The Most Dog-Friendly National Parks

A dog sitting on a rock with a stunning backdrop of a lake and mountains

We’re all about bringing our dogs along for the ride—especially if it involves the spectacular hiking and scenery we’re lucky to have at our national parks. While dogs are allowed in all US national parks to some degree, there are regulations on where and how you can bring your dog. And for good reason—rules restricting dog access protect the park’s natural resources, inhabitants, and your dog. Be sure to research the most up-to-date rules for your destination before you go. We hope this list inspires you to get out with your dog and explore the wild spaces we love while being good stewards for those who come after us.

A woman and her dog gazing at the mountains in front of them

Hiking With Dogs: Training & Safety

A man, woman, and their dog in front of their white truck and white camper in the great outdoors

Before you go, read up on hiking safely with a dog so you’re both prepared, and make sure you’ve got all the dog hiking gear you’ll need before setting off from the trailhead.

The exception to the rules: Dog access restrictions at national parks do not apply to service animals. It’s a good idea to let the park rangers know you are bringing a service animal in advance, so they can be prepared. There are sometimes particular routes to scenic locations for service animals, such as below the rim of the Grand Canyon where other dogs are prohibited.

A white dog with a red harness leaping through the brush

National Park Dog Rules

A close-up of a border collie panting outdoors
  • Most national parks prohibit dogs from hiking trails and backcountry
  • Most of the parks allow dogs in campgrounds, picnic areas, at paved scenic viewpoints, and on the paved roads that lead to these developed park locations
  • In all parks, dogs must wear a collar or harness attached to a leash for no more than six feet at all times
  • Dogs should wear a personalized collar or identification tags with contact and medical information
  • Dogs should never be left unattended
  • Dogs should never be left in parked cars
  • Owners are expected to maintain control of their dogs so they don’t threaten wildlife, cultural landmarks, protected landscapes, or other park visitors
  • Extensive, ongoing barking is prohibited, as this can disrupt wildlife and the peaceful atmosphere we’re seeking at national parks
  • Leave no trace—always pick up your dog’s waste
  • Dogs are not allowed in ranger-led programs
  • Store all food (for pups and humans) in food lockers to avoid attracting predators
  • Dogs aren’t allowed in public buildings
  • Be mindful of the rules and remember they’re in a place to protect the wild spaces and animals we love—if you’re found out of compliance, you might receive a citation

Fast Fact: In the entire national park system, only the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California allows canines to romp off-leash at the park’s dog-friendly beach near the Golden Gate Bridge.

A family and their dog in the early morning with mountains and fog as the backdrop

The Most Dog-Friendly National Parks

A close-up of a smiling brown dog outside in nature

Acadia National Park—Maine

Located in Maine near Bar Harbor, Acadia is one of the most dog-friendly parks in the National Park System. At 49,000 acres, it is one of the smallest national parks, but it’s treasured for its rugged, rocky coastline skirting the Atlantic Ocean, as well as its rounded mountains, lakes, and valleys sculpted by massive glaciers, some as much as two miles thick, that flowed over the region 20,000 years ago.

  • Dogs on a leash have full access to 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads throughout the park
  • Dogs are allowed at the top of Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest point in the park at 1,530 feet and offers amazing views of Somes Sound off Bar Harbor
  • There are several “ladder” trails that people with dogs cannot access because they require vertical climbs up rungs set in the rock face
  • There are also multiple trails that are not recommended for dogs by the park service—they should be tackled only by experienced dogs and their owners who are very experienced hikers
  • Dogs and people are not allowed to swim in the many lakes of Acadia as most of them are public water supplies
  • Some, not all, campgrounds are open to dogs
A dog running through still water and splashing it up into their face

Shenandoah National Park—Virginia

Only 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah is a peaceful oasis that includes 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is a destination park for avid hikers that offers miles of dog-friendly trails. In Shenandoah, you and your pup can hike past cascading waterfalls, through quiet woodlands, and along trails that offer gorgeous views of the Appalachians.

  • Leashed dogs have access to 480 of the 500 miles of hiking trails in the park
  • Dogs are allowed in all campgrounds and pup-friendly accommodations are available
Three dogs standing on boulders high on a mountain top

Yosemite National Park—California

The almost 1,200 square miles of this expansive park in the High Sierras include beautiful waterfalls, a deep, mile-wide valley cut by the Merced River, giant sequoias, and the iconic granite monolith El Capitan. While trails are completely off-limits to dogs in Yosemite, they’re allowed in developed areas from which you’ll be able to enjoy the park’s legendary views.

  • Leashed dogs are allowed on paved roads, sidewalks, and most bicycle paths.
  • Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, except walk-in and group campsites
  • Dogs are also allowed in Wawona and Hodgdon Meadow, which are lovely, lesser-known locales in the park
A black and white dog standing in a desert with red boulders in the background

Grand Canyon National Park—Arizona

The Grand Canyon is an immense geological wonder that draws five million visitors each year. The canyon is one mile deep, 277 miles long as the Colorado River flows, and 18 miles wide at its broadest point.

  • Leashed dogs are allowed on trails above the South Rim of the park
  • Dogs are allowed in several of the park’s campgrounds and are allowed in all developed sections of the park
  • Except for service animals, dogs are not allowed below the rim of the canyon
  • A kennel is available in the park for people with pups who want to hike the inner canyon
A golden retriever sitting on a road with colorful trees in the background

Cuyahoga Valley National Park—Ohio

Not far from Cleveland, this park was founded in 2000 and includes land formerly used as dumping grounds, now remediated into a beautiful park. The park wends along the Cuyahoga River, through dense forest, and over rolling hills and farmland. The Towpath Trail follows the route of the Ohio and Erie Canal. It also features several historic sites, including the Canal Exploration Center and the Everett Covered Bridge.

  • Dogs are allowed on 110 miles of the park’s hiking trails
  • Dogs are allowed on 20 miles of the historic Towpath Trail
  • Dogs are allowed in the park’s campground
A speckled dog gazing out over the mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park—Colorado

Alpine lakes shimmer amid the hundred peaks that rise within the boundaries of the park, including Longs Peak, which is 14,259 feet high. Wildlife, such as elk, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain lions, bobcats, and bears roam the region. In the warm months, the park blooms with sub-alpine wildflowers and tundra flowers.

  • Dogs are allowed on paved roads, in picnic areas, and in developed areas, many of which command breathtaking views
  • Dogs are allowed in the park’s campgrounds
A close-up image of a happy golden retriever

Zion National Park—Utah

Over millions of years, the Virgin River has cut the deep and narrow canyon at the heart of Zion. The colorful, sculpted cliff walls create a dramatic backdrop for varied plant life and the mesas of the park are home to 68 species of mammals, including foxes, bighorn sheep, rock squirrels, deer, and the kangaroo rat.

  • Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Pa’rus Trail, a 3.5-mile-long paved path that takes you across several bridges over the river with stunning views into the canyon
  • The path is popular with bikers, so be alert if your dog gets overexcited when bicyclists pass by
  • Dogs are allowed in all the developed areas of the park
A smiling woman crouching down next to her dog in the woods

The Joy of Going Together

Understanding and respecting the regulations put in place to protect the parks will help you get the most out of your visit with your dog while helping to preserve these lands for future generations. While you may not be able to enjoy every trail or take in every view, the ability to go together makes it all worthwhile.