5 Dog-Friendly National Parks

Dogs playing in sand


Instead of leaving your dog at an expensive kennel, why not let him hit the road with you? Easier said than done, right? Don’t worry. While everyone is out exploring America, dog-owners have to be a little more creative with their destinations. Check out these national parks for a dog-friendly vacation.

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Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park
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If you live on the east coast, you are close to the best national park to bring your dog to. For pups that can’t get enough of the outdoors, Acadia National Park has it all.

A lot of time will be spent on Mount Desert Island as dogs are allowed on all carriage roads – 45 miles of rustic roads to be exact. Stone roads and unique stone-faced bridges offer new places to sniff and explore.

If your dog is a hiker, check out the Ocean Trail leading to Otter Cliffs. Enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and exploratory walks on Cadillac Mountain. For a shorter trip, try Jordan Pond Nature Trail for a mile-long loop also equipped with stunning views, this time of glacial mountains and ponds.

Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the swimming beaches, but there are plenty of trails, like the Great Head Trail, which leads to beaches. You and your dog have it all with accessible roads, forested hikes, and runs in the ocean at Acadia.

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Shenandoah National Park

Autumn Leaves on a Rural Road
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This park brings the game of Fetch to the next level. With hundreds of thousands of trees, Shenandoah National Park is full of wilderness to play games in. Over 500 miles of trail, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, showcase ever-changing forests of oaks and hemlocks. And believe it or not, only 20 trails are off-limits for pooches.

With opportunities for backcountry camping, bird watching, and wildlife viewing, you and your dog truly have the great outdoors to explore. View waterfalls at Whiteoak Canyon from the Boundary Trailhead or the Rose River Loop Trail for four miles of streams, cascades, and waterfalls.

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Grand Canyon National Park

A man looking out over a canyon and river. Grand Canyon, Arizona
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Why not visit one of the country’s most famous national parks with your pup? Heck, mules go down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so who said you can’t bring your dog? Technically you can, but there are some restrictions.

Keep in mind: Pets must be leashed at all times. Your leashed dog is allowed on trails above the rim, Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout the developed areas.

Pets are not permitted below the rim, in park hotel rooms, or on park buses. However, if you own a service animal, exceptions will be made.

If you want to head to the bottom stick to the North Kaibab Trail. Pets are allowed on the bridle path that connects the lodge to it. You and your dog can enjoy the powerful landscape and varying rock types while hiking for the afternoon. There are plenty of rest stops along the way to cool down and relax your legs. If you really need some time away from one another, there is a kennel at the South Rim that is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Waterfall in autumn forest, Blue Hens Falls, Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio, USA
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With the sun shining, rivers flowing, and trails open for dogs, it’s hard not to have a fun and relaxing trip at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. And the key here is relaxing. This national park doesn’t have the grandiose feeling as some of its companions. In fact, many trails are tucked in between farmlands, neighborhoods, and even highways.

The main trail through the park is comprised of about 20 miles of the Towpath Trail. With a mix of meadows and forest, you and your dog can enjoy an afternoon sniffing flowers, listening to the chirping of birds, and napping in the shade.

Be sure to check out the north end of Cuyahoga Valley, the Bradford Reservation, for some of the best times with your dog. A five-mile trail crosses the Tinkers Creek Gorge area, exploring Ohio's most magnificent canyon. The gorge is a National Natural Landmark and is well-known for its hemlock forests. You can also check out short detours off the main trail for an easy hike to Bridal Veil Falls and the Hemlock Creek Loop Trail.

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05 of 05

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park with view of Sangre de Cristo Mountains at sunrise
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If you are seeking a park that’s slightly off the beaten path with 100% access for you and your dog, Great Sand Dunes National Park is it! Pets are permitted in the main park, as well as the national preserve. With such an unusual combination of landscapes, this will be a fun trip for you both.

Take a terrace walk or nature walk if visiting in the summer months. Medano Creek is a good place to start to have some messy fun. Surges occur at this creek causing mounds of sand to collapse. You may have to peel your dog out of wet sand, but they are welcome to run, play, and dig.

The dunes are the must-see at this national park so be sure to save time for exploration. The High Dune is popular and even visible from the Visitor Center. There is no specific trail to the summit but you can zigzag your way through the dune ridgelines.

Wildlife watching is popular at Great Sand Dunes so make sure to keep your pup on a leash. Mule deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and coyotes are active in the warmer months, while elk roam in the fall and winter. Mosca Pass Trail is a great trail if you are looking to see birds and wildflowers.

Great Sand Dunes is a unique park to visit so be sure to bring your pup and camera. But remember, the dunes can get hot in the summer months, so keep those paws protected!