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dog-friendly national parks & forests

20 Dog-Friendly National Parks & Forests in America

What’s better than camping? Camping with dogs!

When you hear the call of the wild and want to venture out onto a trail, of course you want to bring your four-legged bestie.

We have listed the top 10 dog-friendly National parks and top 10 Forests that allows camping with your best friend.

 To make planning your trip even easier, we have included a handy link to a simple interactive map. This map shows every national park in America that allows dogs.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became our nation’s first protected national park.

Today, national parks including other sites take up more than 83 million acres of land. They include historic battlefields, lakeshores, parks, and forests.

Many of these protected lands welcome canine visitors as well as people. Before you set off to begin your trip, it is a good idea to double-check where your pups are welcome inside the park.

Each protected park or forest has its own features and amenities, along with a set of leash rules. Some are day-use areas, while others offer campsites or RV sites.

10 dog-friendly national parks

With  62 national parks to choose from, there are a lot of options for camping with your dog.

10 Best Dog-friendly National Parks

Acadia National Park (Maine)

The dog-friendly Acadia National Park is a very popular destination and can become busy in peak seasons. If you are lucky you can see the bald eagles nesting in the lakeside trees. Cadillac Mountain and Sand Beach are a must-see.

Acadia National Park welcomes dogs on all 100 miles of trails with a camping option at 3 of its campsites. A 6-foot leash (2 meters) is required at all times. As an added perk, dogs are welcome to ride the visitor’s shuttles.

Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

Hot Springs National Park offers a 26-mile network of pet-friendly trails. As well as a dog-friendly campground with a river nearby for your bestie to cool off.

The Belle of Hot Springs riverboat offers a relaxing sail around lake hamilton.  Or the two of you can take a stroll down the Bathhouse Row trail. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed inside, but a dog-friendly restaurant is right across the road from the bathhouse. There is even a walk-up dairy bar that also caters to dogs. 

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Dog-friendly Shenandaoh National Park's Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park is well known for its Skyline Drive. The drive takes you through 105 miles of tree-lined road and travels the length of the park. There are plenty of spectacular photo opportunities along the way, especially in the fall.

There are plenty of dog-friendly campgrounds, so bring your tent and enjoy nature at its best. Many of the campers report seeing whitetail deer, bobcats and bears. There are more than 500 miles of trails inside the park, and all but 20 trails are open to dogs.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

The star of Cuyahoga Valley national park is the Brandywine falls. 65 feet of water cascading down the rock face makes for some great photography.

The falls are an easy 5-mile hike from the car park.

There is only one dog-friendly campground, Stanford Campground but the park has 125 miles of dog-friendly trails, with the Cuyahoga River winding through it.

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Mammoth Cave offers 70 miles of dog-friendly trails for you and your pup to explore together. There are Dog-friendly campsites, including tent sites and cabins for you to spend the night.

The peak season for this park is late spring to early fall. Each year 2 million visitors enjoy the park and 500,000 people take the mammoth cave tour. The only place dogs are not permitted is inside the cave itself. You can leave the mosquito spray at home if you are camping in summer, thanks to the large population of bats you won’t need it.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

The sheer scale and beauty of the Grand Canyon has reduced people to tears. Many hikers describe it as inspirational and that pictures or words don’t do this wonder justice.

Your furry friend can join you on a hike around the South Rim trail network. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t permitted into the interior of the canyon.

There are a few campgrounds to choose from in this park if camping. The Yavapai Lodge offers pet-friendly cabins inside the park (a maximum of two pets per room).

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park is a popular spot with over 2 million people visiting each year. The natural erosion (caused by rainwater and snowmelt) has created stunning views. Including natural amphitheaters, and unusual rock formations known as hoodoos.

Dogs are welcome on all paved surfaces in the park, trails, viewpoints and in the 2 campgrounds.

Both North Campground and Sunset Campground are dog-friendly. A perfect solution if you would like to stay the night, allowing for more exploration.

For those of you not too keen on hiking, the national park has a 38-mile (round-trip) scenic drive showing all 13 viewpoints.

With geology and Astronomy festivals each year, Bryce Canyon is a rock lovers’ dream.

Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)

The Petrified Forest National Park is quite possibly the most dog-friendly National Park in all America. Over 220 million years ago, the park was a thriving rainforest with giant trees and even dinosaurs! Over the many years, the dinosaurs have died out and the trees have fallen down. Because of the minerals in the ground, there are many fossils in the park, in particular trees. Not only are they amazing to look at, but they are also perfect for excessive sniffing!

Although there are no campgrounds in the Forest, day trips are welcome. Dogs are permitted to go everywhere, except inside buildings and as long as they are on a leash.

There are plenty of trails to explore and a 28-mile road running through the park.

If you love hiking with your furry best friend, this may be the perfect place for you!

Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

Padre Island National Seashore is the longest virtually untouched barrier island in the world. The park has over 60 miles of dog-friendly beach. Your pups are welcome in all the campsites as long as they are leashed. There is a pet access trail leading from the parking area directly to the beach. This is a good way to avoid out of bounds areas like the deck of the Malaquite Pavilion and the boardwalk that goes from the deck down to the beach.

You and your pup will have lots of space for swimming, hiking and if your dog is water savvy, kayaking in the lagoon. There are also 5 dog-friendly campsites to welcome you.

Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

The Great Sand Dunes National Park has the tallest dunes in North America. The highest point reaching 750 feet.

The national preserve provides miles of trails for you and your four-legged friend to hike. These include the sand dunes, Medano Pass Primitive Road, Dunes Overlook Trail, and Mosca pass Trail.

In summer, the sand can reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain and wind storms can occur at any time. You may want to prepare in advance and pack your dog booties and goggles just in case your furry friend needs them.

You can cool off together in the Medano Creek, and stay in the dog-friendly Campground Piñon Flats.

Although the entire park is on leash, make sure to walk the dunes after dark for an amazing experience for both you and your pooch.

Top 10 Dog-friendly National Forests

Many national forests are set up for different uses. These forests may offer wild areas as well as man-made areas. They are used for sports, recreation, and lodging.

These are 10 of the best dog-friendly National Forests to visit with your dog. Some of the campsites and trails are off-limits to canines, so a quick call ahead can help to avoid any disappointment.

Most forests and Parks have leash laws. A few places allow voice control, but most places use a law of your leash can’t be more than 6 feet long.

Remember to be a responsible dog owner and place all the soiled poop bags into the bins. Leave no trace is a common theme at the campgrounds.

Flathead National Forest (Montana)

Flathead National Forest is home to Montana’s deepest lake, Lake Tally. Any time of year has something to offer, from Ski touring in winter to you and your dog swimming in the summer. Flathead is not as popular as Glacier Park, so you can enjoy a more relaxed camping experience.

Enjoy miles of trails where leashed dogs (or dogs under your voice control) can explore with you.

Mount Hood National Forest (Oregon)

Mount Hood National Forest welcomes both hikers and their dogs. With over 70 moderate trails and 1000 miles, there is a trail for everyone. Except for the swimming areas, inside the Timberline Lodge or inside the public buildings, dogs can explore everywhere else.

The stunning vistas and waterfalls make Mt Hood a must-see, with many dog-friendly campgrounds.

Dixie National Forest (Utah)

Covering almost 2 million acres, Dixie National Forest is very dog-friendly. Although dogs can’t go into public buildings, they are welcome at all campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails, as long as they are leashed. The leash can’t be more than 6 feet long. This National Forest offers a great variety of trails you and your dog can enjoy together. As well as 27 dog-friendly campgrounds with varying amenities.

Tahoe National Forest (California)

The Tahoe National Forest spans 800,000 acres and is in parts of 6 different counties. With beautiful mountains, lakes, and rivers, it is a perfect place to hike the many trails with your dog. Dogs are allowed on developed sites for camping but must be leashed at all times.

White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire/Maine)

Dog-friendly National Forest White Mountain is most popular in autumn as the red and orange leaves of fall blanket the forest. With trails to suit every level of hiking. The scenic Kancamagus road is breathtaking as it winds for 32 miles along the Swift River.

As long as your dog is leashed or under voice control, they can camp and hike with you.

Inyo National Forest (California)

With over 800,000 acres of area to exploreInyo National Forest has breathtaking views. With many popular attractions such as

Mt. Whitney, Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes Basin, and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, bringing your pup on a hike will be a great experience.

Your dogs can camp with you in the Inyo National Forest but must be leashed or under your voice control. Also, only two dogs can camp at any one campsite at a time.

Superior National Forest (Minnesota)

Image by Yinan Chen from Pixabay

With 6,100 sq miles of woods, lakes, and rivers, the Superior National Forest offers plenty of pup-friendly trails and campsites for you both to enjoy.

Only guide dogs are allowed in the swimming areas.

With trails for all fitness levels and 500 lakes, there is plenty to explore. The views of Lake Superior itself are breathtaking.

Olympia National Forest (Washington)

Olympia National Forest is large and diverse. This forest has beautiful trails you and your dog can hike. There are also dog-friendly campsites and lodges nearby. The glaciers high in the mountains, lead through rainforests and eventually to the seashore. Having such a range of things to see it will take a few visits.

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (Georgia)

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has more than 800 miles of dog-friendly trails. It is situated in the north Georgia mountains and has beautiful waterfalls. There are a few more challenging trails with lots of stairs for the adventurous hikers. Although dogs must be leashed and cannot be in swimming areas, Chattahoochee-Oconee has great trails and camping facilities.

Hiawatha National Forest (Michigan)

Hiawatha National Forest is nestled between the great lakes, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. There are hundreds of miles of trails for all fitness levels and plenty of campsites to rest along the way.

Dogs are allowed on most trails and in the campsites, as long as they are leashed or under voice control. While in this forest, dogs must wear a collar with current tags.

Summary

In general, most national forests are very dog-friendly. These steps will help you learn about dog policies for the national forest you want to visit with your dog.

  1. Visit the official website of the U.S. Forest Service.
  1. In the upper right-hand corner is a drop-down menu with two options to find your forest: by state or by area.
  1. Once you have found your forest, click “go” and that will take you to the page for that national forest area.
  1. If you don’t see any information about bringing your dog, use the number you see to call the forest service and ask.

We hope this article has helped you plan a fun camping trip for you and your dog. Before you go, make sure to check out our article on what camping with dogs checklist.

All that is left now, is to choose your park or forest for your next adventure and enjoy it with man’s best friend.

10 dog-friendly national forests