11 Most Pet-friendly National Parks in the U.S.
Every year, thousands of visitors eagerly crowd into America's parks hoping to hike with their furry friends, only to be shut down by a laundry list of rules. While a stroll through the woods along a dirt trail might seem like the most intuitive thing in the world, many U.S. national parks have strict restrictions when it comes to where pets can and can't go, usually to protect wildlife, fragile landscapes, and other visitors.
However, there are a few exceptions. We've compiled a list of 11 pet-friendly parks so you and Fido can both get the R&R in nature you crave. But first, a few rules: Always keep your animal on a six-foot (or shorter) leash, never leave them in a vehicle unattended, and make sure to bag any waste.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia prohibits pets near its lakes and natural water sources, as well as on rung and ladder trails along cliffs, but that still leaves 100 miles of hiking paths and 45 miles of crushed-stone carriage roads where Fido can roam freely. We recommend going for a stroll on the historic roadways that crisscross near Jordan Pond House or trekking up the backside of Champlain Mountain.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Want to tumble down enormous dunes with man's best friend? Great Sand Dunes allows dogs to hike to the top of the highest dune on the first ridge of the park, then cool off in Medano Creek. They're also allowed on a few more mountainous trails, like the path up to Mosca Pass, as well as many picnic areas and campgrounds.
Yosemite National Park, California
While pets cannot trot along most of the wonderful trails in this storied park, there is one epic jaunt that they can join you on: the family-friendly Yosemite Valley multi-use path, which circles around some of the most famous landmarks, including El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, the Merced River, and Half Dome. Pets are also allowed in most campgrounds, as well as on sidewalks, roads, and scenic pullouts.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Sure, dogs are not allowed down into the red depths of the Grand Canyon, but they are welcome on all other trails along the South Rim. That means you can head out on a 13-mile walk along the jaw-dropping Rim Trail, which features many of the park's infamous panoramic views. Plus, the park operates its own boarding kennel, and pups are allowed in most campgrounds and some rooms of the Yavapai Lodge.
New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Animal companions are allowed on all trails within America's newest national park, leaving you with dozens of options — hike along a sandstone ridge to a view the New River Gorge Bridge or wander under a leaf-filled canopy to check out the ruins of an abandoned mining town. Pets are even permitted at the rock-climbing crag, if you've got a spare friend to help watch them.
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Unlike most national parks, White Sands allows dogs to roam freely (on a leash) across its striking gypsum sand dunes, on or off the trails. Take in the rainbow hues of sunset with a view of the towering Organ Mountains in the distance while snuggling your favorite doggo — they're allowed in the backcountry campsites, too.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Though the park might be most famous for its winding Skyline Drive, a 105-mile paved road that traverses the wooded tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah is also one of the most pet-friendly parks out there. Furry sidekicks are allowed on nearly 500 miles of trails in this Virginia stunner, including a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Visitors can amble across the Painted Desert and ancient, fossilized trees with their fuzzy familiars in this Arizona park that once inspired naturalist John Muir. Petrified Forest allows leashed pets on any paved road or trail, as well as in all official wilderness areas in the park. Pack your bags and get ready to hike the vast undulations of the striped red hills.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Congaree is a haven for four-legged friends who want to meander through the country's largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest. The park is home to champion trees — that is, the largest in their species known to man — and was once a swampy hideout for bootleggers and runaway slaves. Take a walk along the park's 2.4-mile Boardwalk Loop trail, where bald cypress trees eerily jut out of the water – just keep a lookout for alligators.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Dogs (and cats, technically) are allowed on more than 100 miles of scenic trails at this Ohio park, which just made its debut on the list of top 10 most-visited national parks in the country. That includes the breathtaking trek to Brandywine Falls, the shaded rock formations of the Ledges Trail, and the 20 miles of the multi-use Towpath Trail that run through the park.
Death Valley National Park, California
Like many national parks, Death Valley does not allow pets on its trails. However, we put it on our list because of the miles and miles of rough dirt roads full of stellar views that they can hike with you. The park recommends leashing up and going for a walk along Devil's Golf Course Road, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Mustard Canyon Drive to soak up the area's incredible arid mountains and unique geological formations. Pooches are also welcome in park campgrounds.