Summer is the perfect time to explore the bounty of nature in America’s incredible national park system with your whole family—including the dog. More than half of campers bring their furry family members along for their camping trips, according to the 2017 North American Camping Report. For dogs, and for families who love them, the great outdoors awaits!
Grand Canyon National Park
Experience the grandeur of this stunning natural wonder with your dog along the 13 miles of the South Rim trail. Pets are not permitted below the rim of the Grand Canyon, but you can take your pooch for a stroll on any of the hiking trails that stay above the perimeter, which includes most of the spectacular South Rim Trail. If you want to experience one of most scenic trains rides in America on The Grand Canyon Railway, Fido can rest and relax at The Railway Pet Resort, the luxe air-conditioned animal hotel at the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel (humans can spend the night at the hotel or campgrounds here as well).
Yosemite National Park
Vast wilderness, expansive meadows, towering sequoias—this park is probably the image most people conjure when they think of national parks. Because of the wildlife that roams free here, dogs aren’t allowed deep into the park, but the Wawona Meadow Loop trail at Yosemite National Park is dog-friendly, and canines are also permitted on the park’s many roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. You can bring leashed pets to stay at all of Yosemite’s campgrounds, too, with the exception of hike-in (meaning those deep in the park) and group camps. Dan Wulfman, founder of Tracks and Trails, a company that plans RV vacations in national parks, suggests adding nearby pet-friendly Lake Tahoe to your Yosemite itinerary, where dogs can romp at Kiva Beach and Echo Lake and play off-leash at Bijou Dog Park.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Come ready to hit the trails at this dog-friendly paradise along the rugged coast of Maine in northern New England. Almost all 120 miles of hiking trails and an additional 45 miles of carriage roads across 45,000 acres at Acadia are accessible to pet owners, and dogs can hike anywhere they please as long as they’re on a leash not more than 6 feet long. You can spend the night with your four-legged friend at the Blackwoods and Seawall campgrounds, and dogs can run off-leash at Little Long Pond which is adjacent to Acadia.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The beautiful Shenandoah comprises 200 acres of lush green rolling hills and forests, just 75 miles from Washington, DC. Hikers with both two legs and four will be spoiled for choice at this expansive park that features 500 miles of trails, 480 of which are pet friendly. Pet-friendly rooms are on offer throughout the park at the Skyland and Big Meadows lodges and Lewis Mountain Cabins. Take a look at the secrets park rangers wish you knew before your summer trip to keep you and your pooch safe and healthy on the trails.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Set along the “crooked” Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley offers 110 miles of hiking trails (and 20 miles of the Towpath Trail) in this gem of a pet-friendly park in Ohio, all dog friendly. In fact, the only place dogs aren’t allowed here are inside buildings and on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Within the park you can camp with your pet or go all out luxury Metropolitan at the 9 hotel in nearby Cleveland, which offers a four-legged friends welcome package with cozy bedding and 24/7 access to the property’s indoor dog park, Bark.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
We know, this sounds like we’re telling you to take your dog into a cave; we’re not (and they’re not allowed underground here). We are, however, telling you to visit this fabulous national park to hike its 70 miles of above ground trails, all of which are dog friendly to leashed pets. Although dogs aren’t allowed into the actual Mammoth Cave, there are waterfalls, rivers, hills, valleys, and streams to explore offering more than enough variety to keep any person, or pet, entertained. Dogs are also allowed to overnight with their owners at the park’s Woodland Cottages and the Mammoth Cave Hotel inside the park runs its own kennel in case you want to check your pet in so you can explore the cave.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
An iconic part of San Francisco, Golden Gate calls itself “the most dog-friendly national park in the country.” Not only does this park have trails, beaches, and open spaces that are accessible to dogs, it’s the only national park to have a designated “off leash” areas. And don’t let the city address fool you; GGNRA boasts 19 distinct ecosystems comprised of more than 2,000 plant and animal species. However, since you do have access to the heart of the City by the Bay, consider staying at one of the many pet-welcoming hotels in this dog-loving metropolis.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
The largest, old-growth hardwood forest in the Southeast, Congaree, located in Columbia, South Carolina, is completely dog-friendly with pets permitted on all trails, including the boardwalk and the campgrounds. All pets must be on a leash (6 feet long maximum) and under the owner’s control at all times. Favorite trails are the easy Boardwalk Trail (2.4 miles—begins at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center with an elevated section that leads down into the old–growth bottomland hardwood forest) or for more of a challenge, the River Trail (a 10-mile round-trip trail that leads to the Congaree River.). Downtown Columbia is approximately 30 minutes away from the park, and offers a plethora of pet-friendly options including the Aloft Downtown which offers the Arf pet program that includes a dog bed and water bowl. (And don’t miss “Yappy Hour” at Jake’s Bar & Grill in Five Points.)
Franklin D Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York
The beautiful grounds at this national historic site hug the scenic Hudson River. At the presidential library that sits within the park are several tributes to FDR’s beloved dogs, including a statue to Scotch terrier Fala, the only dog statue at a national park, so it’s only fitting that the grounds here would be dog friendly. Pets on leashes can walk on trails and even visit the memorial, stables, peace statue, and any other outdoor sites. (The gift shop here even carries tennis balls, leashes, and other treats for dogs.) Nearby, the Walkway Over the Hudson River, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, is another top spot for a dog walk. For humans, consider a stop at the Culinary Institute of America, where pooches can explore the grounds with a human and you can pick up a gourmet meal to go.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
The largest sand dunes in the country create a moonscape of rolling dunes that you can explore with your pooch. Dogs are allowed in all the developed sections of the park, including the first tall ridge of dunes. Note, though, that since there’s no shade in this unique sandy park, it’s best to explore with dogs in the cool morning or early evening. When temperatures rise, cool off in Medano Creek, which is also pet friendly. Note: It can get hot out out West, and most of the country during the summer, so be sure to read our summer safety tips for dogs before you set out for Great Sand Dunes.
Devils Postpile National Monument, California
Just how dog friendly is this geologic wonder of stone formations and massive waterfalls? They have a Paw Patrol program that allows dogs to help patrol Devils Postpile trails to keep it safe. Dogs are allowed on leash on all the trails and in the campgrounds, and can even ride the park shuttle bus as long as they’re muzzled (you can buy one at the gift shop). Visit the surrounding national forest area to give your pet a chance to run off leash and unmuzzled (they do have to follow voice commands to be off leash in the forest).
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Washington State is where you’ll find 18 miles of the dog-friendly Pacific Coast Trail, one of America’s Most Stunning Trails to Hike, and also one of the best known hikes in the west thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir (not to mention wildly popular movie) Wild. Since your dog doesn’t read, he’ll probably just enjoy the trail for its miles of open nature that run through the Cascade Mountain Range here. Best of all, you won’t encounter large crowds, since this is on our list of practically secret national parks. With any national park you’ll be visiting, make sure to have plenty of water for your pet, never leave them in a hot car, and make sure they’re up to date with vaccines.