your pup gets some exercise.
The 13 miles of trails along the South Rim give you a chance to get away from the park’s most crowded areas, but the South Rim Kennel is an option if you want to board your pup and explore a little further. The Mather, Desert View, and Trailer Village campgrounds are all pet-friendly as well.
Indiana Dunes National Park
If your dogs love swimming, head to check out the Caribbean-Esque waters of Lake Michigan in this national park. The best lakefront beach for pups is to the east of the lifeguard-patrolled area in nearby Indiana Dunes State Park.
When you need to get the pups more exercise, take them on any of the park trails besides Glenwood Dune, Great Marsh, and Pinhook Bog. There’s a lot to explore here, as the diverse ecosystem includes marshes, creeks, prairies, forests, and sand dunes.
With this list of dog-friendly national parks in hand, you’re ready to bring your furry companion on the road. To help you find beautiful places to camp on your journey, check out these new Good Sam campgrounds across America.