National parks are a showcase of the United States’ diverse, beautiful geography and wildlife. You can see the parks on a quick day hike, commit to a multi-day trek, or camp out under the stars in the thousands of acres protected by national park status. With all of that open space, it seems like a shame to leave behind your dog. Luckily, the US national park system has spots ideal for visitors with four-footed companions.
National parks are meant to preserve their land and wildlife, which means they are not free-range dog parks. Pack your pup’s leash, follow all park rules, and experience the unique splendor of these seven dog-friendly national parks.
1. Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park in Maine has the distinction of being almost entirely open to dogs. Dogs can traverse 100 of the 158 miles of hiking trails that wind through this coastal park. Like at all national parks, dogs need to be kept on a leash six feet in length or shorter. With that in mind, you can set out for trails that hug the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic, or you can strike deeper into the wooded interior of Acadia.
Acadia has no shortage of scenery. If you want to take your dog for one of the best views in the park, hike the easy Cadillac Summit Path. This paved path will be easy on your dog’s paws, and its vantage point from the summit of Cadillac Mountain has sweeping views of Bar Harbor and the park’s foliage.
2. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The coasts of the US often steal the spotlight, but the Midwest’s flat topography is home to national parks worth visiting — particularly if you want to take a dog-friendly trip. Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, sprawling across a verdant river valley, has more than 110 miles of hiking trails open to dogs. The park is within minutes of Cleveland and Akron, which is a big plus if you and your dog want to mix park time with urban relaxation.
Challenge yourself and your dog with The Ledges Trail. The trail is only a couple of miles, but it necessitates climbing several sets of stairs and scrambling over rocks. The moss-covered stone of the ledges creates a backdrop worth the workout.
3. Grand Canyon National Park
Arizona’s Grand Canyon is a bucket-list landmark for a reason. The vertiginous view from the rim and the striking colors of the stone draw millions of visitors. Grand Canyon National Park is not completely accessible to dogs. You can explore the trails of the south rim together, but the inner canyon trails are off limits.
The 13-mile Rim Trail is a popular walk for people with pets. The mostly paved trail snakes along the edge of the canyon and has several stop-off points for admiring the interior of the Grand Canyon. If you want to squeeze in some people-only hikes, the South Rim Kennel offers boarding services.
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado gives you and your dog an opportunity for a freer experience. The park’s centerpiece is a 30-square-mile dune field, none of which has designated trails. Hikers and dogs can explore the dune field together, although the backcountry of this area is off limits to pets. Keep in mind the time of day and season when stepping onto the sand. You probably have hiking boots, but your dog’s paws are susceptible to the hot sands.
Climb to the summit of High Dune on First Ridge for one of the most sought-after views in the park. For days that will be too hot on your dog’s feet, retreat to the forested trails of Great Sand Dunes National Park.
5. North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park allows dogs on one trail. That may not seem like a lot, but the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most celebrated hikes in the country. The trail stretches up the western coast of the United States, all the way from Mexico to Canada. Approximately 18 miles of the trail cut through this Washington national park.
Take your leashed dog on a long day hike to catch the mountainous views that surround this beloved trail. You can also bring your furry companion with you to the park’s Ross Lake and Lake Chelan Recreation Areas.
6. Petrified Forest National Park
The Grand Canyon isn’t the only Arizona park worth a visit with your dog. Petrified Forest National Park is so pet-friendly that it has a program for dog owners. The delightfully punny Bark Ranger program helps owners learn the responsible way to enjoy the park with their dog and, of course, comes with treats.
Dogs are allowed on any of the park’s paved roads and trails, which means you can explore most of this colorful park. Named for its petrified wood of many hues, there are multiple spots that make the perfect photo-op for your dog. For a quick introduction to the park, try the one-mile Painted Desert Rim Trail, or go a little further to discover an ancient pueblo off of the two-mile Agate House trail.
7. Shenandoah National Park
Before setting out on foot, take your dog for a picturesque drive on Skyline Drive to see miles of Shenandoah National Park. The mountainous national park, located in Virginia, is characterized by waterfalls, wooded land, and enviable fall foliage. Of the 500 miles of hiking trails that run through Shenandoah, dogs are prohibited from exploring just a handful.
If you aren’t sure where you and your leashed dog should start, the Rose River Falls trail will give you a taste of what to expect in Shenandoah. The 2.6-mile trail takes you to a 67-foot waterfall and challenges you to climb about 720 feet.