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8 of the Best Dog-Friendly National Parks in the US

Many national parks make for some of the best dog-friendly vacations.
Hi, I'm Kate!

Kate Morgan is a journalist in rural Pennsylvania whose work on science, adventure, food, and culture has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, BBC, and many other publications.

Visiting a national park in the US is one of the best ways to experience the vast outdoors. And why not bring your canine companion along on the adventure? After all, everyone knows dogs make the best hiking buddies and road trip co-pilots.

Most of the country’s 63 national parks allow dogs in select areas (on a 6-foot or shorter leash, as dictated by federal law), some are better pet-friendly travel destinations than others. Here are the top eight national parks to visit for the best dog-friendly vacation.

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine.
Acadia National Park in Maine is the most dog-friendly in the US.Bildquelle: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

With dog-friendly hiking trails and campsites, Acadia is one of the best dog-friendly vacation spots.

Maine’s only national park is one of the most dog-friendly in the US. Pets are allowed on 100 miles of hiking trails and carriage roads, and in the Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds—no need to search for a dog-friendly vacation rental!

One of the best hikes to take in Acadia National Park with your dog is the Wonderland Trail, which runs through a pine forest to the rocky coast. Most of the trail is a well-maintained gravel road, so you don’t have to worry about hurt paws, and your dog will love sniffing around in the tide pools along the shore.

2. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef in Golden Hour.
Plan to visit Capitol Reef during Golden Hour.Bildquelle: TomKli / Shutterstock

Bring your dog to Capitol Reef's famous orchards.

There are a few dog-friendly hiking trails in Capitol Reef National Park, including the Fremont River Trail, which has gorgeous views of the park’s towering cliffs and lush orchards. And speaking of orchards, you can bring your pup there, too.

Fruita, the pioneer community within the park, is full of historic orchards open for picking. If it’s unfenced or unlocked, you’re welcome inside—and so is your dog. Just remember that it's not a dog park, and your dog will need to remain leashed.

3. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Reflections in Congaree National Park.
You and your pup will love seeing the reflections in Congaree.Bildquelle: SKPG_Arts / Shutterstock

You can even bring your dog on a canoe tour.

Congaree National Park is one of the nation’s least-visited, but you certainly won’t mind having the place to yourself. The park protects the last remaining forest of its kind (old-growth bottomland hardwood forest) in the southeastern US. Its boardwalk trails wind through ancient trees, some of the tallest in the eastern US. Dogs are welcome virtually everywhere in the park, except inside buildings.

One of the most interesting ways to see this South Carolina bottomland ecosystem is by boat: The park occasionally hosts ranger-led swamp canoe tours, and Fido is welcome aboard.

Insider tip: When visiting national parks, don’t forget to follow the B.A.R.K principles: Bag your pet’s waste, Always leash your pet, Respect wildlife, and Know where you can go.

4. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park in fall.
Indiana Dunes National Park is fabulous in fall.Bildquelle: T-I / Shutterstock

A four-season dog-friendly vacation destination.

Spanning 15,000 acres along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park is special in every season, but it’s paradise in summer. Your dog will think so, too—they’re welcome to romp through the dunes, trot along almost every trail in the park, and even take a dip in the lake so long as they remain on a leash.

And the park’s beauty doesn’t fade a bit as temperatures drop. Trails abound for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter when abundant wildlife can be even easier to spot (again, that leash will come in handy).

5. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

The river from above at New River Gorge National Park.
Views, hiking trails, and rivers abound at New River Gorge National Park.Bildquelle: Zack Frank / Shutterstock

Just be sure to pack your dog's water bowl—the river isn't safe for drinking.

America’s newest national park is New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, located along lone West Virginia country roads. Hillsides of Appalachian hardwoods and glens of rhododendrons give way to the rocky bed of the New River. Packed with history (both ancient and modern), the park is home to one of the oldest rivers in the world; its banks are dotted with old mining infrastructure and the crumbling remains of settlements. Explore the park on foot via numerous hiking trails crisscrossing 70,000 acres.

Canine pals are welcome on all the trails throughout the park, though they must stay on a leash and can’t enter any buildings. Make sure to bring plenty of drinking water as the river and stream water aren’t safe for doggy drinking.

Related: Know Before You Go: Camping With Your Dog

6. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Traverse over 450 miles with your pet at Shenandoah National Park.
Green Shenandoah National Park.Bildquelle: Walt Bilous / Shutterstock

Bring your four-legged friend on a section of the Appalachian Trail.

Of the 500-plus miles of trails that wind through Shenandoah, only 20 miles of them are closed to pets. That means you can explore waterfalls, woodlands, mountaintop vistas, and wildflower fields, all with your pooch in tow. Dog-friendly trails in the park also include approximately 115 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail.

If you’ve got a car-loving canine, Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive, a 105-mile set of switchbacks and straightaways built in the 1930s, is one of the country’s greatest scenic routes, home to lots of (pet-friendly) pullouts along the way.

7. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Boaters on Voyageurs National Park.
Water activities are the most popular activities at Voyageurs National Park.Bildquelle: Jon Lauriat / Shutterstock

Forget looking for a dog-friendly hotel and book a dog-friendly houseboat instead.

Minnesota is known as the land of lakes, so it’s only fitting that this park is all about the water. Voyageurs National Park is a unique landscape of forested islands, rocky cliffs, and water that connects it all. Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point, Crane, and Rainy Lakes make up a huge portion of the park’s acreage, which means the best way to explore is by boat.

Dogs are allowed in Voyageur’s front-country campgrounds, parking lots, on the Recreation Trail that leads to the visitor’s center, and on private watercraft. Rent a houseboat, help your pup get his sea legs, and have the floating adventure of a lifetime.

8. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park at sunrise.
Zion National Park at sunrise is spectacular with your best four-legged pal.Bildquelle: Kris Wiktor / Shutterstock

Stick to the Pa'rus Trail if you're bringing your dog.

Visiting Utah’s Zion National Park, with its towering sandstone cliffs and lush canyons, feels a bit like stepping into Jurassic Park. You and your dog can search for dinosaurs on one trail: the 3.4-mile Pa’rus Trail, which starts just behind the visitor’s center and rolls along the Virgin River.

Just note that this is the only trail in Zion that allows dogs, and your pets won’t be allowed in any of the buildings and shouldn’t drink any river water, which can be contaminated with cyanotoxins.

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