5 Great Dog-Friendly National Parks

dog in national park

Written by Teresa Bitler on

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer specializing in adventure, culture, and history. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Sherman’s Travel, and many other high-profile outlets.

dog in national park

Your dog is part of the family, but he isn’t always welcome at destinations when you travel. These five U.S. national parks welcome your four-legged best friend and even want to make him part of the fun through the park service’s BARK Ranger program.

With miles of trails to explore and plenty of interesting things to sniff, U.S. national parks seem like an ideal destination, but unfortunately, not all national parks are dog friendly. In fact, some don’t allow your pet beyond the parking lot, let alone on a dog-friendly hike. But the BARK Ranger program is changing that.

Launched at Olympic National Park in 2016, the BARK Ranger program encourages dog owners to:

● Bag your dog’s waste

● Always leash your dog (6-foot maximum leash)

● Respect wildlife

● Know which trails and areas are pet friendly

Dogs whose owners take the BARK pledge can be sworn in as a BARK Ranger and wear a tag on their collar signifying their status as a ranger at that park.

Not all U.S. national parks participating in the program are equally dog friendly, though. Here are the five most dog-friendly national parks.

Olympic National Park

The park that started it all allows dogs on the Peabody Creek Trail, Madison Falls Trail, Spruce Railroad Trail, and July Creek Loop Trail, as well as the beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations. Avoid the tidal rocks, where shop stone, barnacles, and mussels can cut their paws. In addition to bags for waste disposal and a first aid kit, you might want to stow a small towel for wet paws in your waist pack.

Acadia National Park

With more than 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of rustic carriage roads open to your furry friends, Acadia National Park is one of the most dog-friendly national parks in the U.S. Most lakes are off limits, but dogs can go off leash at Little Long Pond, a 1,000-acre park where they can swim in the pond, play in the stream, or sniff their way along the trails crisscrossing the area. Most of the park’s restaurant patios are dog friendly, too.

Petrified Forest National Park

Although dogs aren’t allowed in park buildings, they’re allowed just about everywhere else in Petrified Forest National Park, including on any paved road or trail and in official wilderness areas. If you plan to explore the wilderness, fill a backpack with a first aid kit, cell phone, and plenty of water and snacks for both of you. (Canine food bars are a great option for your dog). A collapsible dog water bowl makes it easier to give him water.

Little River Canyon National Preserve

Not only are dogs welcome on all trails but they can even visit the Canyon Center at Little River Canyon National Preserve. Drop by to pick up a BARK Ranger handout, complete the checklist, and return with a picture of you and your dog following the ranger principles to receive the park’s tag. If you plan to hike, one of the park’s most popular activities, dress appropriately and wear sturdy hiking shoes.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Some dogs love to hike; others prefer to meander grassy areas. If your dog falls into the latter category, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park just might be more to his liking. Although he won’t be able to board the shuttle or enter park buildings, your best friend can explore the park alongside you.

When you’re ready to head out, carry your dog waste bags in a pouch with a debit card to purchase a BARK ranger tag for his collar, ranger bandana, or other merchandise while you’re out adventuring!

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Top 5 Dog-Friendly Hikes on the East Coast

What to Pack When Heading to a National Park

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Pets