You’ve been eyeing the beautiful pictures on Instagram or online for a long time and you’re finally going to visit that National park this summer.
And, of course, because you hardly do anything without your furry sidekick, you’re dog is coming with you.
Then you find out that dogs aren’t allowed in National Parks and your dreams are dashed.
Are Dogs Allowed in National Parks?
First, the statement that “dogs aren’t allowed” is misleading. They ARE allowed inside of the park with you. However, it is true that most of the National Park will be off-limits to them, and by default, you.
That doesn’t’ mean you have to cancel your trip though.
Knowing these 3 things will not only make your trip possible but, with some more planning, it can be an even better adventure than you initially had planned.
1. Dogs Aren’t Prohibited in the Entire National Park
The rules for dogs inside of National Parks are pretty restrictive. In general, dogs are only allowed along roadways, in parking lots, and in campgrounds.
Unfortunately, that means you won’t be able to hike any of the famous trails while you are visiting.
However, some dirt roads have a wide shoulder, or don’t see much traffic, and make for a descent hike.
If seeing the park from the comfort of your car is more your style, you probably won’t feel as restricted. Your dog can ride in the car along scenic byways and can even get out at some of the pull-outs.
Just know that some of the attractions require walking a short trail to get there – like Zabriske Point in Death Valley National Park – so you won’t be able to do that with your dog.
If you are traveling in an RV with air conditioning, and your dog is well-behaved (no excessive barking when you leave), you might be able to leave them in there for short periods.
2. Your Average Stride (Step) Length
You’re probably saying, “WHAT?? What does that have to do with bringing my dog to a National Park?”.
It has a lot to do with it, actually.
The park rules state that dogs are allowed within 50 feet of roads. That means 50 feet on either side.
If you know your average stride length you can pace out the distance your dog is allowed to go. Along some roadways, there are some cool photo ops within the 50 feet limit.
You can find your average pace length my going to a quarter mile track. You can count, or use a pedometer, to track the number of steps it takes you to walk around it once. Then divide the distance (there are 1,320 feet in a quarter mile) by the number of steps.
Depending on height, gender, and walking pattern, the average stride length is between 2 and 2.5 feet. For an example, I am 5′ 6″ and my average stride length is 2 feet.
I know I can walk approximately 25 natural steps from the roadway edge to take pictures of the scenery with my dog and not be breaking the National Park pet rules.
3. There are Nearby Alternatives for You and Your Dog
National Parks aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. Especially if you’re a person who doesn’t go if your dog can’t.
National Parks are incredibly beautiful, don’t get me wrong. However, they aren’t the ONLY amazing places in the United States and there are some down-sides to visiting.
The main down side is the crowds.
The Yosemite Valley is so crowded in the summers, the valley has been known to fill with smog from vehicle exhaust!
I visited Yellowstone in the summer a few years ago and we couldn’t even see some of the sights because the parking lots were full.
If you like feeling like you’re at a concert or in a crowded mall while enjoying nature, popular National Parks are just up your alley.
I’m willing to be that’s not the case though.
Also, keep in mind that crowded places, especially when there are other dogs, can be stressful for some pets… which can further put you on edge.
There are plenty of beautiful and amazing natural places to see where dogs are allowed and they aren’t as crowded.
Look for trails and sights near the National Park you want to visit. Great places to look are adjacent National Forest lands or at nearby State Parks and National Monuments.
Some examples of amazing dog-friendly places close to National Parks are:
- Buckskin Gulch in Southern Utah
- Pained Hills at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument 175 miles northwest of Crater Lake National Park
- Heather-Maple Pass Loop and other trails along Highway 20 near North Cascades National Park
- Marmot Pass near Olympic National Park.
I’m not saying don’t visit National Parks with your dog. You should.
I’m saying, with some research, you can find plenty of things to do in the area with your dog so don’t NOT visit a National Park just because the access for dogs is limited.
Which National Park is your favorite or at the top of your bucket list?