The Most (and Least) Pet-Friendly National Parks
More than 300 million nature lovers head to a national park annually, many with their four-legged friends. Not all parks, however, welcome them. Which parks are the most pet friendly and which should you avoid when accompanied by a furry friend?
Rock HopperIf your hound is the rugged mountaineering type, head to Acadia National Park on the craggy coast of Maine. Strung across a chain of islands, the oldest national park east of the Mississippi boasts nearly 150 miles of Fido-friendly trails and carriage roads. Rangy hikes yield sweeping views of the Gulf of Maine and scenic Bar Harbor. But watch out where the huskies go … leashed pets are welcome almost everywhere that is not a source of public drinking water. 960 1280
Cresting CaninesWith over 300 miles of hiking trails soaring to an altitude of 12,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is perhaps the country’s most stunning mountain region. Dogs are permitted, but you’ll have to shorten that leash. To protect both pets and native wildlife, Rover can’t roam the backcountry trails, but he is allowed anywhere vehicles are permitted. If park rules curb his enthusiasm, there are several nearby areas like Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Estes Park where he can stretch his paws. 960 1280
Sweet VirginiaWhen D.C.ers break out of the beltway, they head for the rolling hills of Shenandoah National Park. With 500 miles of hiking trails accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, it will take you a dog’s age to cover all the pet-friendly ground spread over 200,000 acres of parkland. Skyland and Big Meadows Lodges also each offer Pampered Pooch Package accommodations. 960 1280
The Road to ZionIt’s difficult to imagine anything more breathtaking than the rocky cathedrals and emerald pools of Utah’s Zion National Park, unless you happen to have four legs. Sadly, pets are forbidden on most hiking trails in Zion; however, you can throw Spot a bone and take him down the refreshing Pa’rus trail, a 3.5-mile walkway that skirts the Virgin River. Just make sure to leash up, lest Spot spook at the sight of a lounging mule deer. 960 1280
Above the RimNicknamed the “big ditch,” the Grand Canyon will certainly inspire your four-legged backhoe. While pets are not allowed into the canyon itself due to safety concerns, you and your furry digger can hike the perimeter, including the jaw dropping South Rim Trail. Always keep a firm grip on the leash; dogs have been known to leap before looking. If you want to hike the canyon depths, the park offers a boarding kennel. For pet-friendly lodging, try the Yavapai Lodge West. 960 1280
World's Largest Dog ParkPerhaps. While it’s designated a National Scenic Trail rather than a national park, the Appalachian Trail constitutes a 2,174-mile walk from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia. With the exception of three restricted areas, dogs are welcome the length of the trail. Only 40% of the route requires that dogs be leashed, but we recommend you always keep pets tethered in wilderness areas. Because bears. 960 1280
A Cautionary TailBecause of their restrictive pet policies, we cannot recommend Arches National Park as a dog friendly destination, except for a fast photo op. While pets are allowed, or perhaps only tolerated in the campground, they must be leashed at all times and must not cause a ruckus. If you are visiting Arches, look into boarding options in nearby Moab. 960 1280
Bo Versus the VolcanoThe iconic profile of Washington’s Mt. Rainier National Park has drawn visitors to the foot of the icy volcano long before it was declared a national park in 1899. Within the 236,381 acres of the park, pets are restricted to roads, parking lots and campgrounds. A great alternative: Dogs are welcome on all trails within the Crystal Mountain Trail system, which is a vigorous nine-mile loop sure to tucker out both two and four-legged friends. Leashed pets are permitted in the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, which share borders with North Cascades National Park. 960 1280
Border to Border (Collie)The one trail bordering Mt. Rainier that welcomes dogs is the Pacific Crest Trail. Accessed at the top of Chinook Pass on the park’s eastern edge near the historic Entrance Arch, the PCT stretches all the way down to Mexico. Bordering 7 national parks including Crater Lake National Park, Sequoia, Yosemite and Mt. Rainier, the PCT gives hikers the rare opportunity to camp out with furry friends. 960 1280
Way to Go, OhioJust south of Cleveland, you’ll find the deep forests and tumbling hills of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The spacious Ohio preserve is decidedly pet friendly, welcoming dogs all throughout its 20,000-plus acres, including the 20-mile long Towpath Trail, which traces the route of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The only restrictions are that dogs are prohibited from buildings and trains, unless the conductor is Goofy. 960 1280
Go West, Young CurYosemite is probably the most famous national park in the country, but its popularity among dogs is confined to the Wawona Meadow Loop, which is the only trail open to them. However, furheads are welcome on roads, sidewalks, bike paths and most campgrounds. When you’re ready to explore less dog-tolerant areas of the park, there is a kennel in Yosemite Valley that operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Insider scoop: The Wawona Meadow Loop, Chowchilla Mountain Road and Four Mile and Eleven Mile fire roads (but not the Four Mile Trail in Yosemite Valley) are dog friendly. At Hodgdon Meadow: Carlon Road from the trailhead to Hodgdon Meadow and on the Old Big Oak Flat Road from Hodgdon Meadow to Tuolumne Grove parking lot will also welcome your best friend. 960 1280
The Best of FriendsKyle Rohrig and his dog Katana camp and hike together on a regular basis. They even wrote an inspirational book about their adventures called "Lost on the Applachian Trail." Don't worry, that's just a euphemism about finding yourself and Kyle did most of the typing. 960 1280
Paddle the Pacific
Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park, just off the coast of Los Angeles, is home to some of the best kayaking on the West Coast. Rich with marine life and boasting the much-photographed Arch Rock, Anacapa is the perfect day trip or overnighter for the city dweller looking to get into some rough water. It’s a cliff island, so beware of winds, currents and fog.
Float the BorderThe mighty Rio Grande runs through Big Bend National Park in Texas, but it also represents the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Rafting down the river not only takes you through some eye-widening scenery, like 1500-foot deep canyons, but will also toss you back and forth across the border. 960 1280
Hit the Sandy Slopes
Colorado has Aspen, one of the most famous skiing destinations on the planet. It also has Sand Dunes National Park, one of the only sandboarding and sandsledding destinations on the planet. Slalom down the granular slopes like some diabolical combination of Jean-Claude Killy and Lawrence of Arabia. Hit the dunes early in the morning or late in the evening, lest you roast in the 150° midday heat. And don’t forget the lip balm.
Cold StorageThe upper regions of Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park have over 35 square miles of permanent ice and snow, providing a year-round paradise for hearty souls who consider ice camping a pleasure. If you’re going to stay the night on the mountain, securely lock your vittles to keep them from the clutches of foxes and other aggressive winter wildlife. 960 1280
Take in the LightsMinnesota's Voyageurs National Park sits just below the Canadian border and offers campers a ringside seat to the Northern Lights. Voyageurs encompasses 270 campsites only accessible by watercraft, but we recommend the remote Echo Lake Campground for best visibility. Check a variety of weather services to determine your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 960 1280
Yosemite GlidingIt may seem crazy, but people have been leaping off Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park for decades. Hang gliding was once sanctioned and overseen by park employees. These days the private Yosemite Hang Gliding Association coordinates it. 960 1280
The RaftersIf a weekend of seething whitewater just doesn’t cut it anymore, try an eight-day Grand Canyon raft trip down the Colorado River. There are a host of operators who will happily guide you down 200 miles of rapids. By the end of it, you’ll have seen Native-American ruins, mile-high cliff walls and countless eagles. 960 1280
Hit the Heights
Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park boasts rock formations that will set a climber’s mouth to watering. The 415-square-mile park is a full-service climbing destination, featuring opportunities for scaling rock, wall, ice and snow. Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak are favorites of local and international climbers. Whether you are an experienced sport climber or a beginning boulderer, be safe and leave no trace of your visit.