Vacation with your furry family member at one of these fun parks.
Pets are family, so it only makes sense to want to bring them on vacation. Many national park sites offer designated trails and campgrounds that are dog-friendly.
Not everywhere is safe or legal to bring them, however, and some parks are completely off-limits to dogs. To protect wildlife, habitats and your dog, it’s important to plan your trip in advance and follow National Park Service rules, including always packing out waste and keeping dogs on leashes no longer than 6 feet. Before you go, be sure to check out this map and find out where your dog can and cannot go. It is also a good idea to know your dog’s physical limits and always make sure you have enough water. It is easy for dogs to get dehydrated on trails, especially on hot summer days.
If you follow these simple rules, you and your furry friend can enjoy some of the greatest places America has to offer!
Acadia National Park, Maine
This coastal park offers 100 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads and three campgrounds where dogs are permitted. Just be mindful when you are near the water – most lakes in the park are used for public water supplies and swimming is prohibited for both humans and pets. Additionally, the Park Service does not recommend bringing dogs on many of the more difficult trails for their own safety. For a leisurely dog-friendly walk, try a section of the carriage roads on Mount Desert Island or the Lower Harbor Trail. You can also sail out to the Isle au Haut with your dog for gorgeous views along the seashore. Just be sure to leave before nightfall, as dogs are only permitted on the island for day trips.
Great Falls Park, Virginia
Located just 15 miles from Washington, DC, this park offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of our nation’s capital. Visitors have the opportunity to explore history and nature, complete with epic views of the steep, jagged rocks that create the park’s 76-foot cascading falls where the Potomac River narrows through Mather Gorge. Dogs on leashes are welcome on all park trails, parking lots, falls overlooks and picnic areas.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia
Whether you prefer outdoor recreation or are a Civil War or civil rights history enthusiast, this park offers something for everyone, including your pup. Dogs are permitted on the trails, but not on the park shuttle or in buildings (unless they are service animals), so plan your day carefully. For an active day, the Maryland Heights Loop offers a moderate 6.8-mile trail hike with beautiful views and Union Civil War fort ruins. For an easier hike, take the trail from the main visitor center on Shoreline Drive through fields and wooded ravines to Murphy-Chambers Farm and stop along the way to take in the Civil War history and spectacular views of the Shenandoah River.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
This park has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S., including some of the country’s tallest trees (many over 100 feet tall), nicknamed the “Redwoods of the East.” Whether you prefer canoeing, hiking, fishing or camping, this park has plenty of activities for you and your pooch! Dogs are welcome in the park on leashes on all trails and in campgrounds. Most of the park lies within a floodplain, so it is generally flat, and there is a 2.4-mile Boardwalk Trail to experience the park’s landscape. Visitors should be prepared to encounter downed trees, deep mud and high waters on the non-boardwalk trails, especially from November through May. You can find information about trail conditions at www.nps.gov/cong.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
This awe-inspiring canyon encompasses 277 miles of the Colorado River and is up to 18 miles wide and one mile deep. It can be accessed from two main areas, the North and South Rims. The North Rim is closed during the winter months, but the South Rim is open year-round. On the South Rim, leashed dogs are allowed on all trails above the rim, as well as at the Mather and Desert View Campgrounds. The South Rim Kennel also offers a place to board your dog if you wish to hike down into the canyon on trails that prohibit dogs. There are some lodges at the South Rim that allow crated dogs in their guest rooms; call ahead to make sure that your guestroom is one of them. While the North Rim does not offer a place to board dogs, you can still visit with them. Leashed dogs are allowed on the Bridle Trail that connects the North Kaibab Trail and the portion of the Arizona Trail north to the park entrance.
San Juan Island National Historical Park, Washington
Explore serene woodlands and beaches and one of the last remaining native prairies in the Puget Sound/Northern Straits region. The island offers visitors 6 miles of saltwater shoreline and numerous hiking trails to explore the island and try to catch a glimpse of the area’s orcas. The island has everything from easy walks through the open prairies and historic sites to more challenging hikes through lush forests. Visitors can bring their dogs along for the fun if they stick to the walking and hiking trails and you keep them on-leash. Dogs are also permitted on the park’s beaches.
For a true wilderness experience, visitors with survival skills — or a guide — can take their dogs into this vast, largely untouched landscape in the interior of Alaska to enjoy solitude, natural beauty and challenging paddling conditions. While dogs are allowed in all areas of the park, owners must stay vigilant and keep them under control for both visitor and animal safety — dogs commonly attract wildlife, which can cause dangerous encounters. Many visitors float the rivers on a personal watercraft, and if you bring your dog with you, be aware that the water is often very cold and swift. If you have experience, you can also mush a team of sled dogs here, or you can leave your dog at home and experience the Alaskan tundra through a commercial dogsledding business.
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
Located in the heart of the nation’s capital, this urban park was created by Congress to preserve areas near the Anacostia River. Whether you prefer bird watching, strolling among blooming lily ponds or paddling on the Anacostia River, there are many options for anyone wanting a quick escape from the city. Pets are welcome in all areas of the park if they’re kept on a leash. Note, however, that the meadows in the park are home to ground-nesting birds that can be easily scared. If your dog is vocal or easily excited by birds, it may be best to leave your pet at home.
About the author
Sarah Duensing Senior Communications Coordinator
As the Senior Communication Coordinator at NPCA, Sarah Duensing works on a variety of projects, including work for the blog, advocacy actions and National Parks magazine.